Saturday, April 26, 2014

Some early batted ball anomalies

A month of a baseball season is still a fairly small sample size. After all, we are only nearing the 15% mark of the season. There are a lot of games left to be played. Even so, 23 to 24 games played is a pretty good chunk of games to see a few trends taking place. Whether sample size or a meaningful chunk of games is up to the eye of the beholder. However, it does allow for some weird batted ball statistics. I have compiled a few for your viewing pleasure. Just don't make too much of what is being presented. Because it IS early yet.
Thirty-six qualifying players have yet to hit an infield popup. I find that figure to be pretty amazing. You would think that not many popups would lead to a pretty good average for balls in play (BABIP). But that's not the case for David Freese. Not only has he not hit a popup, but his line drive percentage is at a healthy 25%. Those are good batted ball odds. And yet his BABIP sits at .186. It is no wonder that the guy is hitting .143 after eighteen games.
But that is a little bit misleading. Freese is striking out at a 29.6% clip, so he only has 45 balls in play altogether. Even so...
For another extreme, we look at Adam Eaton. Eaton has brought some enthusiasm to the White Sox and that team seems far from the dead team they were last year. But Eaton's statistics are really weird. His line drive percentage of 11.1% is the fifth lowest in the Majors right now. And yet his BABIP is a healthy .313. That's kind of hard to do.
But it doesn't end there. Adam Eaton's batted ball statistics show that a full 74% of his batted balls are grounders. That gives him a ratio of ground ball to fly balls of 4 to 1. Holy cow, I have never seen those kinds of numbers put together in one batter.
Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays is off to a slow start. He has a .151 average and a .538 OPS. Those are pretty bad numbers despite the five homers he has hit. His average makes sense because his BABIP is only .125, which is insanely low. is insanely low only if you don't see the details.
Brett Lawrie easily is last in the Majors at hitting line drives. His 8.8% line drive rate is so far off the Major League average (usually around 19.5%) that it almost seems silly. He is the only MLB player (qualified) that is under 10%. Needless to say that Mr. Lawrie is not squaring up many baseballs. Maybe he should use a fatter bat?
Ruben Tejada of the Mets also has some mind-blowing batted ball stats. He leads the Major Leagues in line drive percentage. His rate so far in that category is almost staggering. 38.1% of his batted balls have been line drives. And he has a .688 BABIP when he hits a line drive. So why is his overall BABIP stuck at .285? That's weird isn't it?
You don't know the half of it. Tejada has hit 16 line drives. He has also hit 16 ground balls and ten fly balls. Only one of his 26 combined ground balls and fly balls have fallen in for a hit. One! And it was on a grounder. That is amazing.
Tejada, amazingly enough, is not alone. Nick Castellanos also has a similar problem. Castellanos is second in the Majors in line drive percentage at 37.7%. That's the good part. But his BABIP is only .280. Castellanos has hit 24 fly balls. Only two of them are hits and that is only because they went over the wall for homers. He only has one ground ball hit.
The Royals' Alcides Escobar is off to a pretty good start this season and is batting .301. That is despite the fact that he leads all players in popping up to the infield. He has done so 27.8% of the time. And yet he has a healthy BABIP of .368. How does that happen? It happens when 80% of your line drives turn into hits (way over average) and 40% of your ground balls turn into hits (again, way over average). I don't think he can keep that up.
We have already seen a pretty amazing stat of Adam Eaton hitting four ground balls to every fly ball. But that is chicken feed compared to Ben Revere. Revere's ratio is an astounding 7.83 ground balls for every fly ball. He has only hit eight fly balls all season. And yet, Revere's BABIP is sitting at .342. Being fast helps.
Okay, one more. There are only three players in the Majors who have a rate of 30% or higher of their fly balls going over the fence. You could probably guess that they would be Mark TrumboAlbert Pujols and Jose Abreu. The other commonality these three share is very low BABIPs. Abreu's is the highest at .258. Trumbo's was under .200 before he got hurt. And Pujols is sitting at .240. But who cares when so many of your fly balls are sailing majestically over the fence.

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: April 26, 2014

I needed a good day yesterday after a horrible Thursday and I got it. There were only four incorrect picks. The Yankees were bombed out at home. The Orioles could do nothing with a very impressive Yordano Ventura. The White Sox got a walk-off grand slam from Abreu to ruin that pick. And Josh Collmenter pitched a lot better than I thought he would as the Diamondbacks won the team's third straight.

Those were the only four bad picks. But I will take eleven correct ones every day. Here are Saturday's picks:
  • The Yankees over the Angels: Hector Santiago is not C.J. Wilson and the Yankees should get some base runners at least. The only question is about how good Vidal Nuno can be. He was good his first start, but we'll see.
  • The Nationals over the Padres: This is a tough one. I love Andrew Cashner, but his ERA is double on the road as it is at home. Tanner Roark has been good his last two starts. I am going with the home team.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: Clay Buchholz has been horrible. If he fixes himself today, this pick is in deep doodoo. Then again, Brandon Morrow hasn't been reliable himself. This looks like a pick that could hurt.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: Phil Hughes pitched well his last time out. But this is the Tigers and they bite. Then again, Anibal Sanchez has not been great so far this season either.
  • The Indians over the Giants: The Giants aren't hitting much and need good pitching to win. Tim Lincecum cannot be trusted in that department. Zach McAllister, on the other hand, is a bright talent.
  • The Pirates over the Cardinals: Ugh, this is a tough one. Neither team is hitting. Francisco Liriano has not been nearly as good as last year. But Tyler Lyons is not a good pick either. Tough one...again...
  • The Orioles over the Royals: I feel the Orioles are going to destroy Jeremy Guthrie today. It's a gut thing. Wei-Yin Chen has to be good for the Orioles though.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: I hate picking against Travis Wood. I have a lot of respect for him to go out there and get no support each time. He might even be the best hitter on his team. Marco Estrada will be good enough to win at home.
  • The Braves over the Reds: David Hale is the weakest link of the Braves' rotation. But he still might be good enough to be better than Mike Leake. Leake is not a big strikeout guy, which helps the Braves.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: When it comes to pitchers, there is slow, then Kevin Slowey and then the slowest. The Mets get another good performance from Jenrry Mejia and win.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: I would rate Dan Straily and Dallas Keuchel a wash. That said, the A's are the better team and thus the pick.
  • The White Sox over the Bay Rays: Why the heck not. The White Sox are very exciting right now. John Danks has been good so far. And Cesar Ramos pitching for the Rays seals the deal for me.
  • The Phillies over the Diamondbacks: I am not sure about Cliff Lee in the desert air, but I am sure that I don't ever like picking Bronson Arroyo to win.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: I like Juan Nicasio on the road and at home. But maybe I overrate him. And maybe I underrate Paul Maholm because I would almost never pick him to win a game.
And the Game of the Day
  • The Mariners over the Rangers. Felix Hernandez? Check. At home? Check. The Colby Lewis story is nice. But to have faith in a nice story? No, not here.
Yesterday: 11-4, Games of the Day: 11-11, Season: 197-148

Friday, April 25, 2014

David Ortiz as Thorin Oakenshield

A lot goes through your mind when watching a typical four-hour marathon between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. I have watched thousands of such match-ups being in Maine and in NESN territory or otherwise on national television. And right in the middle of most of them for the last ten years has been David Ortiz. With so much time taken up by a nine-inning ballgame, the mind tends to get some strange thoughts. And one such thought last night was that David Ortiz was the Thorin Oakenshield of baseball.
I have had four main passions in my life. Baseball is one. J.R.R. Tolkien is another when I read his Middle Earth sagas as  an eleven-year-old in 1967. The Beatles and God. Those have been my four. I have combined these passions on a number of occasions. But I don't think I have ever combined Tolkien and baseball. But the thought persisted yesterday about Ortiz and the King Under the Mountain.
Bear with me here. I understand this is a weird thought. But here are the comparisons:
  • Both sit on the sidelines most of the time while the rest of their teammates do most of the work.
  • Both like to have every eye on them and dress to the nines.
  • Both have this grand sense of who they are.
  • Both consider themselves the most important member of their company.
  • Both have had chips on their shoulders about how they have been treated in life.
  • Both make a grand spectacle when they finally become part of the action.
  • Both are bigger than life.
  • Both have detractors. Thorin, the elves and Ortiz, Yankee fans.
  • Both are begrudgingly given the respect they are due because when they have big moments, they have really big moments.
Thorin died with his sword on his chest and with a special stone. Someday in the distant future, David Ortiz will die with the bat on his chest and plenty of special stones on his fingers.

MLB Game Picks - Friday: April 25, 2014

Yesterday was a disaster. Only three games came out right. Sabathia actually pitched okay in Boston. Huh? The Yankees rolled. Drew Hutchison pitched great. But then he went out of the game. By the time Wagner, Cecil and Rogers were done, the O's scored nine runs and ruined it all. Heath Bell and Brian Wilson were absolutely terrible in their outings for the Rays and Dodgers respectively. Both hacked up those picks. It was ugly. And will the Pirates and Cardinals ever score!?

Here are Friday's picks. May they be much better:
  • The Yankees over the Angels: The Yankees' OPS is 130 points higher against left-handed pitching than the other way around. So C.J. Wilson fits right into their hands. I like Hiroki Kuroda at home.
  • The Orioles over the Royals: Ubaldo Jimenez has been awful. Yordano Ventura has a terrific arm. But this is a trap. The Orioles are going to win despite all the signs pointing otherwise.
  • The Nationals over the Padres: This pick didn't work out yesterday and I never seem to get a win from Stephen Strasburg when I pick him. But, sheesh, he should never lose to the Padres. Robbie Erlin goes for the Friars.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: The Red Sox just got smoked at home by the Yankees. Jake Peavy is hit or miss. Mark Buehrle has been spectacular. So why pick the Red Sox then? Because it is a trap I tell you.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: The Mets have been hot and just had a great series. Zack Wheeler is getting better and better. Henderson Alvarez might have been great his last outing. But I have been fooled by him before that way.
  • The Braves over the Reds: Homer Bailey will strike out eleven Braves batters and the Braves will still win. It's unbelievable that way. This Braves team is unlike any I have ever seen before. Ervin Santana starts tonight.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: Carlos Villanueva has been brutal his last two starts. Naturally, I would expect that to go against me if I picked against him. But I like Matt Garza and the Brewers at home against a Cubs team that struggles on offense.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: The Twins have been such a surprise so far. It is hard to pick against them. But Kevin Correia does not do it for me and Rick Porcello is getting better all the time.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: Jesse Chavez is my new toy. So much so that I picked him up in my fantasy team. Go Jesse go! Brad Peacock goes for the Astros. Yeah, I don't think he'll win either.
  • The Rays over the White Sox: Chris Archer was great his last time out. Then again it was the Yankees which are his personal toy. The rest of his outings have been kind of crappy. Erik Johnson was better his last time out too. Somebody has to win.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: The two coldest hitting teams in the Majors. One of them has to break out of it, right? Gerrit Cole, when he isn't yelling at an outfielder that styles on a giving up that homer. Shelby Miller has been a mystery. Taking the home team.
  • The Phillies over the Diamondbacks: I just don't know who to pick here. Roberto Hernandez in AZ? Ugh. Josh Collmenter as a starter? Ugh. The Phillies are playing well and the Dbacks have started to get on track a little bit. I don't know.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: How improbable has Jordan Lyles been so far? Keep riding him? Expect the worse? Why did I start doing this five years ago? Josh Beckett goes for the Dodgers and anything can happen there.
  • The Mariners over the Rangers: This might be a stupid pick. But I think Roenis Elias will pitch better than Robbie Ross will. Does that mean I'll be correct? Seattle has no bullpen lately.
And the Game of the Day
  • The Giants over the Indians: I have no faith in Carlos Carrasco. And probably more of my picks for Tim Hudson have been correct over the years than for any other pitcher.
Yesterday: 3-8, Games of the Day: 10-11, Season: 186-144

Thursday, April 24, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: April 24, 2014

Let's tally the damage. The Tigers pick was going well until they gave up an eighth inning grand slam. The Rockies were tied with the Giants and in extra innings when they too gave up a grand slam. The Angels had a lead going into the ninth and Frieri does what he does best and gave up four runs to lose it. The Cubs were winning, 5-2 on their Wrigley birthday party bash. They gave up five runs in the ninth. Poof. By my count, that is at least four games which if it wasn't for relief pitching would have given me eleven correct picks. But I did not get eleven correct picks.

I still refuse to believe Aaron Harang is this good.

There are eleven games on the schedule tonight. Imagine all the things that could happen this time! 

The picks:
  • The Indians over the Royals: I rarely pick Bruce Chen on the road. At home, yeah. Road, no. Corey Kluber is a solid MLB pitcher.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: The Pirates need a win here. Brandon Cumpton is back from the minors and I'm not sure why he did not make the team in the first place. He is solid with excellent control. Tony Cingrani has that silly streak of five or less hits, but if he gives up four runs in four innings, does it all become meaningless?
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: It seems once again that the Tigers are going to toy with the AL Central all year. They never win as often as they seem like they should. Look for a good outing by Max Scherzer and a low scoring game with Jose Quintana.
  • The Rays over the Twins: This pick was wrong yesterday. So, it is hard to be confident, especially with Erik Bedard on the mound. I just never know what to expect from Ricky Nolasco.
  • The Cardinals over the Mets: A steady diet of Bartolo Colon fastballs does not sound like a good thing for the Mets. They should wreak Shrek. Lance Lynn is already 4-0. But we have seen this before, haven't we?
  • The Cubs over the Diamondbacks: Keep Pedro Strop out of this game and we're cool. Edwin Jackson is never fun to pick.  Mike Bolsinger has strikeouts, but not much else going for him.
  • The Nationals over the Padres: I do feel pretty good about this pick. Jordan Zimmermann should be fine at home and beat the Padres and Eric Stults.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Yeah, it did not work out yesterday. But I do like Drew Hutchison today much better than I like Bud Norris. Norris always finds a way to lose a game.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: Poor Brett Oberholtzer. He keeps pitching great and will end up 0-17 or something. Scoll Kazmir has his best Led Zeppelin vibe going on right now. Wo-0h wo-oh.
  • The Dodgers over the Phillies: Dan Haren is 3-0, which is pretty scary. Why? Because you don't expect him to be 3-0 and expect it to continue. The other option is picking Kyle Kendrick. Not a bad pick, but the Dodgers should win.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: CC Sabathia NEVER pitches well at Fenway. They kill him every time. Felix Doubront has to be Dr. Jekyll today instead of Mr. Hyde for the Red Sox to win.
Yesterday: 7-8, Games of the Day: 10-10, Season: 183-136

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Are the Braves good or what?

The Atlanta Braves are a weird team. Last night's game against the Marlins showed it all too. The Braves pitched brilliantly, but could not hit and struck out fifteen times. The Braves have pitched brilliantly all season--good enough to build a terrific 13-7 record. But the offense is so hit or miss that one wonders how far the team can go. Are the Braves good or what?
The projection systems are not kind to the Braves. PECOTA still thinks the Braves will only go 71-71 the rest of the season and give the Nationals the NL East crown. But that was supposed to happen last year too and did not. Will the Braves' pitching stay this good? And will the offense get more consistent?
The pitching was supposed to be a problem. They lost Mike Minor. They lost Kris Medlen. They lost Brandon Beachy. That was supposed to sink the team. But the rotation has been fabulous.
Ervin Santana has terrific and sports an 0.86 ERA. Aaron Harang's ERA is at 0.70. Julio Teheran is at 1.80. Alex Wood is at 1.50 and even David Hale is holding his own at 2.93. And that starting pitching has been aided greatly by a rangy defense which is itself a bit of an up and down.
The Braves get to more balls than anyone else, but they have the second lowest fielding percentage in baseball too. But since the former is so much more important than the latter, it works. And it can only help the pitchers. In fact, the pitching staff has only a .275 BABIP against.
The BABIP figure is one that makes you wonder about how good the pitching will remain. If the BABIP normalizes somewhat, then their current success cannot sustain. The same can be said for the team's strand rate. That strand rate is currently at 79.5, the second highest in baseball. Can that be sustained? One statistic that is not luck dependent is keeping the ball in the ballpark. The Braves are doing really well there.
The Braves have had the best bullpen for years. But that bullpen is a bit in flux right now. Craig Kimbrel has been dealing with soreness and Braves' fans are holding their collective breaths. He is still striking out batters like some super-human. But he has given up three earned runs in his last two outings.
The rest of the bullpen has been a bit of a mess, frankly. Bullpens are the easiest things to fix, however, so that is not a big worry. Kimbrel has to remain healthy for the Braves bullpen mystique to continue.
Then there is the offense. The Braves have four starters with a wOBA of less than .300. They are second in baseball in strikeout percentage and only 21st in walk percentage. Justin Upton, one player who has an excellent wOBA, has struck out 35.9% of the time. Chris Johnson has walked only once all season.
Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton are both struggling at the plate again this season. Both have really high strikeout rates and really low on-base percentages. Jason Heyward has struggled. Evan Gattis has struggled up until recently and his backup at catcher, Gerald Laird, hasn't hit at all.
And yet the team if fifth in baseball in home runs. You just have to wonder what kind of offense this is going to be and how it will all play out. You just have to go back to last year and remember how the team's defense and pitching bailed out its spotty offense and took them to the post season.
Then again, Freddie Freeman is a star and Andrelton Simmons' offense is starting to catch up to his defense.
The Atlanta Braves were not supposed to win the division last year. But they did. They were not supposed to be on top of the division this year. But there they are. Somehow, the team gets it done. You just have to wonder sometimes if it will all crash and burn somehow. The post asks if the Braves are good or what. After writing it, I still have no idea.

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: April 23, 2014

Tuesday was an 8-7 day. Blah. And the Game of the Day was wrong again. That feature is stuck in mud this season. There were two extra-inning games that could have gone either way. Both went the wrong way. Jose Fernandez was not at home, but he might as well of been as he was nearly perfect against the Braves. Madison Bumgarner could not get any run support. And the Astros beat the Mariners again as Collin McHugh was unbelievable. It was a Laodicea night. Big congrats to Albert Pujols for hitting homers 499 and 500.

Here are Wednesday's picks:
  • The Marlins over the Braves: I refuse to believe that Aaron Harang is real. I refuse to believe that Aaron Harang is real. I refuse...Oh well. I'm still going with Nathan Eovaldi.
  • The Cubs over the Diamondbacks: What the heck, right? The Cubs have won both so far and the Dbacks look dead on arrival. I might as well go with Jeff Samardzija over Wade Miley.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: I can tell that the Rockies are going to confuse me all season. If I pick Tyler Chatwood to do Tyler Chatwood things, he will pitch great. If I don't...he will probably lose. Matt Cain has not looked pretty thus far.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: I always pick Sonny Gray. Always. But he faces Martin Perez tonight and Perez has been outstanding. Egads! This one could go either way.
  • The Mariners over the Astros: It makes perfect sense in baseball's nonsensical way that the Mariners would get their first win of the series with Chris Young on the mound. Jarred Cosart goes for the Astros.
  • The Angels over the Nationals: It would make sense to pick Gio Gonzalez here except the Angels' best players bat right-handed. And Jered Weaver is capable of being as good as Gio.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: The Alfredo Simon bubble has to burst here some time. That's what scares me here. And just when you count out Charlie Morton, watch him pitch well. Why did I start doing this five years ago?
  • The Indians over the Royals: This pick all depends on how well Justin Masterson pitches. Jason Vargas will keep the Royals in the game. Ever since I wrote about Salvador Perez two weeks ago, he hasn't had a hit since.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Even if Chris Tillman is better than Dustin McGowan, the Orioles' bullpen is so bad that it won't matter. What a disaster for the O's.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: The Emoticon, Drew Smyly hasn't been great, but he should be tonight and Andre Rienzo is a fringe Major League pitcher. Miguel Cabrera is going to get hot now.
  • The Bay Rays over the Twins: Jake Odorizzi should be fine in that horrible St. Pete dome. Mike Pelfrey, on the other hand will land in a pear tree.
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: Last night was too easy for the Yankees and makes me suspicious. John Lackey will have a good night and Michael Pineda will not. That's the call.
  • The Cardinals over the Mets: I sure wish would figure out how it wants to spell Jon Niese's name. No matter how they spell it, Niese should lose tonight to Michael Wacha, wacha, wacha.
  • The Brewers over the Padres: Tyson Ross has pitched two outstanding games in a row for the Padres. But I can't pick against Kyle Lohse at home.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Dodgers over the Phillies: Zack Greinke should be better than the first start of the year of Cole Hamels. It would be nice if Greinke could keep his pitch count down for a change so he can last longer than Hamels does.
Yesterday: 8-7, Games of the Day: 9-10, Season: 176-128

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Tuesday: April 22, 2014

So yesterday, I am sitting at 9-3 heading into the Game of the Day, which was a lock. There was no way that Felix Hernandez is going to lose to the .194 batting Houston Astros, right? Right? Come on, now. That pick was a lock. That pick was one of the surest of the season. Which just goes to show you what a great game baseball is because on any given night, truly, anything can happen.

We are back to a full schedule tonight (alas, no day games). Here are Tuesday's picks:
  • The Angels over the Nationals: I get a terrible vibe watching the Nationals. I don't know what it is. On the other hand, the Angels are playing like they have nothing to lose and getting good pitching is key. As such, I like Tyler Skaggs a lot. And so far, Taylor Jordan has not been very impressive.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: How does Pittsburgh turn around bad pitchers so well? Edinson Volquez has looked great. Johnny Cueto is capable of a shutdown game at any time though. So this pick depends on which pitcher comes out hot.
  • The Royals over the Indians: James Shields has been much better than people think. And he should be a better pick than Danny Salazar who has been striking out like ten batters in four or five innings, but gets losses while he is at it.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Okay, this pick is a trap and I recognized it. R.A. Dickey has been terrible and that would make me pick the Orioles, and then the Blue Jays would win and I would be feeling stupid. Too bad I'm smarter than that. Miguel Gonzalez goes for the O's.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox. The Tigers have not been playing well. Has Miguel Cabrera forgotten how to hit? Anyway, they should win this one. Justin Verlander should win at home and Charlie Leesman has never shown command whether in the Majors or the Minors.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: The Braves just keep rolling along somehow. They are fortunate to get Jose Fernandez on the road and not at home. And Alex Wood has been terrific.
  • The Bay Rays over the Twins: David Price should bounce back after his last start against the Yankees and Kyle Gibson can't win all of his starts, can he?
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: If Masahiro Tanaka has a great splitter tonight, he should neutralize David Ortiz. But that doesn't mean he will. And Jon Lester has been very good. That means the game might be decided by the bullpen and there the Red Sox are much better.
  • The Cardinals over the Mets: The Cards got smoked last night by Mejia. And they face another tough pitcher in Dillon Gee tonight. But Adam Wainwright is supposed to come up big in games like this. It's his job.
  • The Cubs over the Diamondbacks: This worked yesterday proving that the DBacks might be the worst team in the NL. So let's pile on, shall we? It's the American Way. Jason Hammel over Brandon McCarthy.
  • The Brewers over the Padres: Yovani Gallardo is usually money at his home park and the Padres are really struggling on offense. So I think they win no matter how well Ian Kennedy pitches.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: This one is tough. Madison Bumgarner has an ERA over four at Coors but has won four out of eight decisions there. Franklin Morales has pitched four times and his only bad start was his one start at home. So there you go.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Nick Martinez looks like a really good pitcher. So let's go with that because Tommy Milone is simply a pitcher I have never had much success picking over the years.
  • The Mariners over the Astros: Collin McHugh gets the start for the Astros and he has never shown any ability to get Major League hitters out. Sure, it's a small sample size, but you have to show me to make me believe. Erasmo Ramirez with the win.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Dodgers over the Phillies: I really like Hyun-jin Ryu at home against the Phillies in this one. A.J. Burnett was pretty filthy in his last start. But can he do it twice in a row?
Yesterday: 9-4, Games of the Day: 9-9, Season: 168-121

Monday, April 21, 2014

Eight things to know about Charlie Blackmon

One of the biggest surprises of the 2014 season thus far has been Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies. He leads the National League in hits and is among the league leaders in fWAR. He has played all three outfield positions and played them better than league average and is a better than league average base runner. His current wOBA is a fairly amazing .449.
  1. While Blackmon is in his first full season with the Rockies, he has played parts of three other seasons and he is not some young phenom. He is 27-years-old and probably at the peak of his physical playing abilities.
  2. Blackmon has a career batting average of .306 after a career minor league batting average of .309. So hitting above .300 is not a stretch for Charlie Blackmon. Hitting over .400 certainly is a stretch. His BABIP currently sits at .413, which is hardly sustainable. The odds of him batting over .300 are very good though.
  3. He scores equally proficient at all three outfield positions. Though he is primarily a center fielder and has been most of his career. CarGo likes to play there though, so expect Blackmon to continue moving around.
  4. Charlie Blackmon has not yet shown the kind of plate discipline he showed in the minors. While his 5.3% walk rate is double what it was in the Majors last season, it is half of what he did in the minors. He is currently swinging at 35% of pitches outside the strike zone. His walk rate should improve as he continues his MLB career. His MLB career on-base percentage is .337, which is not good enough to lead off. But it was over .370 in the minors.
  5. Blackmon makes a lot of contact and does not swing and miss very often. Currently, Blackmon has the fifth highest contact percentage in baseball. In other words, he puts the ball in play. His swing and miss rate is paltry at 4.5%.
  6. His batted ball rates are conducive to a high BABIP. He has good speed, so his 50% ground ball rate works for him. His ground ball rate is high for him currently and he should level out to about 45%. But his career line drive percentage is 22.8% and that works very well in his favor too.
  7. Blackmon's arm is the weakest part of his defensive game. His arm scores a 48 and his arm accuracy is also a 48. So if you need a guy thrown out at the plate to win a game, Blackmon is not your guy.
  8. Charlie Blackmon is officially a product of Coors Field. Coors Field colors a lot of players because of how offensively well it plays. Thus is it hard for guys like Walker and Helton of the past to get much respect. Blackmon will be another one of those guys. Blackmon is batting .486 with a 1.284 OPS at home and .313 with a .746 OPS on the road. Six of his eight extra base hits have also occurred in Coors. For his career, those numbers are just as bent. He has a career batting average of .362 at home with an OPS of .905 and .254 on the road with an OPS of .655. That is a very dramatic swing. Batting left-handed, he does not have a big swing in his splits against left-handed pitching, however.
Conclusions: I don't see it beyond the realm of imagination for Charlie Blackmon to hit .320 or higher for the season. Of course he won't hit .400 like he is now. But his walk rate should get better as he gets more comfortable too. He should steal thirty bases or so at his current rate and play excellent defense wherever he is in the outfield. And it is good to keep in mind that he is not nearly the same player on the road as he is at home.

MLB Game Picks - Monday: April 21, 2014

Sunday was my second straight 9-6 day. There were three or four picks that were correct for seven innings. But we do not play seven innings, thank goodness, we play nine. And may that never change, Mr. Anonymous Buster Olney source.

My son, who reads these missives every day asked me politely never to pick the Yankees to win because doing so guarantees them a loss. Oh the power that I have here! I have had the same request from Cardinal fans in the past. Heh.

There are thirteen games on the schedule today which is not bad. And today is Patriots Day in Massachusetts and Maine and that means the Red Sox play in the morning. Here are the picks:
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: Much of this pick will depend on how good Clay Buchholz is today. The Red Sox will score a few off of Wei-Yin Chen, but Buchholz has to hold the Orioles to less.
  • The Angels over the Nationals: I like Garrett Richards in this one over Tanner Roark. How did we get two "Tanners" in baseball? It's not like anyone in this country tans leather anymore. That is all done overseas now. I used to work in a tannery. I bet you didn't know that...or care.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: I am a little concerned so far with Francisco Liriano, but if he is on, the Pirates are not going to hit him. Mike Leake can be had though. Neal Walker is off to a great start, but Andrew McCutchen is scuffling.
  • The Indians over the Royals: The Indians came alive a bit over the weekend with a couple of comeback wins. I like Zach McAllister over Jeremy Guthrie.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: This pick was wrong yesterday by fourteen runs. I have had a fourteen-run bad pick and a fifteen-run bad pick in the last two days. But I still like Anibal Sanchez over John Danks.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: The Marlins are raising cane at home, but not so much on the road. Tom Koehler will be somewhat stingy, but Julio Teheran is just too good for the Braves.
  • The Cardinals over the Mets: I don't know how good Tyler Lyons will be. I am not expecting much, put it that way. And Jenrry Mejia is very good. So why am I picking the Cardinals? Because they are a much better team.
  • The Cubs over the Diamondbacks: This will be a true test of how bad the Diamondbacks are. If they cannot beat the Cubs, they are really that bad. I would take Travis Wood over Bronson Arroyo.
  • The Brewers over the Padres: It looks like we are going to have to believe in the Brewers as they are not sinking at all. Wily Peralta goes for them and Andrew Cashner goes for the Padres. This is a good pitching match-up.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: This is one of those games where Coors will make the difference for the Rockies. I have no expectation that Ryan Vogelsong can pitch well there whereas Jorge De La Rosa at least has a chance to be decent today.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Most of my gut tells me to pick the A's. But if Yu Darvish is on, forget about it for the A's. Dan Straily is not nearly as good as Darvish. In other words, I haven't a clue.
  • The Phillies over the Dodgers: Cliff Lee has to get some run support sooner or later. And he is much better than Paul Maholm. The only troubling aspect here is that the Dodgers are not bothered much by left-handed pitchers.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Mariners over the Astros: There is clear separation between these two teams this year and Felix Hernandez is on the mound. That's all I need to know. It does not even matter what Dallas Keuchel does.
Yesterday: 9-6, Games of the Day: 9-8, Season: 159-117