Saturday, June 01, 2013

Cardinals' home grown pitchers are phenomenal

A lot of research would be needed to find another team with so much home-grown young pitchers performing as well as the young pitchers of the St. Louis Cardinals in the long history of the game. With an average age of 23.8 years old, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Tyler Lyons, John Gast and now Michael Wacha have gone a combined 16-4 with a 2.54 ERA. And that is just the starting pitchers and does not include Trevor Rosenthal and Seth Maness, two more home grown pitchers who are also performing well in the bullpen. The startling thing about all these pitchers is that they were all drafted by the Cardinals.

Let's look at the list again:
  • Lance Lynn: Drafted by the Cardinals in the first round in 2008
  • Shelby Miller: Drafted by the Cardinals in the first round in 2009
  • Tylor Lyons: Drafted by the Cardinals in the tenth round in 2010
  • John Gast: Drafted by the Cardinals in the sixth round in 2010
  • Michael Wacha: Drafted by the Cardinals in the first round in 2012
  • Seth Maness: Drafted by the Cardinals in the eleventh round in 2011
  • Trevor Rosenthal: Drafted by the Cardinals in the twenty-first round in 2009
Again, this seems unprecedented and remarkable. How could so many pitchers be drafted by the same team in a five year span and all be making a positive impact on the Major League staff? It is remarkable.

 Let's focus on just the starters from here on out. Here are their collective numbers of the starters in the above list:
  • Starts: 27
  • Record: 16-4
  • Winning percentage: .800
  • ERA: 2.54
  • K/9: 8.71
  • K/BB: 3.29
  • HR/9: 0.49
  • WHIP: 0.998
Amazing. And this is not really a fluke. I did a little research on first year starters going back to 2009. Here are the collective stats I found concerning all those pitchers:
  • 2010 - Winning percentage: .438, ERA: 4.55, K/BB: 1.90, WHIP: 1.429
  • 2011 - Winning percentage: .386, ERA: 4.63, K/BB: 1.86, WHIP: 1.427
  • 2012 - Winning percentage: .461, ERA: 4.36, K/BB: 2.32, WHIP: 1.355
  • 2013 - Winning percentage: .461, ERA: 5.12, K/BB: 2.16, WHIP: 1.456
And that includes some pseudo-rookies like Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and other imports. Now the following is those same numbers collectively of all Cardinal starters in their first year starts since 2011:
  • Baby Cards: Winning percentage: .579, ERA: 3.17, K/BB: 2.64, WHIP: 1.201
Have I made your jaw drop yet? Somehow, the Cardinals have managed to draft pitchers since 2008, spin them through their system and spit them out to the Major Leagues and have them perform far better than all the other teams combined doing the same thing. Whether this is great scouting, great drafting, great coaching, great luck, or the combination of all the above, the Cardinals are beating the odds and they are beating them handily.

I think back over the past thirty years and all the great young staffs. The 1990s Braves got Greg Maddux from the Cubs. Last year's Oakland A's compiled their arms from other teams. Perhaps the early 2000's A's with Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito come to mind.

But I can tell you that after watching baseball for fifty years, what is going on with these young home grown Cardinals does not happen often and is remarkable that it is happening at all. Such a progression from draft to minors to the majors for the St. Louis franchise has been incredibly fun to watch.

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: June 1, 2013

The picks are running about as fast as Jose Molina. The legs are churning but I am not getting anywhere.    Yesterday, by 10:30 ET, the picks stood at 1-6. I stopped looking after that as it was too painful. But while I was not looking, the picks rallied at least to go 6-1 down the stretch. Face was saved. But the only incorrect pick of the seven? The Game of the Day, of course. May is over. Perhaps the mediocrity will be too.

And, we had another postponement. Our poor midwest is having just an awful time and my heart goes out to those people. The Cardinals will play two games with the Giants today in St. Louis bringing the day's tally to sixteen games.

The picks:

  • The Indians over the Bay Rays: Ubaldo Jimenez has to pitch a good game and limit the Rays to three runs or less for the Indians to win. The Rays reach into their system again to pitch Chris Archer. Archer has been a top-100 prospect for five years now. That is a long time without making a mark in the majors as yet. He has a big strikeout arm, but walks too many batters.
  • The Twins over the Mariners: The Twins are playing better baseball, but ran into Iwakuma last night. They should recover today and cuff around Aaron Harang. Then again, the Twins have their own meatball pitcher in Kevin Correia going tonight. So who knows.
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: The first game of the pair features yesterday's probables and I still think Shelby Miller out-pitches Matt Cain.
  • The Tigers over the Orioles: The Orioles are amazing. Justin Verlander better be economical and try to go the distance, because of the Orioles face any kind of relief pitcher, their chances go up like crazy. Jason Hammel keeps winning, but I do not see him keeping up with Verlander.
  • The Rangers over the Royals: James Shields has not been as good as I thought he would be for the Royals. That said, he has a history of pitching well against the Rangers in those big games over the years. But the pick has to be with the Rangers at home. Nick Tepesch will need to have a good game though.
  • The Brewers over the Phillies: Two struggling teams. What do you do? Wily Peralta is only wily about half the time. Tyler Cloyd has an ERA near six and his WHIP is 1.6. The Brewers have to be the pick.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: Coors Field will neutralize Zack Greinke, who has not been going deep in games anyway because of high pitch counts. The pick is for Jhoulys Chacin instead. Though he is no picnic either.
  • The Marlins over the Mets: Oy. This one bites. First, you have Collin McHugh pitching for the Mets. He has given up homers in his brief MLB career at a frightening pace. He has good control, but has not pitched well. Then there is Jose Fernandez, who at his tender young age is hit or miss, miss, miss. You never know when that hit will be.
  • The Cubs over the Diamondbacks: This game is a dangerous pick. I am picking it because of Jeff Samardzija, who was fabulous in his last start and very good all season long. But how will he recover from his first complete game? Ian Kennedy is one of my favorite players. But he has not really gotten going yet and is more of a second half pitcher.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: The Yankees seemed to have a much different vibe with some of their horses back yesterday. Phil Hughes has to keep the ball in the park. I made the pick this way because Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis and Vernon Wells are all better against lefties. Felix Doubront is that lefty.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: This pick did not work out very well yesterday. But my secret weapon is Francisco Liriano, who will overpower the Reds today. Mike Leake has been pretty decent, but I think this is Liriano's game.
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: Great match-up between Madison Bumgarner and Adam Wainwright. I am going with the home team and with the Cardinals' ace.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: The Braves are a very frustrating offense. There are a lot of strikeouts and they cannot seem to get everyone going at the same time. Tim Hudson has not pitched well. He needs to have a good game. Gio Gonzalez has not been nearly as good as last season.
  • The Angels over the Astros: The Astros have been whooping on the Angels and it has cost me in the picks. Jerome Williams has been outstanding though for the Angels and I have to go with him over Bud Norris, the perennial "stuff" guy.
  • The Padres over the Blue Jays: After seventeen innings last night, these two teams will be pretty tired today. Logic dictates that Robbie Erlin will not be able to go deep in the game for the Padres, which is a problem. But I think the kid will do okay today. Meanwhile, the softer tosses of Mark Buehrle give the Padres' offense a chance.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Athletics over the White Sox: I have picked against Dan Straily all season and have paid for it. So I am picking him today. The White Sox are not very good. But that is not Carlos Quintana's fault as he has pitched well.

Yesterday: 7-7
Week: 44-43
May: 233-188
Season: 462-350
Games of the Day: 36-23

Friday, May 31, 2013

MLB Game Picks - Friday: May 31, 2013

Yesterday was terrible. The Game of the Day was wrong. The Yankees lost to the Mets...again. The Cardinals blew it in the ninth after Michael Wacha pitched a heckofa MLB debut. The Twins won again. Homer Bailey had nothing for the Reds. The Orioles were clearly better than the Nationals. Jake Peavy was terrible and gave up a grand slam to a pitcher. Brandon McCarthy was terrible. It was just bad. Sheesh.

Thank goodness interleague is over and today is the last day of May. Good riddance to both!

Friday's picks:

  • The Diamondbacks over the Cubs: The Cubs have shown some life this week and are coming off of winning two of three from the White Sox. Matt Garza should keep the Cubs in the game. But ultimately, the D-backs take this one as Wade Miley has a good outing.
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: CC Sabathia never pitches that great against the Red Sox. The Yankees will have Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis back. But how effective will they be? At least they will face a lefty in Jon Lester. But that lefty is Jon Lester. Are these Yankees destined to sink beneath the waves now?
  • The Pirates over the Reds: The Pirates are on fire. They still are not hitting that well, but their pitching has been outstanding. Wandy Rodriguez pitching at home is a good match up for the Pirates. And I will take him over Johnny Cueto.
  • The Tigers over the Orioles: I like the match up of stud, Max Scherzer, against the Orioles' big bats. I think he will dominate. Plus, Miguel Gonzalez is just an okay pitcher for the Orioles. Somebody has to slow those bats down and Scherzer is a guy who can do it.
  • The Phillies over the Brewers: Wow. Two teams really struggling. The Brewers have been really bad. The Phillies just not what they used to be. Cole Hamels is 1-8. Seriously!? That has to change eventually, right? It starts tonight against the Brewers. Yovani Gallardo will try to prove me wrong.
  • The Bay Rays over the Indians: I have picked against Corey Kluber three times in a row and his team has won two of those three. So this pick is more about Matt Moore continuing his season of dominance. The Indians have a good team, especially on offense, so this should be interesting.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: The Mets just swept the Yankees. They are not going to lose to the Marlins, right? Oh, brother. Why don't I feel good about this? Probably because Shaun Marcum is pitching. For the Marlins, former first round draft pick and just 22 years old, Jacob Turner gets the start for the Marlins. He has good control, is homer prone and does not blow people away, which is probably why the Tigers parted with him.
  • The Nationals over the Braves: Stephen Strasburg is only 3-4 lifetime against the Braves with a 3.49 ERA against them. But he should strike out a bunch of free-swinging Braves and as long as he avoids the long-ball, should prevail in this one. Julio Teheran still has not convinced me. Bryce Harper should be back for this one.
  • The Rangers over the Royals: The Royals had a nice comeback win against the Cardinals. George Brett in the dugout is weird for me. Derek Holland is weird for me. I never know from outing to outing how good he is going to be. If he is on, the Rangers win. Well, that is obvious. But I think the Rangers will tee off on Wade Davis.
  • The Mariners over the Twins: The Twins are playing some good baseball right now. But they run into Hisashi Iwakuma tonight. He is the real deal. If the M's can give Iwakuma a few runs off of Mike Pelfrey, they should win.
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: Matt Cain is tough to pick against. And the Cardinals at home with Shelby Miller are hard to pick against. Hopefully, Mitchel Boggs won't pitch for the Cards and that team's fans can keep their heads from exploding.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: Coors Field is the wild card in this pick. That place can make even the Dodgers' anemic offense look good. Clayton Kershaw should be fine there. Jon Garland should continue to give up base runners and a few of them will score.
  • The Athletics over the White Sox: Bartolo Colon is impossible to predict. He could look great or he could get pummeled. Dylan Axelrod is hanging in there. But the A's should win this one.
  • The Padres over the Blue Jays: This is a weird interleague match up. What are the Jays doing way down there? Anyway, the Jays will pitch Chad Jenkins again. He is 1-0 with a 3.49 ERA so far. Not bad, right? But his WHIP is 1.90 and he is not blowing hitters away. So it is a bit of a mirage. Jason Marquis has pitched well in San Diego.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Angels over the Astros: The Astros have won two in a row. Three seems impossible. But stranger things have happened. I like the Angels' offense against Dallas Keuchel. The only question is how good Tommy Hanson will be.

Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 37-36
Month: 226-181
Season: 455-343
Games of the Day: 36-22

Thursday, May 30, 2013

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: May 30, 2013

The picks just cannot seem to get out of their own way lately. There were some really good picks like the Cubs (and Feldman) over the White Sox, the Indians (and Masterson) over the Reds and the Twins over the Brewers. But for every good pick, there was a bad one. And with the postponement in Texas, the picks ended up at .500. Blah.

I, for one, will be glad when this month is over.

And Tim Lincecum. What are the Giants going to do about Tim Lincecum?

Today features a full schedule of fifteen games. That does not happen often on a Thursday. And four of them are day games. That is always fun. Here are the picks:

  • The Diamondbacks over the Rangers: The same pitchers are scheduled today as yesterday. I have flip-flopped on my thinking and now think that Brandon McCarthy will be better than Justin Grimm.
  • The White Sox over the Cubs: This series will continue to go back and forth as both teams are about equal in skills. Today the pick should be Jake Peavy over Travis Wood who is not having that bad a year for himself.
  • The Mariners over the Padres: This is a really tough one. Felix Hernandez was just ordinary his last start but is capable of great things. Andrew Cashner was terrific in his last outing.
  • The Giants over the Athletics: I might as well keep trying to be wrong in this series. The A's just keep winning. Barry Zito is going for the Giants today and that will either continue the trend badly or he will be just good enough for the Giants to steal one. The Giants have a chance against A.J. Griffin.
  • The Red Sox over the Phillies: Will David Ortiz sit this one out too? What will Franklin Morales give the Red Sox? Can the Red Sox hit Jonathan Pettibone without Ortiz? The Phillies have had their way thus far in this series.
  • The Reds over the Indians: This day is starting to frighten me as I keep picking the visiting team to win. So far, I only have one home team in the win column. Ugh. But I still think Homer Bailey is more reliable than Scott Kazmir. And that is how the pick has to go.
  • The Pirates over the Tigers: I have gone with the Tigers every day and the Pirates have won two of them. And I never quite believe in Jeff Locke despite his 5-1 record, great WHIP and ERA. So I will switch it up and go that way and hope that Doug Fister does not have one of his Greg Maddux days.
  • The Yankees over the Mets: The Yankees have lost four in a row. And that streak depends on a good outing from Vidal Nuno to get them out if it. The bullpen because of Phelps' short outing is already gassed. Yikes! Fortunately, they get Dillon Gee who is quite capable of giving them five or six runs.
  • The Nationals over the Orioles: This series is crazy. Between the two team, they hit eight homers yesterday. Chris Davis has been out of his mind. So who will restore order today? Will it be Dan Haren or Freddy Garcia? Not that great a choice, right? Perhaps there will be eight more homers.
  • The Marlins over the Rays: If ever there was a chance for the Marlins to win, it is today. The Rays are giving Alex Colome, a 24 year old, non-rated prospect with a crooked cap like Rodney, his Major League debut. The Marlins go with their best pitcher, Ricky Nolasco. But that does not mean the Marlins will win. Just that they have a chance.
  • The Braves over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays have had their way thus far. But Mike Minor should be better than who the Jays have faced so far. R.A. Dickey, on the other hand, could have his knuckler dancing and strike out twelve Braves. Thus is the life of a game picker.
  • The Brewers over the Twins: P.J. Walters surprised the heck out of me last time with a good game. Can he do it again? Sure. But I prefer Kyle Lohse in this one, especially in a big ballpark.
  • The Cardinals over the Royals: And yet another Major League debut as Michael Wacha, one of the big first round picks in the Albert Pujols free agent loss, and all of 21, gets his chance. How can you pick against him the way Cardinal prospects have been this season? Jeremy Guthrie goes for the helpless Royals.
  • The Angels over the Dodgers: Does it not seem like Ted Lilly has been in the majors for about thirty years? The not in this one, though not a strong nod, goes to Jason Vargas.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rockies over the Astros: The Astros won yesterday. Go figure. The odds are against them winning two in a row. Juan Nicasio goes against Lucas Harrell. Harrell in Coors Field is a scary proposition since his is a finesse guy.

Yesterday: 7-7
Week: 31-27
Month: 220-172
Season: 449-334
Games of the Day: 36-21

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: May 29, 2013

Remember last year when the Baltimore Orioles were 16-2 in extra inning games? The Game Picks are the anti-Orioles. A game going into extra innings is the kiss of death for the picks. Whenever it happens, the team I picked against wins. Yesterday it was the Twins and the Pirates. Monday it was the Astros. Sunday it was the Cubs and Mariners. If it goes into extra innings, the pick is dead.

The Game of the Day got rained out. The way that feature has gone this past two weeks, that was probably a good thing. The wrong team was up by two runs when the rains came. I think I will be glad when May is over. It really has been a struggle.

Oh well. I have to keep going. So here are Wednesday's picks:

  • The Cubs over the White Sox: Scott Feldman has been pitching really well and John Danks is making only his second start back from the disabled list.
  • The Red Sox over the Phillies: This series shifts to the NL park which leaves a quandary with David Ortiz. But John Lackey has looked really good of late and if he can get through the early innings, he could be the difference. Kyle Kendrick can baffle the Red Sox if he is on.
  • The Indians over the Reds: This is another series that shifts to the AL park. Justin Masterson is the Indians' pitcher capable of shutting down the Reds. He is kind of hit-or-miss though with his outings. Bronson Arroyo faces a good lineup in Cleveland.
  • The Tigers over the Pirates: Once again, I find myself picking against A.J. Burnett and I hate to as I like the guy. Anibal Sanchez is having a great season though and the Tigers losing Victor Martinez as there is no DH is not that big a deal as he is not having a good season anyway.
  • The Yankees over the Mets: The subway series shuffles to the Bronx and that should help the Yankees. The retreat lineup of theirs, however, is starting to wilt and their lack of patience at the plate has become glaring. They have a .290 on-base percentage in May. I do like David Phelps over Jeremy Hefner though. Things get really interesting when Hafner hits a homer against Hefner.
  • The Nationals over the Orioles: The Nats without Bryce Harper are missing something on offense that they need badly. But Jordan Zimmermann has been my guy for three years now. I believe he shuts the Orioles down and the Nats get enough off of Chris Tillman to win.
  • The Braves over the Blue Jays: The Jays lose the DH and their pitchers are dropping like flies. They are reduced to starting journeymen like Esmil Rogers. Good luck with that. The Braves should win behind Kris Medlen.
  • The Rangers over the Diamondbacks: Brandon McCarthy has held his own against the Rangers over the years. The Rangers know him and he knows them. But the series moves to Texas and Justin Grimm has been holding his own in his first year in the rotation. The Rangers get the pick.
  • The Twins over the Brewers: This is an upset pick. The series moves to Minnesota. Sam Deduno has a surprisingly good outing. The Twins get to Marco Estrada and get the win.
  • The Cardinals over the Royals: Oh, Royals fans, May has not been kind to you. And you keep getting one great Cardinal home grown pitcher after another in this series. Lance Lynn shuts them down...again. Luis Mendoza gets roughed up by the amped-up Cardinals' lineup. This is not pretty.
  • The Rockies over the Astros: I have picked against Tyler Chatwood three times and he is 3-0. His 1.92 ERA with a 1.39 WHIP does not compute. But he is facing the Astros, so I guess I ought to pick him. It is not like Erik Bedard is a good alternative.
  • The Angels over the Dodgers: Jered Weaver is making his first start back from the DL and if you know me, I never go with that kind of situation. But, gosh, it is Jered Weaver! Not only that, but he faces Chris Capuano. The Dodgers have taken the first two of this battle of LA.
  • The Padres over the Mariners: I am still zero for Eric Stults this season. I think he will have a good game at home against the M's. Joe Saunders should enjoy pitching at Petco too though. It will be either a close one or one of the pitchers will be unexpectedly bad. Who knows.
  • The Giants over the Athletics: The A's have certainly had their way so far. But the series shifts to San Francisco. The one reservation is Tim Lincecum. There is no way of knowing how he will do. Tommy Milone goes for the A's.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Bay Rays over the Marlins: The Marlins have scored eleven runs the last two days, which is a lot for them and they are still 0-2 in those games. Ramon Hernandez is not that great, but he will be better than Tom Koehler and the Rays will win.

Yesterday: 7-6
Week: 24-20
Month: 213-165
Season: 442-327
Games of the Day: 35-21

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

MLB Game Picks - Tuesday: May 28, 2013

Yesterday was not a good day for the picks. The entire double-header in Arizona was wrong. Phil Hughes gave up only one run in seven innings and the Yankees still lost. It simply was not a good day. I can blame it on universal interleague. But I will not. I just had a bad picking day.

There are fourteen games scheduled for today, which is mighty weird for a Tuesday. I believe it is the second time this season a Tuesday has had two teams sitting it out. I do not get this scheduling. But anyway, these are the picks for today:

  • The Blue Jays over the Braves: Yesterday confused me. But it should not. The Blue Jays are killing the ball right now. They just need the starting pitching to settle down and Brandon Morrow is capable of that. Paul Maholm goes for the Braves and their bullpen this year is not what it has been in the past.
  • The Rockies over the Astros: The Astros took yesterday's game and that was a total surprise. Their bullpen has been pitching well. But the Rockies simply have more talent, so they have to be the pick. Jordan Lyles goes for the Astros, Jorge De La Rosa for the Rockies.
  • The Nationals over the Orioles: Apparently, I did not learn my lesson yesterday. Because I am picking the same results today. But who is to tell what happens today. Kevin Gausman (Orioles) and Nate Karns (Nats) are not exactly household names. Gausman is making his second big league start. Karns his Major League debut. Sheesh. Karns has big time strikeout rates in he minors. But his control will be key in this one.
  • The Tigers over the Pirates: The Tigers will be familiar with Jeanmar Gomez from his Cleveland days. The Pirates will not be as familiar with Rick Porcello. But pitchers are risky picks, but the pick has to go with the Tigers' offense. It seems like that entire lineup is batting over .300 and Jhonny Peralta has been out of his mind with 60 hits already.
  • The Reds over the Indians: The battle of Ohio continues and two questions come to mind here. Does Mat Latos have a better chance at slowing down the Indians than Zach McAllister have of shutting down the Reds? Yes. Thus, the pick.
  • The Bay Rays over the Marlins: The Marlins scored six runs yesterday. That is a lot for them and they still lost by four runs. Jeremy Hellickson is not invincible. But Kevin Slowey should yield enough runs for the Rays to win.
  • The Mets over the Yankees: The Yankees' lack of patience really hurt them yesterday against Niese. He was walking four a game and the Yankees could not stop swinging. Getting yourself out like that is all that Matt Harvey needs with his talent. Hiroki Kuroda will be good, but the score should be similar to yesterday.
  • The Red Sox over the Phillies: Cliff Lee has been on a roll. But then so has the Red Sox offense. Ryan Dempster is the wild card. He is familiar with the Phillies and they him. I do not like the Phillies' offense and if Dempster can hold the Phillies to two or three runs, the Red Sox win.
  • The Brewers over the Twins: This one is not fun to pick. Scott Diamond is a pitcher I always get wrong. And the Brewers start Alfredo Figaro which reminds me of the Bugs Bunny cartoon where the singer's head gets smaller each time he sings that name. Figaro has only pitched in relief after starting for two seasons in Japan. He has good control but gives up a lot of base hits. He is the Twins kind of pitcher, so they will appreciate losing to him.
  • The Cardinals over the Royals: The Cardinals have a really impressive streak of bringing up home-grown pitchers who pitch well once they get to the majors. Tyler Lyons is simply the latest one. First start? No problem. Seven innings, one run. Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday will take care of Ervin Santana.
  • The Giants over the Athletics: The Giants hope to Mike Kickham where it hurts. Ha! I kill me. Seriously, though, who the heck is Mike Kickham? He is a sixth round draft pick in 2010 whose minor league numbers are not all that impressive. But then again, this year, he is pitching in the PCL and that is a hitting league. The thought here is that Jarrod Parker is not that much more of a lock and if it is close, the Giants will win.
  • The Dodgers over the Angels: Last time out, I predicted Joe Blanton would get his first win. He did. Today, he gets to pitch against in Dodgers Stadium where the field will help him. But, Hyun-Jin Ryu at home will be the better of the two.
  • The Mariners over the Padres; I hate putting this pick in the hands of Brandon Maurer. But then again, I hate picking Edinson Volquez. Both teams have similar offenses. The home team gets the pick.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The White Sox over the Cubs: Chris Sale was skipped a start, so that is always a concern. But if he is the normal Chris Sale, he should sail through the Cubs and to the win. Edwin Jackson is Edwin Jackson.

Yesterday: 7-9
Week: 17-14
Month: 206-159
Season: 435-321
Games of the Day: 35-21

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Mets, my dad and Memorial Day

Memorial Day and my dad have always been combined for me. The day always brings him to mind more powerfully than any other day. Growing up in Bergenfield, New Jersey, the holiday always meant the big parade. It was a time for my dad to put on his uniform. And man did he look good in that thing. He stayed thin his entire life so it still fit. He was dashing and handsome. Usually, I did not get to see him march because I was marching myself with my PAL teammates. After the parade, we would all go to the VFW, which was like our second home and there would be a barbecue.

My dad was born in New York City on July 23, 1923. By 1930, the family had moved to Bergenfield and his dad worked in the public works department for the city for many years. Near the beginning of World War II, dad enlisted and somehow became a radio man in a bomber. The details are fuzzy as I was never able to learn much about it. But his bomber squadron flew many missions, first in Africa and then in Europe.

I cannot even imagine how stressful and scary that must have been. Those aircraft were not made for comfort. The enemy's sole mission is to shoot you down. The harrowing peril must have accompanied every flight. But my dad, like many other heroes of that conflict, did what he had to do and I have a display case with all his medals to prove it. He was our hero. And rightly so.

He was not around long enough for me to have asked him for more details. He was in a car accident when I was ten years old and died on March 11, 1966. His death was so long ago that it is a struggle to preserve what few memories I have of him. I cannot close my eyes and picture him. I cannot hear his voice. There were no VCRs or digital cameras back then. We had one tape recording of his voice and it was accidentally erased.

I remember that he loved his kids. My last memory of him was him chasing my brother and I around
the house while we threw stuffed animals at each other. I remember him taking us places like the Statue of Liberty and to the Worlds Fair. I know he had blond or sandy hair and blue eyes, characteristics that none of us kids inherited.

And I know that he introduced me to baseball. There are two distinct memories of him and baseball at an early age. The first was an evening that I woke up in the middle of the night (or so it seemed). I must have slept with my head hanging down and it seemed all the blood in my body was in my head. Or maybe I was just stuffed up and did not know any better.

I walked from my bedroom down the short set of stairs in our split level house and heard the television on in the basement. My dad had transformed that basement from a cement bare bones to a really nice family area. He was handy that way. I never got to learn from him.

Anyway, I was really little at the time and walked down the stairs to the basement and Dad was sitting on a chair watching the Mets. That was his team. Like many folks from the area, he must have switched to the Mets after the Giants and Dodgers left town. I vaguely remembering sitting at his feet and watching the game with him.

And he took me to my first live ballgame. I have tried to find the exact game because the memory is always faulty when it comes to such things. Two things I distinctly remember was parking and that huge globe statue that I had first seen at the Worlds Fair. Shea Stadium was a beautiful blue color on the outside and was still fresh and new. I also remember that Bob Veale was the pitcher and since our seats were behind home plate, he was the most scary looking human I had ever seen.

Part of it, I am sure, was because I had not had a lot of experiences with African-Americans, but even so, Veale was huge and mean-looking. He was six foot, six inches and in that Pirate uniform, and it seemed like he threw the ball at 100 MPH. He probably did, who knows. He was quite good through the mid-1960s and had a nice career.

I also remember that the Mets won the game. The only game that makes sense then was the August 17, 1964 game at Shea when Veale lost, 5-0. To show you how faulty the memory is, I thought I remembered that Ed Kranepool hit a homer. Like everyone of that time period, Kranepool had become a hero of mine. He was handsome and dashing and just looked like a ballplayer. Kranepool had a hit in that game, but the real hitting star was left fielder, Charley Smith, who hit two homers.

I was introduced to Yankee Stadium during my PAL years from 1965 and later and became a Yankees fan. But my first game was a Mets game and it was with my dad.

My dad was not larger than life. He made his share of mistakes as a human being and things were difficult for us all in the two years before he died. Like most of us, he was flawed. And the one thing I remember the strongest when he died was that I could not cry. My uncle came over to tell us that he passed and told us it was okay sometimes to cry. But I could not.

In fact, I did not mourn at all after he died. Perhaps I never accepted it. We were not, as children, allowed to see him in the hospital or go to the funeral. So it was like it never happened. I imagined for years that he was still alive and had run away.

It was not until May 21, 1979 that the dam burst. That was the day my son was born and he would become the fourth straight male firstborn that would be a William. For some reason, becoming a father myself brought back the loss that I had encountered as a boy. I remember crying hysterically and privately for my dad in the days after my beautiful son was born.

And I have missed him terribly since. I remember how important it was to me for both of my children that I survive and be there for them through their eleventh birthday. I remember wanting strongly to make it through their entire childhood so they would not experience the loss I had. I remember how important it was for me to pass along the love of baseball to my own son and I was successful at doing so.

Many of us are a product of both our environment and our genes. I carry some of his same flaws. I, like him, have made good money and lost it all. But I would like to think that I inherited some of his good qualities too. Very few people disliked my dad. He was popular and loved by my mom's Italian family. After he died, my little old Italian nana would tell me many times that my father was a good man. I would like to think the good outweighed the bad. That is all most of us can hope for in a life that has no blueprints.

His short life and early death have shaped much of my life. I wish I could remember more and hear his voice. I wish I could thank him for the good things and forgive him the bad. He would be 90 years old this year. I wish he were.

But I have his medals. They fill me with pride at what he did for his country. I have Memorial Days that connect me with him. And I have baseball. He passed on enough to celebrate. I wish it was more.

MLB Game Picks - Monday: May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day, everybody! I hope the sun is shining for your day today.

Last night, I was chillin' and catching up with some shows on the DVR and kept half an eye on the games. I knew I was sitting at 10-4 with only the Game of the Day pick left to go. The team I had picked, the Braves, were up on the Mets, 2-1, late in the contest. I was feeling pretty good. And then Karma happened.

Yesterday, I wrote about Ike Davis who for the second year in a row, had gotten off to such a putrid start that the Mets really were in a dilemma for what to do with him. My conclusion was that the Mets should cut their losses and move on. So who came up with the bases loaded and the game on the line for the Mets? Right. Ike Davis. He won the game. The Game of the Day was gone. Hey, that is what I get I guess.

There are sixteen games being played on this Memorial day. And you know what? Five of them are night games. Having night games on a holiday is just plain wrong. Holidays are family days and all the games should be during the day. It is also interleague day all around the majors. Oh goodie. Here are your Memorial Day picks:

  • The Nationals over the Orioles: The Orioles lose a bat in the lineup. They also get to face a tough left-handed pitcher in Gio Gonzalez. Jason Hammel is a decent pitcher most of the time. What the heck is up with Jim Johnson?
  • The Tigers over the Pirates: Justin Verlander gets a very tough opponent in Francisco Liriano, who has come back strong this year for the Pirates. I think this game stays real close with the Tigers pulling it out by a run or two.
  • The Reds over the Indians: This is a tough one. The difference could be the bullpen where the Reds shine and the Indians...uh...don't. The Indians lose a bat. Ubaldo Jimenez and Mike Leake are hard to choose between.
  • The Rockies over the Astros: This one does not seem like an interleague game does it? Anyway, I am going with Jhoulys Chacin over Bud Norris simply because the Rockies are a better team.
  • The Brewers over the Twins: These two teams seem really similar to me. Each has a couple of very good players, a shaky rotation and not much else. The only difference in this game for me is that the Brewers are the home team. The Twins losing a bat hurts them. Kevin Correia goes for the Twins and Wily Peralta for the Brewers.
  • The Royals over the Cardinals: This is my upset pick of the day. James Shields has the ability to shut down the Cardinals even if they have an extra bat in the lineup. If he can hold them to a run or two, the Royals have a chance. Of course, they face Adam Wainwright, which evens things up quite a bit.
  • The Bay Rays over the Marlins: Jake Odorizzi was decent in his first start and that should be all he has to do in this one. The ultra-young, Jose Fernandez, could have a big game but the Rays are the probable winners here.
  • The Rangers over the Diamondbacks: This first game of a double-header pits two really questionable starters together. The Rangers are going with Martin Perez and the Diamondbacks with Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs has never shown any ability to get any Major League batters out. Perez can on occasion though he will not last long in the game. Yeesh.
  • The Giants over the Athletics: A very interesting pitching match up in this one between Madison Bumgarner and Dan Straily. Both can be very good, especially in Oakland's big ballpark. I have to go with Bumgarner.
  • The Mariners over the Padres: Ugh! What a terrible choice this is. Clayton Richard!? Aaron Harang!? Oh please, this is terrible! Pick your poison. Going with the Mariners at home with a wing and a prayer. Ugh. And one other note, with a big military population in San Diego, shouldn't the Padres always be home on Memorial Day?
  • The Braves over the Blue Jays: Interleague works out good for the Braves because they can get Gattis in the lineup without having to stick him in left field. Tim Hudson should be better than Mark Buehrle, but the Blue Jays are hitting really well right now. The Braves strike out too much.
  • The Cubs over the White Sox: This game presents a really interesting pitching line. Jeff Samardzija simply does not get run support, but he is terrific. Carlos Quintana was brilliant his last start. I like the Cubs getting an extra bat, but do not like that Rizzo has to face a left-hander. Samardzija is my choice.
  • The Red Sox over the Phillies: Good golly! I hate these pitching match ups today! Alfredo Aceves is back in Fenway. That is not appetizing. But he does get a good performance in there once in a while. The Red Sox lineup will wait out Tyler Cloyd and drive his pitch count up and then do some damage.
  • The Dodgers over the Angels: Two hired guns go at each other today in C.J. Wilson and Zack Greinke. The Angels' winning streak has gotten to the point where it defies the law of averages to keep picking them day after day. The Dodgers are home, so the pick is heading their way.
  • The Rangers over the Diamondbacks: The Rangers take the second game as Yu Darvish takes over and has a great game. Trevor Cahill is pitching better these days but I do not think he can keep up with Darvish or hold the Rangers' offense down in the hot air.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Yankees over the Mets: Jonathon Niese is off so far this season. All his peripherals are below his career averages including his strikeout rate, his first pitch strike rate and the amount of his pitches batters chase out of the strike zone. His velocity is the same. Phil Hughes gets to pitch in Citi Field, which should help him. The Mets are an all or nothing, swing and miss kind of lineup.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 10-5
Month: 199-148
Season: 428-312
Games of the Day: 35-20  (2-5 in the last seven days...grrr)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Ike Davis dilemma

In a media market such as New York, Ike Davis of the Mets has been the topic of much conversation. As such, I am not sure how much more I can add to the conversation. At the very least, there are no emotional ties to the situation for me, so perhaps I can look at it from a calmer, less passionate perspective. The starting point of the story is that Ike Davis has nearly duplicated a disastrous April and May in 2012 this season. The two-month mess so nearly doubles what happened last year that it illustrates the dilemma this brings to the Mets.

How closely does Ike Davis' 2013 first two months resemble his first two months of a year ago? Check it out:
  • 2012 (through the end of May): .170 average, .524 OPS, 5 doubles, 5 homers, 12 walks, 49 K's
  • 2013 (through May 26th): .148 average, .475 OPS, 2 doubles, 4 homers, 16 walks, 54 K's.
Think about that for a minute. That is basically two months of a season that offers nothing but a black hole of a lineup spot. And if truth be told, 2013 is trending worse than 2012.

The dilemma for the Mets is that last season, Davis went the rest of the season hitting 21 more doubles, 27 more homers and 49 more walks. For as bad as Davis was in the first two months of 2012, he ended the season a plus 6.9 runs better than average on offense and with an OPS+ of 111. Patience with Davis appeared to be warranted and he had an .888 OPS in the second half. Can Ike Davis pull his season out of a hat (using polite speech here) again?

The dilemma goes deeper. It really was not until June 12 last season that Ike Davis started hitting. In other words, his woes went another two weeks. With crushing media and fan displeasure, are the Mets going to watch Ike Davis struggle two more weeks?

And as decent as Davis' season was in the end a season ago, there were two major problems that remained. First, he struggled mightily at Citi Field. Secondly, he was awful against left-handed pitching. Let's look at both of those a little more closely.
  • 2012 (Home): .188/.277/.342.
  • 2012 (Away): .262/.335/.566.
  • 2012 (against lefties): .174/.225/.355
This year's numbers thus far are so abysmal that the splits are meaningless. They are all bad. But if last year is a guide, then even if Davis pulls the same rabbit out of the hat this year that he did a year ago, then he is still going to struggle in half of his games (home) and in games against left-handed pitching. Consider that Ike Davis has walked just once against a left-handed pitcher all season.

The assumption so far has been that Ike Davis can finish this season like he did 2012. That is a huge leap of faith though. Can a guy keep playing a quarter of the season so poorly and still come out at least smelling decent? That, my friends, is not something I would bet on. And the problem right now is that Davis has confused everyone with what kind of talent he is. You cannot keep digging this kind of hole and expect to climb out.

But let's say he does do the same thing as last year and finishes near last year's numbers or a little below them. Is he still worth it? After all was said and done last season, Ike Davis was the sixteenth most valuable first baseman in baseball. Sixteenth when there are thirty teams does not seem to make the patience make sense. Davis is having a better defensive season this year than a year ago and that helps. And his base running is better too.

My assumption here is that Davis will not end up with as good as offensive numbers this season. His stats this year, as bad as last year's were at this time, still regressed. His defense and base-running make up the difference. But even a strong finish like last year will still make him finish in the bottom tier of value for first baseman. And I have already stated that such a strong finish is a long shot.

In my opinion, you cannot have a guy continue to stink up a quarter of your season. As good a guy as Davis is, as much as people like him, he is not the player that is going to get the Mets where they need to go. I like the guy too. But it is time for the Mets to cut bait and move on. 

MLB Game Picks - Sunday: May 26, 2013

Saturday was of to a decent start. The Braves won the suspended game to push Friday's total to 10-5. Then Saturday's games started at a 7-4 pace. There were obvious errors in those four incorrect picks including the Game of the Day Rays losing to the Yankees on the strength of another Fernando Rodney blown save. And that Blue Jays' pick was not so hot. But 7-4 was not a bad pace. Every pick after that came in wrong. Felix Hernandez looked like Joe Saunders. The Cardinals' John Gast left the game hurt in the second inning. The Padres kicked Wade Miley's rear end. And Drew Storen kicked away the game for the Nationals. Not a good day.

Sunday's picks:

  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: Two slugging teams with the Orioles always coming up on top. Toronto's Chad Jenkins beat the Red Sox for his first Major League win. Can he beat the Orioles too? I do not think so. Then again, Miguel Gonzalez is no great shakes either except when he pitches against the Yankees.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: Max Scherzer is impressive and should shut down the Twins. Mike Pelfrey can have a good game occasionally. The Tigers always confuse me.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Two pitchers in Matt Garza and Johnny Cueto making their second starts back from the disabled list. Garza is probably pitching for the scouts on other teams. Cueto to get back to being the ace of the Reds. The Reds have to be the pick.
  • The Red Sox over the Indians: Judging on how it has rained up here for six straight days (and is raining again today), it is remarkable that this series has gotten both games in so far. Felix Doubront is not my favorite pitcher. But Corey Kluber is not either. The Red Sox at home in perhaps a high scoring game.
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: I have been waiting and waiting for Cole Hamels to start pitching well. Watch it be today over my favorite, Stephen Strasburg. That would be the dark cloud expectation. But if logic were to dictate, this is the right pick.
  • The Bay Rays over the Yankees: I cannot believe that the Yankees have gone to their personal place of hell and have won the first two games there. I cannot believe it so much that I cannot get myself to pick them again today despite CC Sabathia pitching. But then again, maybe all these scrub Yankees have not figured out they are supposed to lose there. Alex Cobb for the win.
  • The Angels over the Royals: I hate winning streaks and losing streaks. How long do they last? When do you pick against it? The Angels have won seven straight. Jerome Williams has been a big reason why. The Royals keep losing. How long will that last? Wade Davis is just okay. Angels win their eighth.
  • The White Sox over the Marlins: The match up of Alex Sanabia and Dylan Axelrod makes me want to spit. See what I did there? Neither team is very good on offense. Either pitcher in this one can ralph. So the blind pick is the White Sox.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: Another what-the-heck game. Bartolo Colon and his 90% fastballs against Dallas Keuchel. Yes, good luck picking that one. The A's are the better team, so that has to be the pick.
  • The Brewers over the Pirates: You cannot pick too many times against Yovani Gallardo at home. I got away with it last time. But he is too good there to keep doing so. This series has gone back and fourth all weekend and I hate picking against Wandy Rodriguez. But again, Gallardo is the difference and should even get a meaningful hit.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: The inside the park homer is the most exciting play in baseball and when it wins a game in walk-off style, even more so. The Giants win those kinds of games. But they can also win easily as Matt Cain should win big today over Jon Garland. Garland has been a mild surprise, but is a BABIP pitcher.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: I still do not like Patrick Corbin following Wade Miley in the D-backs rotation. But there he is and he has not lost this season. Jason Marquis is also having a very good season. I have to go with Corbin.
  • The Dodgers over the Cardinals: Fantastic match-up here of Clayton Kershaw and Shelby Miller, two of the top arms in the National League. I need to watch this one as it will be fun. Kershaw has more experience but the Cardinals have the better hitting team.
  • The Mariners over the Rangers: You are going to make this mistake for two days in a row, William? Well, yeah, because of Hisashi Iwakuma. I believe in him that much. I think he is so much better than Nick Tepesch.

And the Game of the Day!
The Game of the Day is also ESPN's Sunday Night Game of the week:

  • The Braves over the Mets: While this pick is not a solid endorsement for Julio Teheran, it is a ringing indictment about Shaun Marcum. The Braves should score seven or eight against him. If they do not, then something went very wrong with their strategy.

Yesterday: 7-8
Last week: 50-42
Month: 189-143
Season: 418-307
Games of the Day: 35-19