Saturday, September 14, 2013

When striking out might not be a good thing

Strikeout rates have steadily risen in Major League Baseball, which just about everybody knows. And there has been much written about whether the increase is bad or not. But when you consider that the MLB strikeout rate is now at 7.51 per nine innings and compare that to 6.52 per nine just seven years ago, you have a significant culture change. I have had people tell me that an out is an out and it does not matter if it is a strikeout or a ground out. And while I have never quite bought that idea, articles like this one do not give me solid footing. But there really is one game situation where a strikeout might not be a good thing.

It is here that I need to remind you that I do not have the chops to be a numbers analyst. I see things and try to make sense of them. But I lack the depth of some of these great analytic writers to make much sense of what I am seeing. At best, all I can do is present a question that an analyst can run with. 

Such a question is found in strikeout rates in one particular situation--runners on third with less than two outs. If you have a runner on third with no outs or one out, it seems to me that contact will make a big difference whether that runner will score or not. And I wanted to see if teams that struggle to score also have trouble striking out when such a situation exists. From the data I collected, it seems to be a factor.

The Major League average for striking out with a runner on third with less than two outs is 17.64%. This is less than the overall league strikeout rate of  19.75%. While this could mean many things such as struggling pitchers, etc., it could also mean that as a whole, baseball tries to cut down on strikeouts in such situations and on average does so.

While all strikeout rates have risen, strikeouts in this situation are no different. For example, in 1980, the MLB average strikeout rate in such situations was only 11.94%. Such numbers do fluctuate as ten years earlier in 1970, the rate was around 14%. But it is safe to say that 17.64% is a significant increase.

My overall thought was that teams that were the worst in this category would correlate somewhat with the team's overall scoring average per game. For the most part, this seemed to be the case. Of the top ten lowest teams in runs per game average, only two of them (Giants, Brewers) beat the league average for strikeout rates in this particular situation.

The Giants here do pose a problem. The Giants are the fourth lowest in the league in runs scored per game. But only five teams strikeout less than the Giants' 14.86% in situations where a man is on third with less than two outs. But again, they are one exception to my "theory". The other, the Brewers, are just a little under the league average and are 21st in runs per game.

Two teams also blow up my theory a little bit on the flip side. Of the top nine teams in terms of runs per game, two of them strikeout more than the league average. The top scoring team in baseball is one of them. The Red Sox strikeout 19.19% in such situations. Cleveland is the other team and they are just above the league average.

The Red Sox lead the majors in on-base percentage and slugging. So it makes sense that they can afford to strikeout more often in such situations because they throw more spaghetti at the wall.

The Mariners and Astros are by far the worst teams at striking out with a man on third and less than two outs. Their rates are 26.02% and 26.55% respectively which is just amazing to me. In many of these cases, any kind of contact has a chance of bringing the run home and these two teams could not make contact more than 25% of the time. Wow.

The best two teams in such situations are the Oakland A's and Arizona Diamondbacks at 10.69% and 12.41 respectively.

But there is another factor here and that is whether a team strikes out at a lower rate or a higher rate with runners on third with less than two outs than the teams' overall strikeout rate. I have already shown the league average in such situations being 2.11 percentage points lower than the overall strikeout rate. While there are a lot of factors that go into such a number, there has to be at least some league-wide mindset that getting contact and putting the ball in play gives a team a better chance to succeed in those situations.

First on the bad side. There are eight teams that have a higher strikeout rate in such situations than their overall rate. Two, the Rockies and Rangers are just slightly higher. The five others are the White Sox, Phillies, Mariners, Twins and Nationals.

The Mariners rate a special place here. That team's difference in strikeout rates from this situation to overall is so much worse that it requires special consideration. The Mariners' overall strikeout rate is 21.53%, but it jumps, as we have seen, to 26.02% with runners on third with less than two outs. That is a higher rate by 4.49 percentage points!

That might go a long way in understanding why despite an improvement in offensive statistics this season, they have scored the 25th highest runs out of 30 teams despite being 20th in team OPS.

On the flip side, thirteen teams have a better spread than the league average (2.11 percentage points) between overall strikeout rates and strikeout rates with runners on third with less than two outs. The best at it are the A's (8.27 percentage points!), Mets (6.28 percentage points), Reds (6.11 percentage points) and Diamondbacks (5.73 percentage points).

Again, this might explain why the Mets are 27th in wOBA in baseball but are 19th in runs per game.

The amazing A's and their low strikeout rate in these situations, especially compared to their overall strikeout rate, might take some of the wonder out of how they are playing so well. You look at that lineup and scratch your head. But perhaps this one situational statistic might explain some of their success.

For these teams, concentrating on contact in these situations has to be stressed as part of their overall strategy. Does the A's performance in this situation have anything to do with that team having the highest WPA in the Majors? Perhaps.

I do not know if I have proven anything here. The numbers are interesting, but again, I am not an analyst. If this were a courtroom, I have left reasonable doubt and perhaps another "lawyer" can take a better look at it. But I have convinced at least myself that there is some factor in teams that cannot score often enough that has to do with how often they strike out and how often they strikeout with a runner on third with less than two out.

Here is my data in case you are interested:

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: September 14, 2013

After doing this every day now for four months, the incorrect picks are starting to pile up on my psyche. And September has been particularly difficult. Teams that are fighting for the playoffs and division titles lose to teams like the Cubs and Brewers. Ace pitchers don't come through. Games are turned on one stupid pitch (like a low pitch to Jarrod Saltalamacchia--the only place you cannot pitch him) or one stupid play. Bullpens implode (hello Braves and Yankees). And when two teams out of the playoff picture play, who knows what will happen. It all gets frustrating.

The season has two more weeks to go and I will slog through it. I just hope I have a good string of days to brighten my outlook. Let's start with today:

  • The Reds over the Brewers: Johnny Hellweg has only struck out four batters in his sixteen-plus innings of work. His strikeout to walk ratio is 1:3. Oops. I will go with Homer Bailey and those Reds better start staving off the Nationals for that last wildcard spot.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Like the Red Sox and Yankees above, Oakland is clearly the better of these two teams. And it has been shown over and over. The only reason to pick Texas here is for Yu Darvish. And he is never a lock to win either. Bartolo Colon goes for the A's.
  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: Picking the Blue Jays yesterday was bloody stupid. I should get my fingers pinched for that one. How cool is it that Chris Davis has hit 50 homers? Chris Tillman should win this one over Esmil Rogers, who is quite capable of giving up a few bombs to the O's.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: The Mets and Marlins play two today. Oh goody. The Mets will win both games I think. The first features Henderson Alvarez and his nearly 22 second pace against Daisuke Matsuzaka and his 26 second pace. Bring your sleeping bag.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: In the second game, Carlos Torres should bounce back from his last bad start and beat Justin Turner, who has thrown several stinkers in a row now.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: This is what should happen. There is no guarantee that it will. Scott Baker was either lucky or very good his first start back from oblivion. If he can repeat that, the Pirates are in trouble. Gerrit Cole will need to be very good.
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: The Nationals are trying to make a late push and have come a long way. Will they be able to catch the Reds? That is a deep long shot. The Phillies would love to foil it and they have Cole Hamels on the mound. The trouble with that for the Phillies is that Gio Gonzalez is going for the Nats and he is peaking down the stretch.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: It was a nice thought, Royals, but I don't think it is going to happen. You have to beat the Tigers and you did not yesterday. Of course, you never know with Doug Fister who goes from brilliant to putrid from start to start. Ervin Santana is not nearly as good as he was in the first half.
  • The Angels over the Astros: I would love to pick Brett Oberholtzer just because I like typing his name. I like his name nearly as much as Ross Ohlendorf (who won his surprise start yesterday). But Jered Weaver is going for the Angels and, nah. I cannot do it.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: I am glad I am not the only one. Even the guy on the MLB Network said that the White Sox are playing without passion or even trying. So good luck, Andre Rienzo. Ubaldo Jimenez goes for the Indians.
  • The Braves over the Padres: Kris Medlen has been pitching well for two months now and finally has his record over .500. Robbie Erlin has pitched two good games in a row. But I do not expect that streak to go to three.
  • The Bay Rays over the Twins: This game is dangerous because it looks like such a lock for the Rays. Matt Moore should never lose a game like this. And Andrew Albers will cough up a few.
  • The Cardinals over the Mariners: James Paxton had a very good debut with great control and he is a lefty, which the Cardinals hate. But the Cardinals find a way to win and the M's find ways to lose. Michael Wacha is going to have a dominant game.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: This pick did not work out last night, but should today. Wade Miley hasn't been a rock, but he has been decent in the second half. Roy Oswalt again comes back from the dead. Nothing good can come from that.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: The Giants got the better of the Dodgers last night. But I think tonight will be different. The Dodgers will get to Tim Lincecum and Ricky Nolasco has been the bomb for the Dodgers.

And the Game of the Day:
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: The Red Sox are so much better than the Yankees that it is palpable. Yeah, the Yankees can steal a game here or there, but gosh, the difference is striking. No way CC Sabathia pitches a good game. He never does at Fenway. Jon Lester has a better that double chance at winning.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 44-38
Month: 94-85
Season: 1236-980
Games of the Day: 93-67   +2

Friday, September 13, 2013

MLB Game Picks - Friday: September 13, 2013

Why yes, it is Friday the 13th. That means the picks will have good luck today, right? The 12th was not too bad. Seven out of eleven was not as blah or bad as the previous days. I did not expect the Yankees to win a game that Phil Hughes started. The beleaguered pitcher was yanked after pitching just 50 pitches (and he pitched well). David Robertson tried to give the game back and was so bad that when the Yankees went ahead in the ninth to win the game, the win was given to Mariano Rivera instead of Robertson. Weird.

I did not expect the Cardinals to lose to the Brewers either. But then again, it should not be surprising because Tyler Thornburg is impressive as he starts his big league career. The Cardinals and Pirates are now tied atop the NL Central with 16 games to go.

The other two games that I blew were the Braves game that they won behind Freddy Garcia. That was a surprise. And I did not expect the Rays to win against Boston.

We are back to a full schedule of games today. There is a lot of rain on the East Coast, so we'll see how that goes. The Friday picks:

  • The Indians over the White Sox: They are playing this game in the afternoon, which is kind of weird. But the Indians should win it fairly easily. Hector Santiago is Mr. No-decision and the bullpen will lose it. Danny Salazar should have no problems. The White Sox made three more errors yesterday. Amazing.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: Charlie Morton was bombed in his last outing, but he should rebound to beat the Cubs. The Cubs start Jake Arrieta, who just cannot seem to put it together in the big leagues.
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: The only big question here is whether the Nats will score some runs to support Stephen Strasburg. You know the pitcher will pitch well. Kyle Kendrick will try to keep the game tight.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: The Orioles are really tumbling and it will not help to put Jason Hammel out there on the mound. Todd Redmond has won both of his last starts. He has not been going deep into games, but the bullpen has held them. That will have to happen again today.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: The Tigers have not been faring well and Justin Verlander is no longer a lock to win. But I do not like Bruce Chen on the road and thus give the not to Verlander and the Tigers at home.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: Brad Hand has lost nine of his ten big league decisions. He has pitched five scoreless innings in relief so far this season. But that is a far cry from a start. Jonathon Niese has had a good second half and I like him in this one.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: This is the Yankees' best chance to win a game in this series at Fenway. They always seem to get to John Lackey after a while and Hiroki Kuroda and his split-fingered pitches can keep the Red Sox at bay. The Yankees' bullpen is not doing well, so if it's close late, this pick can blow up.
  • The Braves over the Padres: The Braves are giving David Hale, a 2009 third round draft pick out of Princeton, his Major League debut. I am not impressed with his minor league numbers. But my theory here is that the game will be high scoring as the Braves get to Ian Kennedy and the bullpen wins it late.
  • The Athletics over the Rangers: How upsetting for Rangers' fans to see how futile they have been lately. Dan Straily has not been lights out against the Rangers (or anyone else), but he does keep the A's in the game most of the time and actually pitches better in Arlington than at the Coliseum. Derek Holland has not shown me much.
  • The Angels over the Astros: Remember earlier in the season when the Astros were beating the Angels often? The Angels are better now. Not much, but better. One reason is that Jason Vargas has been pitching well. Dallas Keuchel just sort of exists for me.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: The Reds are still hoping for a shot at the division and they are still within hailing distance. Mat Latos has had a great year. Kyle Lohse is the only wildcard to this pick. He can pitch well in Milwaukee.
  • The Cardinals over the Mariners: The Cards might have a tough time with Hisashi Iwakuma. They do not hit lefties well and this is a good one. But Adam Wainwright is on the mound and the Mariners have little on offense. The Cards win late.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Tyler Chatwood has had a good season and did not show any ill effects from his hand injury suffered against the Reds the last time he pitched. But I like the D-backs here at home and for Brandon McCarthy to build on his last good start.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: This is a good one. Clayton Kershaw at home against Madison Bumgarner. That is a lot of pitching talent all at the same time. This game could go either way.

And the Game of the Day:
  • The Rays over the Twins: This is the Rays' chance to undo a lot of their past damage the last couple of weeks. They should beat the Twins just about every time. Chris Archer should get the win and Kevin Correia should not provide much of an obstacle.

Yesterday: 7-4
Week: 37-30
Month: 87-77
Season: 1229-972
Games of the Day: 92-67

Thursday, September 12, 2013

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: September 12, 2013

The picks were just ordinary as September slogs on disappointingly. I feel like the Texas Rangers who cannot get anything going this month. Speaking of them, I keep picking them like an idiot. I also picked Cleveland and worried that James Shields would come up big. He did. I picked the Rays again and good old Roberto Hernandez faustoed that. I picked the wrong young gun between Ryu and Patrick Corbin. Dan Haren totally bamboozled me by throwing a shutout. It has been one of those months.

But at least Jose Fernandez won his last start of the season. And he hit a homer that the Braves got all panty-twisted about. Come on, seriously? Justin Upton has never posed for a homer? Get over yourselves. Jose Fernandez is an entertainer in a city that needs baseball entertainers. Let him do his thing.

Thursday's picks:

  • The Marlins over the Braves: Nathan Eovaldi is pitching pretty well and the Braves are starting Freddy Garcia. Put it this way, I don't think Freddy Garcia will be on the Braves' post season roster.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: This Tanner Roark kid is making the Majors look pretty easy, isn't he? 5-0 with an 0.94 ERA!? His charm should hold true against the Mets, especially since they are starting Aaron Harang. Speaking of Harang, have you noticed that he always lands on a team with a big ballpark? He knows.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: My reservation in this one is what happened to the Reds when they came in flying and the Cubs beat them twice in a row. The Pirates just totally schmucked the Rangers and this sure feels familiar. But I am still going with Jeff Locke over Chris Rusin.
  • The Orioles over the Yankees: The Yankees beat up Wei-Yin Chen pretty good the last time they faced him. But gosh, the Yankees are starting Phil Hughes. Granted, it is not in Yankee Stadium. But it is in another homer friendly park. I cannot pick Hughes. I just cannot.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: I would like to pick Tyson Ross, but I am chicken. Ha! Did you get it? No? Oh well. Anyway, it is not that I believe so much in Roy Halladay at this point in his career and season, but the Padres are terrible on offense...even more terrible than the Phillies.
  • The Angels over the Blue Jays: I am putting my marbles here for Garrett Richards. It looks like he is coming into his own. However, the Jays can really hit the ball. So it will all depends on how well J.A. Happ pitches.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: This might be the first time ever that Yankee fans are rooting for the Red Sox. And the Red Sox have sure beaten up on the Rays. The Rays have really gone south the past three weeks. I do not see Jeremy Hellickson holding up against the Red Sox. I do see Jake Peavy stopping the Rays.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: The White Sox are done getting pounded by the AL East and are now letting their own division do the trick. What a lifeless bunch this is. John Danks is not a bad pitcher. But will he get support? Will his fielders catch the ball? Probably not. Corey Kluber for the win.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Tyler Thornburg might give the Cards' offense some problems. But probably not. Joe Kelly has made the most of his latest turn in the rotation. The kid is winning his share of starts.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Zack Greinke is the difference in this game. Normally, I would lean toward Matt Cain in a start like this. But Greinke is terrific for the Dodgers. And he is at home in that big park.

And the Game of the Day:
  • The Athletics over the Twins: To this day, I cannot understand how the A's are so good. You look at the lineup...the pitchers...and nothing overwhelms. But here we are. A.J. Griffin over Scott Diamond in a game that should be an easy win.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 30-26
Month: 80-73
Season: 1222-968
Games of the Day: 91-67   +1

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: September 11, 2013

Tuesday was just another crappy day of picking in what has been a fairly crappy month. It is a good thing that I have had four months to watch these teams to be able to tell what they are going to do. It is a good thing that I have been watching four decades worth of baseball games to get a feel for how this works. It is a good thing that I have been doing this column for four years so I know what I'm doing. Ha!

I mean, look at the Reds. They beat the Cardinals three out of four and then swept the Dodgers to get within a game and a half of the division lead. Now they have had their hats handed to them twice in a row against the Cubs. I can see losing a close game, 2-0, against a very good Travis Wood. But 9-1?

And the A's are grinding it out for the division title. The Rangers have been slipping and the A's have a chance to bury them. But then they lose to the Twins? Geez, Louise.

All I can do is keep plugging along. Wednesday's picks:

  • The Indians over the Royals: Scott Kazmir has become quite a story hasn't he? There is nothing like a good comeback story. How can you not root for him? Well, if you are a Royals fan, you can't. James Shields seems to need to be perfect in order to be good. He has not been perfect lately. He is always capable though.
  • The Rangers over the Pirates: The Pirates have had their way in this series thus far after taking the first two games. And as one of my Twitter buds, @juniusworth tells me, "the Rangers suck in day games." Which is what they play today. But two things: First, A.J. Burnett pitching in Texas seems like a loss waiting to happen. And secondly, Matt Garza is going to fight for this win.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Can you pick against Yusmeiro Petit at this point? Not until his good pitching streak is over at least. He almost got a no-hitter his last time out. Will that take something out of him for this one? Hmm... Juan Nicasio goes for the Rockies.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Because I don't know if Scott Feldman can hold down the Yankees for a second straight time and even though I do not have much faith in Andy Pettitte, he at least has the possibility that he could pitch well. But the bullpen at the end for the Yankees is dicey at this point.
  • The Padres over the Phillies: When is the last time that Eric Stults won a ballgame? It seems like forever. So he is due for a win against a weak-hitting Phillies team. Cliff Lee could put a monkey wrench into this pick though.
  • The Angels over the Blue Jays: I don't know who will win this game. This is a battle of two teams that drive me crazy. R.A. Dickey goes against C.J. Wilson in a game of initials gone wild. I'm feeling the Angels.
  • The Marlins over the Braves: I have been telling you all season that Jose Fernandez is a lock at home in Miami right? Well, until proven otherwise, try beating him there with his 1.18 home ERA. Mike Minor can match him and make it a bullpen game and then this pick will be in trouble.
  • The Rays over the Red Sox: Okay, now that Clay Buchholz is back, can someone tell me why Ryan Dempster is still in the rotation for the Red Sox? Alex Cobb is better than Dempster by enough of a degree that the Red Sox better offense than the Rays should be overcome.
  • The Mets over the Nationals: Dan Haren's season has been an awful sandwich. He started the season awful. They pitched three or four hopeful starts and now has gone back to awful. Zack Wheeler should have an opening to win this game then.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Sometimes I think the Tigers just toy with us. Oh, we'll score ten runs for two straight games and then none for a couple. We will keep them guessing. Anibal Sanchez over Jose Quintana.
  • The A's over the Twins: I bought into Sonny Gray immediately and he rewarded my picks. Until he didn't twice in a row and I picked against him and he won. Then I jumped back on his bandwagon and he lost. Aaaahhh!!! Surely, he can be Mike Pelfrey can't he? Please don't call me Shirley.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Lance Lynn has everyone mad at him. First, he would put up this maddening crooked number in the fourth or fifth inning of every game and deflate a victory into a defeat. Then in his last outing, he avoided a crooked number and gave up a single run in every inning he pitched. Either way, he is not popular in St. Louis. But he wins today over Marco Estrada. Take that, haters.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: This match-up between Patrick Corbin and Hyun-jin Ryu has happened before and Ryu came out on top. He is certainly tough to beat at home. Plus, it appeas that Corbin has hit a wall. Dead arm?
  • The Mariners over the Astros: I have no idea. When two teams this bad play each other, anything can happen. The Astros took the first two. Brad Peacock has been decent his last couple of times. But I am picking Brandon Maurer to have a good start after a season of learning stuff.

And the Game of the Day:
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Well...this pick has been wrong for two days in a row, so why should you listen to me? Understandable. But I really feel that despite a big arm from Jeff Samardzija, the Reds should win behind Mike Leake.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 22-19
Month: 72-66
Season: 1214-961
Games of the Day: 90-67

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

MLB Game Picks - Tuesday: September 10, 2013

The first three completed games yesterday were correctly picked. But then only two more picks would be correct the rest of the evening. Der. The one that galls me the most was the Cubs win over the Reds. If you look at yesterday's picks, I even called it. I said those are the games you have to look out for because a team just finished a big series and will let down on the Cubs. And sure enough, they ran into a good pitcher in Travis Wood and lost. Why did I not pick it that way then!? Der.

Max Scherzer and Jered Weaver did not come through for me (or their teams). Once again, the Rangers could not win a game that was started by Yu Darvish. Give Gerrit Cole some of that credit, though. That was a terrific game. Tiajuan Walker and Jarred Cosart were great but then it became a bullpen game. The Astros initially blew it and the Mariners had a nice lead heading into the ninth and then Lord Danny Farquhar blew it. Der.

Tuesday's picks:

  • The Indians over the Royals: The Indians' closer drives me crazy. Perhaps I should direct my emotions toward his dog though. I think Zach McAllister wins this game with the only exception to that thought if Jeremy Guthrie has a really good game. The Indians are simply better than the Royals.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: This pick depends on Ivan Nova to have a dominating performance. It does not seem that any Yankee starter can rise to such an occasion. The last time the Yankees saw Miguel Gonzalez, they roughed him up pretty good. Not very confident on this pick.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: If you look at Tyler Cloyd's season, if he pitches against a middling team, he does well. Most of his bad outings have come against really good offenses. The Padres are not a good offense. However, Andrew Cashner is a talented pitcher that can blow this pick up.
  • The Blue Jays over the Angels: Mark Buehrle has been really good for a month and a half now and seems to give the Blue Jays a solid effort in every start. Jerome Williams started the season great and then got hammered regularly. He has been pitching a bit better of late. I like the Blue Jays here at home.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Julio Teheran was skipped for a start and the question is whether all that rest will help or hurt him. If he is not sharp, Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton will jump on him. We'll see. Tom Koehler goes for the Marlins.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: The Rays are finally home after their long and disastrous trip out west. David Price will need to be really good for this pick to come true. For the Red Sox, Clay Buchholz returns. But what will they get from him?
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Okay, the Reds had their one-game letdown. Now it is time for them to resume their chase for the NL Central. We all know this division is going down to the wire. Tony Cingrani has been like a good luck charm for me this season.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: I hate to pick against Dillon Gee the way he is pitching. But the Nats have finally started to play a little good baseball and Jordan Zimmermann is a really good pitcher for them. The Nats should win either early (the first inning) or late.
  • The Pirates over the Rangers: My gut feeling is that the Rangers will be this year's team to fade at the end. They did not address their offense and it is killing them. Francisco Liriano has only allowed one homer in his career (31+ innings) at the Rangers' home ball park and is 3-1 there. He should rebound from his last poor outing. My only reservation here is that Martin Perez always seems to win.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Erik Johnson was only so-so against the Yankees in his debut. The Tigers will jump on him early. Rick Porcello has to be somewhat effective though, something he has not been for a month now.
  • The Athletics over the Twins: I am expecting this game to be a mismatch. Jarrod Parker is starting to blossom a little and has people talking about him. Liam Hendriks will never get into those kinds of conversations.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: I am pretty confident on this one. Wily Peralta has not been good and the Cards' offense should roll. Shelby Miller needs to pitch well though to make this one an easy win.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: The Dodgers will win this game despite Edinson Volquez and not because of him. Trevor Cahill seems to be better than his disastrous first couple of months to the season. I thought Juan Uribe's career was dead. Just call him Lazarus.
  • The Mariners over the Astros: I have no idea who will win this game. Joe Saunders is not my favorite to pick and neither is Jordan Lyles. Both teams are not very good at this point. Going with the home team again.

And the Game of the Day:
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Jorge De La Rosa has sixteen wins. Has that been a quiet win total or what? It might be because his peripherals do not really match his win total. You would think he would be better on the road than at home at Coors. But it is just the opposite. He is 10-1 at home. His road ERA is almost four. Giants win behind Ryan Vogelsong at home.

Yesterday: 5-6
Week: 15-11
Month: 65-58
Season: 1207-953
Games of the Day: 90-66  +1

Monday, September 09, 2013

MLB Game Picks - Monday: September 9, 2013

How bad is the Game of the Day feature this year when a team breaks an eight-game losing streak just to foil it? Pretty bad. And, of course, that outcome and the final outcome of last night's game of the Reds versus the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw put a damper on what was otherwise a good picking day.

There are eleven games on the schedule and some of them have great impact on the wildcard chase. Monday's picks:

  • The Indians over the Royals: This is not a stunning endorsement for Ubaldo Jimenez. The only reason I pick him is that the best way to get to Jimenez is patience and the Royals are not a patient club. They are fifth in the AL in batting average, but only tenth in on-base percentage. Ervin Santana has not been rock solid lately either. Big game for both.
  • The Orioles over the Yankees: First, Chris Tillman is as close to an ace as the Orioles have. Second, the Orioles are home. Third, CC Sabathia just cannot seem to avoid giving up five or so runs nearly every game he pitches.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: It took Kris Medlen a long, long time to reach the .500 mark. But he has won six of his last eight starts and his last two in a row. As long as the Braves score a few off of Henderson Alvarez, they should win.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: These are the games you have to look out for. The Reds have had two big series in a row and had a great time winning most of those games (including a sweep of the Dodgers). So you would expect them to beat the Cubs. Again, a pick fraught with danger. Bronson Arroyo and Travis Wood are the starters.
  • The Angels over the Twins: Jered Weaver should have little trouble with the Twins' lineup. That said, the Angels need to score some runs off of Pedro Hernandez.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: Carlos Torres has been fantastic in his two starts for the Mets. He has walked only one batter in 13.2 innings. But the Mets would need to score and I don't think they will against Gio Gonzalez today. If Gonzalez is off, this pick could blow up in a hurry.
  • The Rangers over the Pirates: Good golly, don't I hate picking Yu Darvish to win. Every time I do it blows up in my face. And the Pirates are a great team. The outcome will depend on how well Gerrit Cole pitches and if the Rangers can get a lead before the Pirates' bullpen comes in and takes over.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: The Tigers have their hands full with Chris Sale. But that poor bloke can't seem to buy a win with that team behind him. Max Scherzer as an opponent does not help. This will be close and perhaps Miguel Cabrera makes the difference.
  • The Mariners over the Astros: Two of my favorite young pitchers go in this one with Taijuan Walker and Jarred Cosart. Neither have struck out as many batters as I thought they would. That should change in this game though. This is a toss up and I am going with the home team.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: Jhoulys Chacin has had a good season. And the last time he faced the Giants was at home and he allowed only one hit. He got hit a bit hard by the Dodgers his last time out though. Tim Lincecum was very good in his next to last start and very bad in his last start. So he is hard to predict.

And the Game of the Day:
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Did you know that Ricky Nolasco's real first name is Carlos? Anyway, old Carlos sure is having a good time in Dodgers' blue. He has a 1.65 in his four starts in Dodgers Stadium. That seems like a good pick to me even if faced by Randall Delgado.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 10-5
Month: 60-52
Season: 1202-947
Games of the Day: 89-66   -2

Sunday, September 08, 2013

MLB Game Picks - Sunday: September 8, 2013

I could not ride Friday's success into another good day on Saturday. Less than half the picks were correct and the week ended with the tally of just three games over .500. Blech. I suppose the final tally is good news considering how poorly the week started. But you would think that I would have some sort of idea what players and teams could do after watching them for four months now.

Maybe a part of it is being a slow learner. Justin Verlander simply is not what he used to be. And yet I continue to pick him like he is. The Giants are not a World Series Champion caliber team anymore and I pick them like they are. I keep picking the Rays to win on the West Coast when obviously they cannot. It all reminds me of my former brother-in-law when he was young. After being brought before a judge after his sixth speeding incident within a six month span, the judge looked at him over his glasses and said, "Slow learner, aincha?"

Sunday's picks:

  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Jon Lester has been pitching really well and Hiroki Kuroda has been pitching poorly after being brilliant for three-quarters of the season. The Red Sox have pounded the Yankees for three straight games in Yankee Stadium. So why pick the Yankees? Kuroda during the day is pretty hard to beat. He has a 2.19 ERA this year in day games after having a 1.99 ERA in those games last year.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: Stephen Strasburg is pitching, so naturally that means the Nats won't score many runs (if any). But I have to pick him over Jacob Turner based on talent level.
  • The Phillies over the Braves: Holy cow, the Braves sure can look awful for a team that has a fifteen game lead in their division. The Phillies are playing well under Ryne Sandberg and Cole Hamels has been pitching well. Paul Maholm's BABIP for the game will determine the outcome.
  • The Orioles over the White Sox: And the losing streak continues for the White Sox, the AL East's designated punching bag. I cannot see Andre Rienzo stopping the Orioles and can see Bud Norris breezing through the White Sox.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: The one time Bruce Chen faced the Tigers this year, the Tigers pummeled him. That has happened pretty consistently over Chen's Royals' career. Doug Fister is either great or terrible. Which will today be?
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: Esmil Rogers of the Blue Jays gives up a lot of homers. But then you look at the Twins' lineup and say, "who is going to hit them?" Plouffe maybe. Who else? That said, the Blue Jays will win and Andrew Albers will be the victim.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: The key to this game will be Michael Wacha's pitch count. If he can keep it under control and go deep into the game, the Cards win. Charlie Morton has never convinced me no matter how many games he wins.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: Scott Baker. Wow. It's been a while, sir. Baker has not pitched in the Majors since 2011. He was a pretty good pitcher at one time with good control and a decent strikeout rate. The strikeouts were gone in his minor league starts this year. So I don't know. Yovani Gallardo seems a better pick.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: The Angels have finally woken up. Just in time to mess with the Rangers who are fighting for the division. It is not going well for the Rangers who have lost too much offense this season. Jason Vargas over Nick Tepesch.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Obviously, I am a slow learner. Why else would I keep picking Madison Bumgarner to win when he never does when I pick him? Wade Miley goes for the D-backs.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: Bartolo Colon has given up 71 hits in his last 58 innings of work and has failed to go more than five innings in each of his last three starts. But I pick him because he should win against the Astros even though young Paul Clemens is pitching pretty well.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Ian Kennedy has been playing with my head all season. I cannot seem to time my picks for when he pitches well. He is at home in San Diego and that sways me as that is a good place for a fly ball pitcher. Chad Bettis still has not won a game.
  • The Rays over the Mariners: The Rays are 17-5 in games Matt Moore has pitched this season. That seems too overwhelming for odds to pick against no matter how poorly the Rays are playing right now. Erasmo Ramirez has been a surprise though for the Mariners.
  • The Dodgers over the Reds: I have flip-flopped on this pick a couple of times already. Homer Bailey has been great lately with his latest outing being a dominant start against the Cardinals. But he is facing Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in the National League. Cincinnati plays in a small park though. How will Kershaw handle that?

And the Game of the Day:
  • The Indians over the Mets: I suppose it is possible for Daisuke Matsuzaka to pitch a good game for the Mets. It just is not probable. Either way, it will be a very long baseball game. Gosh, the guy is slow. His pace is 26.1 seconds. That is brutal. Danny Salazar for the win.

Yesterday: 7-8
Last week: 50-47
Month: 50-47
Season: 1192-942
Games of the Day: 89-65