Saturday, June 07, 2014

Checking in on George Springer

The big league career of George Springer is now 44 games old and it seemed like it was time to check in to see how he was doing. Oh, we see the power and the ten homers on the highlight shows and he has made an impression. But how is he really doing? The prognosis is that he is holding his own and the early results are mostly encouraging.
Last night's Springer Dinger was pretty amazing. 
Facing Phil Hughes in the sixth inning, Hughes had given Springer nothing but fastballs all night, which looking at Springer's pitch value chart is not a good idea. But Hughes had struck him out the first two times relatively easily. And he got the first two strikes on Springer in the sixth inning at bat too with fastballs. But then Hughes threw one too many. It was a great pitch, painted black and low on the outside corner. Springer's rear end flew out a little bit and he flicked his bat out and the bat caught the ball on the sweet spot and it went out to the opposite field. It was amazing.
springer dinger
That is what we see on the highlight reel. But the rest of the story was the two strikeouts before and the sacrifice fly after. All in all, a successful night with three RBIs.

The thing everyone was ramped up for when it came to Springer was his package of speed, power and plate discipline. So far we have seen two out of the three.
We have already talked about the ten homers in 44 games but should also mention the 32 RBIs and eight other extra base hits.  His ISO does not yet match his minor league data, but .227 is quite good nonetheless and has to be exciting for Houston fans.
The plate discipline has been there. Springer has shown discipline in the strike zone. He is swinging at 23.4% of pitches out of the zone according to PitchF/X and at only 47.4% overall. That has led to a 10.2% walk rate. Again, that is less than his minor league numbers but still quite good for a rookie when most rookies come up to the Majors hacking like no tomorrow (see Tavares for the Cardinals for example). Springer should only get better in that department.
The plate discipline has given Springer a .340 OBP with only a .250 batting average. Encouraging. The one discouraging thing about looking at his plate discipline is the swing and miss rate.
Springer is currently swinging and missing at a 17.8% clip. That is the third highest in baseball and even higher than his teammate Chris Carter. That has led to an extremely high strikeout rate of 32.8%, the third highest in baseball. The rate is six percentage points higher than what he did in his last two seasons in the minors.
Everyone knew that Springer was going to strike out a lot. But that is a lot a lot. It will remain to be seen if Springer can lower that proclivity as the season moves along.
If you look at how Springer is doing against certain pitches, you can see where the strikeouts are coming from. He is mashing the fastball and already has pitch value of 10.5 runs against that pitch. Sliders and change-ups are killing him though. For sure, the Major League pitcher has a better arsenal of those pitches than the minors. Springer will have to adjust and improve against them.
The thing most people were waiting to see (especially fantasy players) was the stolen bases. George Springer stole 85 bases in 101 attempts in the minors. He has only tried three times in the Majors and has been thrown out twice. So that has been a disappointment. Good coaching should be able to help him in that area as time goes on. Again, everything is better in the Majors including the catching.
George Springer's defense in right field reminds me of the early days of Wil Myers and Giancarlo Stanton. It has been pretty rough so far and Fangraphs already rates his defense at negative five runs. Both of those mentioned formerly have worked hard to improve the defense and no doubt Springer will too.
We are 44 games into George Springer's career. That is a pretty good sample size for an early gauge on how he is going to do in the big leagues. Despite the high strikeout rate, his wOBA is healthy enough at .359 as is his wRC+ of 130. Those aren't nearly as high as his career in the minors, but it is still a fine start to a Major League career. For George Springer, so far, so good.

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: June 7, 2014

Yesterday was a good day and a rare one this season. The final tally was good and the Game of the Day was correct. I'm almost back to .500 on the latter feature. The only blemishes of the day were somewhat stupid in hindsight.
Did I really pick the Rockies again the way they have been playing? The Pirates absolutely bombed Kyle Lohse and the Brewers. Phil Hughes had stayed away from the dinger bug that plagued his Yankee career until yesterday when he gave up three of them to the Astros. In fairness, two of them were hit on really good pitches.
Saturday's picks:
  • The Blue Jays over the Cardinals: I keep having to pinch myself on the Toronto Blue Jays. The Cardinals are the third straight series against supposed top contenders and they haven't lost a single game. And nobody exemplifies the season for the Blue Jays like Mark Buehrle. His hits per inning, homers per nine and ERA are just screaming for regression if you look at his career numbers. But it never seems to come. The Cardinals struggle against lefties too. Shelby Miller could have a big game and foul this pick up.
  • The Twins over the AstrosKyle Gibson is much better at home. In fact, the splits are pretty amazing. It shows two different pitchers. The question then is if Scott Feldman is going to shut down what is a paltry Twins' offense. This could go either way.
  • The Indians over the Rangers: It took a gritty Yu Darvish to finally beat the Indians who have been surging of late. Nick Tepesch will look very friendly after that. Josh Tomlin has to pitch well for this pick not to blow up.
  • The Cubs over the MarlinsJeff Samardzija had his worst outing of the season his last time out. But he should bounce back from that at home. The Marlins road / home split is still pretty amazing (22-11 home, 11-18 on the road) and Randy Wolf doesn't fill me with confidence.
  • The Brewers over the PiratesMatt Garza should fare much better than Kyle Lohse did and Edinson Volquez is still Edinson Volquez.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: I keep picking the Rockies and they have lost four straight. So this is a reaction pick and it will probably go the other way. Zack Greinke's success at Coors will tell the tale. Jhoulys Chacin has not won yet this season.
  • The Reds over the Phillies: I got this seriously wrong yesterday. But Roberto Hernandez is no Cole Hamels. And Alfredo Simon continues to surprise. Is Joey Votto ever coming back?
  • The Rays over the Mariners: The Rays finally got off the bench yesterday and ended their losing streak. I like Alex Cobb over Roenis Elias in this one.
  • The Tigers over the Red Sox: Thing about good as Jon Lester has pitched, his record is still at .500 for the season. The Tigers and Max Scherzer are going to get well at the Red Sox' expense.
  • The Yankees over the Royals: The Royals' no-patience approach at the plate helps a guy like David Phelps just like it helped Whitley last night. The only question then is what kind of night Danny Duffy will have. A lot will depend on whether the Yankees can push up Duffy's pitch count early.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: I love me some Sonny Gray. The guy has been my good luck charm for two seasons now. Kevin Gausman has great stuff. It's a question of if he can put it together.
  • The White Sox over the AngelsChris Sale is simply unbelievable. The guy is a beast despite disappearing when he stands sideways. Matt Shoemaker has been serviceable, but he won't be able to match zeroes with Sale.
  • The Giants over the Mets: The Giants will hit two homers off of Bartolo Colon and Tim Hudson will do his thing against the struggling offense of the Mets.
  • The Nationals over the Padres: The Nats are starting to fire it up. Blake Treinen has too good an ERA to have an 0-2 record. And Andrew Cashner is back to start after missing a couple of starts.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Braves over the Diamondbacks: Check this out for a statistic: The Braves' OPS is 210 points higher against left-handed pitching than the other way around. Isn't that amazing? Wade Miley throws with his left hand. Not good. Tommy La Stella has made himself at home in the big leagues thus far hasn't he? Ervin Santana with the win.
Yesterday: 10-5, June: 43-36, Games of the Day: 31-32, Season: 499-413

Friday, June 06, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Friday: June 6, 2014

Yesterday was pretty bad as the picks tanked heavily on the negative side. The Rockies pitching got tanked the entire series with the Diamondbacks. The Marlins continue to surprise while the Rays and Tigers continue to lose. The Marlins are now tied for first place in the NL East. Imagine that! The Blue Jays faced two great teams in a row and won every single game. That is quite impressive. If only the picks reflected those results.
At least the Game of the Day is trying desperately to make a comeback and was correct for the fourth straight day.
Friday's picks:
  • The Cubs over the Marlins: Yes, I know what I just typed above. But here me out. Jason Hammel has pitched extremely well and should be a great pickup by someone in a trade deadline deal. Nathan Eovaldi is better at home than on the road. This is one of those Friday afternoon games at Wrigley.
  • The Brewers over the PiratesKyle Lohse's season has been very much overlooked. The guy just knows how to pitch. He doesn't have much stuff, so if he misses location he could get stuffed. That is the risk. Brandon Cumpton doesn't yet look ready for prime time.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: Can you pick against the Orioles on most nights? Wei-Yin Chen would bother a lot of teams in his own division. But the A's hit lefties well. Tommy Milone should have a good night as well.
  • The Blue Jays over the Cardinals: Heck, the Blue Jays have annihilated the competition thus far. I think they will hit two dingers off of Lance Lynn and Marcus Stroman will continue to say hello to the Major Leagues.
  • The Red Sox over the Tigers: The Tigers are down and The Emoticon, Drew Smyly has not been very good. Rubby De La Rosa, on the other hand, was really impressive in his first start.
  • The Reds over the Phillies: Did Cole Hamels do bad things as a child? He never gets a break. For example, today he faces one of the hottest pitchers in baseball in Johnny Cueto. Good luck with that. Oh wait, Hamels doesn't have good luck.
  • The Bay Rays over the Mariners: The Red Sox snapped their losing streak at ten, so the thinking here is that the Rays will too. Chris Young has a 0.87 WHIP at home and 1.400 on the road. Erik Bedard gets it done.
  • The Rangers over the Indians: The Indians have been on a big roll and the success of Trevor Bauer has been a big reason. But they and he run into Yu Darvish tonight. Sorry about that.
  • The Twins over the Astros: I still worry about Phil Hughes and the long ball and with George Springer and now Jon Singleton, that could be a factor in this one. But if he keeps it in the park, Hughes will be better than Dallas Keuchel in a close game.
  • The Yankees over the Royals: With Beltran and Teixeira back, the Yankees will break out tonight from there "score two-run" blues. Jeremy Guthrie has never had much success against them. Chase Whitley is getting stretched out further and further and has been stingy in giving up runs.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: I love how I keep blindly picking the Rockies despite the fact that their pitching has been awful. Eddie Butler is being brought up from Double-A, and that would be enough to scare me. But he does not give up homers. That would work. Can you believe that Hyun-jin Ryu has never pitched at Coors?
  • The Angels over the White Sox: If Jered Weaver can stay away from Jose Abreu's bat barrel, he should be okay in this one. Andre Rienzo has been pretty good, but the Angels have all their bats back.
  • The Nationals over the Padres: The Nats have started to gel and Tanner Roark is a lot better than his record indicates. The NL East is still wide open. Tyson Ross has had some nice games for the Padres. But will he get any run support?
  • The Giants over the Mets: The pitching match-up of Jon Niese and Matt Cain favors the Mets, but the Giants always find a way to win.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Braves over the Diamondbacks: The D-backs have scored about a hundred runs in their last three games at Coors. They have to be tired. They did not face anyone like Julio Teheran while there. Brandon McCarthy is not fooling anyone this season.
Yesterday: 4-7 (ugh), June: 33-31, Games of the Day: 30-32, Season: 489-408

Thursday, June 05, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: June 5, 2014

Yesterday was a struggle from the very beginning when the Mariners blanked the Braves behind Hisashi Iwakuma in very quick order. The struggles continued all day and I was somewhat relieved to finish one game under .500 for the day. I thought it was going to be much worse. The Game of the Day notched its third success in a row. I guess I should keep picking the Yankees to lose. Ouch.
There are eleven games on the schedule today and five are getaway day games. The picks:
  • The Giants over the Reds: It is taking me a while to figure out that the Giants are a a really good team. Well, duh, right? It's the every other year thing that confuses me. They were pretty terrible last year. Madison Bumgarner should be better today than Mike Leake.
  • The Yankees over the Athletics: Do I dare pick the Yankees to win? They just look terrible lately. But Carlos Beltran will be back and perhaps that will help. Masahiro Tanaka is tough to beat, so perhaps that will help. Drew Pomeranz has looked very good too though.
  • The Tigers over the Blue Jays: Every year the Tigers have these stretches where they look like the worst team in the Majors. They are in one of those stretches. Justin Verlander has been one of the reasons with poor pitching. But it would be a trap to expect him to stink again today and come on, J.A. Happ is not this good a pitcher.
  • The Rays over the Marlins: The critical mass stage of a losing streak for the Rays has to end some time. Jake Odorizzi isn't exactly the guy who I would think would break the streak, but perhaps they will be inspired to play and win to honor Don ZimmerJacob Turner goes for the Marlins.
  • The Mets over the CubsJacob deGrom has pitched four games in the Majors and they have all been very well pitched. But he cannot buy a win. So today, he will either break through or have a clunker of a start. I am going with the former. The Mets hit lefties better than the other way around and thus, I am picking against Travis Wood.
  • The Angels over the Astros: Each team has picked up a win in this series and I think the rubber match will go to the Angels behind Tyler Skaggs. I just trust him more than Brad Peacock.
  • The Orioles over the Rangers: There is nothing flashy about Chris Tillman. His stuff nor his numbers will never blow you away. He just wins a lot, so you can't mess with that. And he has pitched really well in Arlington which is strange. These days, Colby Lewis' heart is larger than his remaining talent.
  • The Brewers over the Twins: The Twins are pesky aren't they? They win a lot more than you would think and I had them wrong again yesterday. But gosh, Kevin Correia? No, I can't go there. Wily Peralta for the win.
  • The Cardinals over the RoyalsYordano Ventura scares me every time no matter how I pick him. He has lost four straight and hasn't looked good. But his arm is capable of taking over a game and that's the rub. Michael Wacha is much more refined, so that's the pick.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks have exploded in this series. Or has the Rockies' pitching imploded? It could be a combination. Despite all that, I have picked against the D-backs each day. And I will today simply because Bronson Arroyo at Coors sounds incendiary. Juan Nicasio goes for the Rockies.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: Now that he has been healthy, Doug Fister has been everything the Nationals hoped he would be. The Phillies are a bad team that needs to be broken up and Kyle Kendrick is 1-5.
Yesterday: 7-8, June: 29-24, Games of the Day: 29-32, Season: 485-401

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Teams and players that are really slow

I read with interest David Brown's reporting of a warning the Dodgers received from Major League Baseball about their pitchers being too slow delivering pitches. The piece interested me because the pace of some players (or lack of it to put it properly) is a pet peeve of mine. As soon as I read the piece, I thought of Josh Beckett because he has always been slow. But he isn't the main culprit. And if the truth is told, the Dodgers are baseball's biggest time problem.
As Brown points out, the Dodgers are the third slowest team when it comes to a nine-inning game behind the Rays and the Yankees. One would hope that the two teams ahead of the Dodgers received the same warnings. But as usual, nothing will become of any of it. Brown also pointed out the fines issued for slow play are a mere pittance and will cause no significant behavior modifications.
If you do a custom search on's leaderboard to add pace to the mix, the Dodgers have two slow starters in the top 25 slowest pitchers to the plate. Zack Greinke is thirteenth and Clayton Kershaw is 23rd. Both of those pitchers make a gazillion dollars and neither is going to worry about a $5,000 fine. Heck, they probably spend that once a week taking teammates out to eat.
But the Yankees have two in the top ten in Masahiro Tanaka (ninth) and Hiroki Kuroda (fourth). The Rays hold the top three spots as Chris ArcherErik Bedard and David Price ALL average over 26 seconds to the plate. That is ridiculous.
I don't watch a lot of Rays' games, but I do watch the Yankees every day and those two Yankee pitchers are ball rubbers (boy, that sounds bad). And since the game has changed drastically in my lifetime and a baseball is replaced if someone sneezes, the pitchers are always getting new balls.
Both Tanaka and Kuroda throw the splitter and put a lot of balls in the dirt. So they are always getting new balls. They always rub the baseballs when receiving a new one. That adds to the time. I don't know how you fix that except by reverting back to the days when a baseball had to be nearly cover-less before it was replaced.
The Rays as a team are the slowest staff in baseball. The entire team averages 26.6 seconds to deliver the ball on average. The closest team to them is the Giants at 24.6 seconds. That is a major difference. I have always respected the pitching coach for the Rays, but face it, the Rays aren't pitching all that well this year and their fielders are not fielding that well either. Maybe they should speed it up a little. At this point, it couldn't hurt.
Whereas the Dodgers' starters aren't as slow as the Yankees' or the Rays' starters, the bullpen is slower than death. J.P. Howell and Chris Withrow (may his elbow rest in peace) both averaged over 28 seconds and Kenley Jansen and Jamey Wright both average well over 26 seconds. Those are numbers that used to be reached only by Jose Valverde and now we have an entire bullpen that slow. Come on now.
We shouldn't focus on just the pitching. Batters determine pace too. Every batter in baseball seems to have to adjust their batting gloves, body armor and the like to hit a baseball after every pitch. It has gotten terrible. Derek Jeter has gotten slower as he ages and has become a culprit as well. Are you old enough to remember Jeter making fun of Nomar Garciaparra at the All Star Game? Now he is just as bad as Nomar ever was averaging over 25 seconds in between pitches and he is the 14th slowest in baseball.
Troy Tulowitzki, who wears the Number 2 on his back because of Jeter is currently the slowest batter as far as pace goes. He is over 27 seconds, which is terrible. He is one of three over the 27 second threshold. There is also Hanley Ramirez and Danny Espinosa. The Dodgers have three in the top twenty with Yasiel Puig at Number 7 and Matt Kemp at Number 16.
Dodgers' batters are the slowest as a group followed by a tie of the Rockies and Brewers. The quickest team to step into the box is the Toronto Blue Jays at 22 seconds. And the way they are hitting shows that you don't need all that extra time to get the job done.
It is no wonder why we like guys like Mark Buehrle so much. Get the ball and fire. That's the way it should be. It is up to baseball to stop all the walking around out of the batters' box in between pitches and all the walks around the mound. It is in MLB's purview to enforce its own rules and starting handing out balls for not delivering the ball on time. And forcing guys into the batters' box. But MLB doesn't have the gumption to do so. And little gnat sting fines are not going to change anything.

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: June 4, 2014

June is off to a much better start than May ever was and while last night wasn't a banner night, it was in the positive for the third straight day and the Game of the Day is on a two-day win streak. So maybe I've turned a corner on a pretty deep slump.
The question of the day is whether the Rays will end their long losing streak today or not. Let's take a look at Wednesday's picks:
  • The Braves over the Mariners: The Braves are just sputtering around these days but I think they will win today behind Mike MinorHisashi Iwakuma is a good pitcher, but I rarely pick him away from home. The Mariners are hitting the ball better of late.
  • The Pirates over the PadresIan Kennedy is pretty good at home. But this pick is about Francisco Liriano and his second start in a row in a big ballpark. He was great his last time out.
  • The Indians over the Red SoxBrandon Workman might work out better as a relief pitcher rather than a starter. In either case, he is not going to give the Red Sox depth in this game. Corey Kluber is the Indians' ace, but that doesn't guarantee a win against Boston.
  • The Nationals over the PhilliesA.J. Burnett is always capable of a big game. But he is just as capable of another disaster. Stephen Strasburg is always scary to pick because he is never a lock to win a game.
  • The Tigers over the Blue JaysRick Porcello can tame this massive Blue Jays lineup if he can get them to hit grounders all day. Porcello has won eight games already, so yeah, he's the pick here over R.A. Dickey.
  • The Rays over the MarlinsDavid Price is always capable of greatness. Will tonight be one of those nights? Tom Koehler is pretty darned good and the Rays are not hitting. So this game could go either way. The Rays are due for a win though.
  • The Reds over the GiantsTony Cingrani has not been very good lately, but he doesn't ever do really badly. That would be good enough today I think because Great America might be tough for Ryan Vogelsong.
  • The Orioles over the Rangers: I am very torn over this one. I don't think Nick Martinez can hold back the Orioles' offense. But historically, Bud Norris has never pitched well on the road (5.15 career road ERA). It comes down to me not trusting Martinez.
  • The Cubs over the Mets: Another game that has me all messed up. The Mets should have won yesterday and blew it at the end. Edwin Jackson has either been awful or terrific with no in between. Daisuke Matsuzaka can do anything in between as well. I have no idea.
  • The Angels over the Astros: The Astros are playing good baseball and have their prospects on center stage now. I just think that Garrett Richards will shut them down with his stuff and that Jared Cosart is the weakest of the Astros' pitchers.
  • The Brewers over the TwinsMarco Estrada is going to give up three or four runs every time he pitches. That's just the way it is. The question is whether Ricky Nolasco's last effort against the Yankees showed he turned a corner or are the Yankees just that bad an offense right now. I'm guessing the latter.
  • The Cardinals over the RoyalsAdam Wainwright can't have two big time lousy games in a row can he? Nah. But Jason Vargas has been surprisingly good. The Cardinals and the Royals both confuse me. So this is a series of confusions.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: This pick was wrong yesterday. Jordan Lyles has been the Rockies most reliable pitcher but struggled in his last home start. Josh Collmenter has been doing really well, but shouldn't in Coors.
  • The Dodgers over the White SoxJosh Beckett came back really strong from his no-hitter and showed me something. I think he can hold back the White Sox and the Dodgers can do some damage against John Danks.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Athletics over the Yankees: The Yankees are playing miserably lately, especially at home, which is truly surprising. Teixeira was back yesterday and he helped, but he is not enough for the Yankees to score more than two runs. Worse yet, Vidal Nuno gets yet another start. Ick. Jesse Chavez with the win.
Yesterday: 8-7, June: 22-16, Games of the Day: 28-32, Season: 478-393