Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Tigers have lost patience

The Detroit Tigers have gone 3-8 thus far in June. The team's lead atop the American League Central has shrunk from seven games on May 19 to a game and a half on June 14th. Pitching has been the primary culprit with mixed results from the starters and the bullpen. But the offense is not exactly clicking on all cylinders either. And the biggest problem to be found with the offense is a striking loss of patience at the plate.
Going back to 2011, the Tigers have walked between 8.4% and 8.8% each season. This year, that figure is down to 7.0%, a precipitous drop. Four of their regulars in the starting lineup can be found among the thirty worst walk percentages in the league. It has gotten even worse in the last seven days as the team has only walked 3.8% of the time. Not only is that hard to do, but it kills the offense.
So far in June, the team has only a .306 on-base percentage and that figure has dropped to .278 in the last seven days. It's hard to score runs when you cannot get people on base. The Tigers have been fortunate to score 3.3 runs per game this month. And while that is not quite killer, it is when your pitchers cannot hold down the fort. The Tigers have a -17 run differential in June.
Here are the most active players on the team and their on-base percentages compared to their career averages. The first number is this year, the second, the career average:
Only Avila and Jackson of that group are higher than their career averages. Jackson lost the lead off spot he once had because of strikeouts and the lack of walks. Now, his on-base percentage is ten points higher than Kinsler's.
Ian Kinsler's walk percentage is probably the real surprise of the group. According to PitchF/X data, his O-swing rate or the amount of times he swings at pitches out of the zone has gone up from a career average of 23.5% to 29.6% and his total swing percentage has gone from a career average of 42.3% to 46.4%. Both his O-swing rate and his total swing rate this year are the highest of his career.
Kinsler has also seen a huge jump in first pitch strikes. He has a 58.4% career average of first pitch strikes and that has jumped drastically to 66.7% this season.
Torii Hunter's game has seemed to disintegrate. We saw this coming and his walk percentage has gone down for three straight years. But his on-base percentage caused by his refusal to take walks has aided in him being rated one of the worst five players in baseball thus far this year
The Tigers have an overall O-swing rate of 31.1% which is the 8th highest in baseball. This compares to 30.9% last year when they finished 13th in the category and it hearkens back to 2012 when the team's rate was 31.5%.
One of my first thoughts was that maybe the team's division was throwing a lot more strikes than most other divisions. I found that the teams they play the most--those in the division--are a mixed bag when it comes to allowing walks. The Twins and the Royals are in the top ten for best walk percentage for staffs, but the Indians and White Sox are in the bottom ten. In fact, White Sox pitchers walk more batters than any other team in baseball.
Perhaps this is a team slump that will break. The numbers for guys like Ian Kinsler are just odd and you figure he will bounce back in the second half. I would not put any stock in Torii Hunter getting any better. He looks to be done as an effective player.  In either case, the Tigers need to get the team's walk percentage back up over eight percent the rest of the way to have a decent shot at holding off the Royals.

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: June 14, 2014

The Yankees surprised me be shutting out the A's, 7-0. Not that I am complaining, but the Yankees losing was the Game of the Day pick with David Phelps on the mound. Instead, he looked like Sonny Gray and Gray looked like him. Felix Hernandez was terrific again...and lost as the Mariners managed just two hits off of Texas starter, Nick Tepesch, and the bullpen. Both hits were by the catcher, Mike Zunino. The rest of the team had an ohfer.
There was one extra inning game and of course it went the wrong way. But the real reason the Marlins lost was Gregory Polanco who is showing the absurdity of the Pirates waiting so long to bring him up. How many games would the Pirates have won if he was up to start the season?
Anyway, it wasn't a bad day other than the Game of the Day thing as the picks were in solidly positive territory for the day.
Saturday's picks:
  • The Royals over the White Sox: The Royals have been playing great baseball and I have not been acknowledging it with my picks. The one day that I do, I am nervous because Danny Duffy swings wildly from start to start. Hector Noesi is the other wild card. He was jettisoned from two different teams only to pitch really well for the White Sox.
  • The Phillies over the Cubs: This pick did not work out yesterday as the Phillies could not score. Today they face the inscrutable Edwin Jackson, so who knows. David Buchanan goes for the Phillies.
  • The Red Sox over the Indians: Normally, I would worry about the Red Sox facing a lefty starter. But T.J. House has not yet proven he belongs in the Majors. Jake Peavy is hardly winning baseball games, but he should be better than House.
  • The Giants over the RockiesChristian Bergman pitched well in his debut for the Rockies (at Coors no less) but still lost. Now the Rockies have lost Troy Tulowitzki. So I like Ryan Vogelsong's chances at home.
  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: To be frank, I have no clue on this one. Bud Norris was brilliant his last time out. But he is so unpredictable. R.A. Dickey is the definition of unpredictable and the Orioles have already beaten him this year.
  • The Pirates over the Marlins: This is another "I have no idea" game. Charlie Morton is 3-7, though his peripherals aren't terrible. He already has 13 hit batters this season. Holy smokes. In the end, I just can't pick the Marlins with Randy Wolf starting the game for them.
  • The Mets over the Padres: I really want to call Jesse Hahn, "Chaka Hahn." Can I, please? Hahn showed good power pitching numbers in the minors and struck out five in his MLB debut. But he also got roughed up too. Zack Wheeler should win this one.
  • The Astros over the Bay RaysJarred Cosart has pitched really well in his last two starts but faces a Rays team that is starting to hit again. The real question is what Chris Archer will show up.
  • The Angels over the Braves: I like the Angels' chances with Gavin Floyd pitching for the Braves. It's nice to see all their expensive pieces on the field at the same time. Garrett Richards needs to have a good game though.
  • The Brewers over the Reds: First off, I like Yovani Gallardo at home. I always have. Secondly, I worry about how effective Mat Latos is going to be now that he is back.
  • The Nationals over the Cardinals: There is some pitching in this series! What a performance yesterday by Lynn and Zimmermann. The same thing can happen between Stephen Strasburg and Shelby Miller. Toss up.
  • The Athletics over the YankeesScott Kazmir has been terrific and struck out ten Yankees the last time he face him. Hiroki Kuroda can no longer be counted on to pitch well for the Yankees.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: The D-backs are reeling again after a somewhat acceptable run. Dan Haren seems a better pick than Josh Collmenter though both have been fairly consistent and acceptable.
  • The Rangers over the MarinersJoe Saunders has allowed 22 base runners in his last 11.1 innings pitched. That's ugly. But Erasmo Ramirez has been uglier. This is a tossup of ugly possibilities.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Tigers over the Twins: Samuel Deduno has not been fooling anyone and his WHIP for the season is 1.50. That won't cut it. Anibal Sanchez has shown flashes of being back on track to where he was last season.
Yesterday: 9-6, June: 94-84, Games of the Day: 35-35, Season: 547-465

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tim Hudson and wins

We live in a statistical age where the "Win" statistic for starting pitchers is considered a highly overrated statistic. I still struggle with that, to be honest with you. I generally acknowledge the new statisticians that cover our game are smarter than I and I generally love their findings. But I'm not sure I am totally on board with this "Win" thing. Tim Hudson is one of the reasons why.
Tim Hudson has been a very good pitcher for quite a long time. His peripherals will never blow you away though. He has averaged 6.1 strikeouts per nine for his career. His career WHIP is 1.225. His career ERA is 3.39 and his career FIP is 3.79. That FIP is ranked 60th of all starters since 1999 when his career started.
And yet, Tim Hudson is one of the most prolific winners in the Majors since he began his career. He was 92-39 for the Oakland A's, a winning percentage of .702. He went 113-72 for his years with the Braves, a .611 winning percentage. And so far, he is 7-2 for the Giants, a .778 winning percentage.
The case can be made that he IS the most prolific winner since his career began. His career record of 212-113 gives him a career winning percentage of .652 and those 212 wins are the most in the Big Leagues since 1999 topping both Sabathia and Halladay for the top spot. Only Buehrle has thrown more innings in that time.
Wins Above Replacement or WAR tells us that Sabathia and Halladay have been worth ten to twelve more "wins" than Hudson during that time. But neither "won" as many games.
Does that have any value? Most say no. I am torn. I want to believe, but through the years, if I needed a pitcher to win a game, I would have wanted Tim Hudson to be starting it. I probably could make that case better if his post season record wasn't so poor. But anyway, Hudson makes me question the whole win equation.
Here are a couple of my theories as to why he has been so successful over the years. First, if his team scores at least three runs, he usually wins. When his teams scores 3-5 runs, he is 72-46. When his team scores more runs than five, he is 120-5. He has given up more than five earned runs in a start only 72 times in 439 starts. In other words, he usually keeps his team in the game.
A way to show that statistically is his average Game Score and his quality start percentage. The quality start percentage average in baseball in 2014 is 52%. Last year it was 53%. The average Game Score this year has been 52 and last year it was 52. Tim Hudson has averaged a Game Score of 55 for his career and a has a career quality start percentage of 55%.
But it goes even deeper than that, which is a good way of putting it because Tim Hudson has a history of going deep into games. The average innings pitched by all starting pitchers in both 2014 and 2013 are 5.9 innings pitched with 92 pitches. Tim Hudson has averaged 6.6 innings per start for his career with an average of 95 pitches.
In other words, he averages almost an inning more per start than average with only three more pitches thrown. He is efficient and he goes deep. And he is still doing it as his average is actually better than those numbers for 2014.
When you go longer into games, the bullpen has to get less outs and that is another good way to make sure your wins don't get blown very often.
Tim Hudson is getting close (by WAR) to a Hall of Fame discussion. has his career at 58.8 rWAR. has him at 49.9. His winning percentage is the 23rd highest of all time and higher than guys like Ron GuidryLefty GomezJim PalmerRandy JohnsonPete Alexander and is the highest among all active pitchers. It may not mean anything. But, gosh, it sure is hard to ignore.

MLB Game Picks - Friday: June 13, 2014

A positive day! And it is about time! There were a few clunkers in there. Jon Niese pitched well as predicted, but his team could not score and lost in extra innings. I knew that the Max Scherzer - Chris Sale duel could go either way and I picked the wrong one. I even mentioned in the pick that Mark Buehrle was due for a market correction and he was and bent a little. And the Rockies demolished Ervin Santana, which I did not see coming.
Other than those four instances, everything else was correct and it feels good to have a better day.
Friday's picks:
  • The Phillies over the Cubs: This isn't a ringing endorsement for Roberto Hernandez, but he is pitching against the Cubs. Jake Arrieta gentille Arrieta goes for the Cubbies.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: This one is interesting. You have a pitcher in Ubaldo Jimenez who can't stop the bleeding lately facing a Blue Jays team that has had trouble scoring for the past week and a half. Drew Hutchison has to have a good night though.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: The Emoticon, Drew Smyly (two Drews in a row) is not having a good season. And Kyle Gibson is having a very good season. That said, if the Tigers' bats get going, this pick will look stupid.
  • The Red Sox over the IndiansJustin Masterson beat the Red Sox up in Cleveland, but don't expect a repeat in Boston. John Lackey, on the other hand, has been terrific for the Red Sox.
  • The Marlins over the Pirates: The Marlins are back at home where good things happen to them. Nathan Eovaldi is much better at home. Jeff Locke hasn't looked good since early in 2013.
  • The Mets over the Padres: This game is a tossup. Bartolo Colon and Andrew Cashner could both be terrific and then the Padres bullpen has a better shot than the Mets. Or "Shrek" Colon could have a clunker and the Padres win. Or Andrew Cashner could continue to make me scratch my head and wonder why he isn't better with his stuff.
  • The Braves over the Angels: The Angels playing in a National League park is not a problem because of losing the hitting of the DH. It's more a problem because it will expose the bullpen more and that's not a good thing for the Angels. Aaron Harang and C.J. Wilson are the starting pitchers.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: This will depend on which Homer Bailey shows up. If it is the good one we've seen over his last three starts, then the Reds win easily. Otherwise, it will be a win for Matt Garza.
  • The White Sox over the RoyalsJeremy Guthrie's bag of magic tricks has vanished and he is getting beat regularly. Jose Quintana is better than people think. I like the White Sox here.
  • The Astros over the Bay Rays: This one is interesting too. Will Collin McHugh pitch well again? Can he go deeper into the game? Will Alex Cobb keep looking bad like his first two outings after the DL stint? This could go either way.
  • The Cardinals over the NationalsJordan Zimmermann has never beaten the Cardinals and has a 7.07 career ERA against them. He is also not good at Busch Stadium. Lance Lynn has to avoid the big inning and he'll be fine.
  • The Dodgers over the DiamondbacksChase Anderson has been the good luck charm of the Diamondbacks and is 5-0. But his luck will probably run out tonight as he squares up against Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher on Earth.
  • The Mariners over the Rangers: Is it my imagination or is Felix Hernandez thinner and in better shape this year? Either way, he gives Kershaw a run for his money on that best pitcher title. I can't see him losing at home to Nick Tepesch and the Rangers.
  • The Rockies over the GiantsJorge De La Rosa has pitched well against the Giants and pitches really well on the road. Tim Lincecum can get awful messy at times. I think these will be one of those times.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Athletics over the Yankees: This one seems like a mismatch. Sonny Gray is terrific and great at home and faces David Phelps, who has not pitched well at all and needs to be replaced in the Yankees' rotation.
Yesterday: 7-4, June: 78-74, Games of the Day: 35-34, Season: 538-459

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The bullpen is your home, Wade Davis

As recently as this last springWade Davis has expressed his desire to be a starting pitcher. It's not going to happen, Mr. Davis. First, you're not good enough as a starter and secondly, you are too darned good as a relief pitcher. The difference between the two variations of Wade Davis is remarkable and if the Royals' reliever wants a long, long career in baseball, he is right where he needs to be.
It is easy to understand Davis' desire. He was groomed to start by the great Rays organization and had early success for that team when it was just starting to become a perennial winner. Plus, he is only 28-years-old. But he has had plenty of chances to prove himself as a starter and it just didn't pan out.
Take last year, for example, when the Royals tried to maximize the trade they made, giving up their best prospect, Myers, for Shields and Davis. Davis made 24 starts in 2013 after being in the bullpen for the Rays in 2012 and it simply did not work out. That is putting things kindly. In reality, he was terrible and according to, was worth -2.1 rWAR. His last three seasons as a starter have led to FIPs of 4.70, 4.67 and 4.18 respectively.
And yet, when the Rays did give up on him as a starter and put him in the bullpen in 2012, he was terrific with 87 strikeouts in 70.1 innings with a 2.78 FIP. And this year, he is just killing it in the bullpen for the Royals. According to's leaderboard, Wade Davis has been the second most valuable relief pitcher behind Betances. That's right, he has been more valuable than his own closer and Kimbrel and a bunch of other top notch relievers.
As stated, the results from the two different roles are striking. As a starter with 88 career starts, his starting ERA is 4.57 with a WHIP of 1.452 and 6.3 strikeouts per nine leading to a 1.88 strikeout to walk ratio. His OPS against as a starter is .778.
Davis has now pitched 87 times in relief and has a relief ERA of 1.97, a WHIP of 0.985, a strikeout per nine rate of 11.7 and a K/BB ratio of 3.23. His OPS against as a relief pitcher is an incredible .496.
Yeah, Mr. Davis, you are a relief pitcher.
It's understandable that Wade Davis would want to be a starter. There is more money to be made being a good starter than a good relief pitcher. A good reliever might garner in the $5 to $8 million range where a good starter can make $15 million on a good day. Just look at the money Hughes got from the Twins after a horrible season last year for the Yankees.
Which brings up a good point. As starters, I have always made a strong comparison between Hughes and Wade Davis. I even wrote about it once. And now Hughes is having a great season with the Twins. That could add fuel to the fire for Davis since they are so similar. Hughes also had good success as a relief pitcher.
Davis could look at Hughes and say, "Don't give up on me as a starter." But let's face it, the odds of him duplicating what Hughes is doing are remote. He should stick with what he does well. As a reliever, Davis can keep throwing 95 MPH four-seam fastballs instead of the 91-92 MPH fastballs he throws as a starter. The immediacy of what he does with his fastball in relief makes his off-speed stuff that much more effective.
Let's look closely at Davis' number this season. They will blow you away. He has given up four hits per nine innings. Four! He has struck out 48 in just 29.1 innings. His FIP is currently at 1.18. He has allowed no homers and has a WHIP of 0.818. Holy smokes! rated Wade Davis' season higher than did a year ago, by quite a large margin. And they rated his season last year as worth $8.7 million. His season this year is already worth $7.5 million and we are not yet to the halfway point of the season.
In other words, based on his years as a starter, Davis is worth a contract of about $5 to $6 million a year. As a relief pitcher, he is worth at least $8 to $10 million. In this case, Davis wants to be a starter because in his mind, he can make more money, plus, there is more prestige to it. But in his case, he can make more money for far longer as a relief pitcher and if this year is any indication, he should accept his fate and smile all the way to the bank.

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: June 12, 2014

Another losing night and this old game picker is mighty discouraged. I don't seem to know my pick-off from my windup these days. I believe my down hill slide is about as long as the Rays is. Wait, at least they finally scored some runs and won last night. So what does that mean? Will they start playing better now? There were some good pitchers that let me down: Matt CainJulio TeheranJustin Verlander and Michael Wacha, to name a few. But Masahiro Tanaka never lets me down.
I know! Maybe I am like Cal Ripken, Jr. I have this streak going of never missing a game picked for over four years. Like Ripken's play suffered at the end of his long streak, maybe my picking is doing the same. The difference was that he was rich and could eventually retire. I'll keep schlubbing along because I can't help myself.
Thursday's picks:
  • The Dodgers over the Reds: The first one starts with a very hard one. Zack Greinke hardly ever loses, but lost his last time out (at Coors though) and Alfredo Simon hardly ever loses either. The Dodgers don't seem to have any oomph. But if Greinke is Greinke, they should win anyway.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: This one is difficult too, but for the opposite reason. Kyle Kendrick and Eric Stults are 3-13 between them with very high ERAs. I'll take the home team and Reid Brignac. Heh.
  • The Braves over the Rockies: Yeah, this was wrong yesterday too. I don't know how well Ervin Santana will pitch at Coors. But it seems it should be better than whatever Jhoulys Chacin does.
  • The Giants over the NationalsTim Hudson's season is flying under the radar, but it's really good. He's had an amazing career which is very similar to Roy Halladay's career except he has outlasted him. Saying all that, Blake Treinen has been pitching really well but cannot buy a win.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs. I can see no reason why Edinson Volquez should beat Jeff Samardzija other than that the Cubs are the Cubs.
  • The Orioles over the Blue JaysMark Buehrle has been so good, haven't you been waiting for the market correction to his norm? I keep doing so and he hasn't. But Baltimore is a tough park to keep it going. That said, Kevin Gausman has to pitch well and keep the recent Jays' offensive funk going.
  • The Mets over the BrewersKyle Lohse has had a great season thus far but was bombed his last time out and is better at home. Jon Niese is tough at times and could shut the Brewers down.
  • The Astros over the Diamondbacks: This pick goes against logic but since when has baseball been logical? Scott Feldman has been awful...just awful. So today he will be better. If he isn't, then this pick will look stupid in a hurry. Wade Miley goes for the Diamondbacks.
  • The White Sox over the TigersMax Scherzer and Chris Sale. Woo boy, that will be fun. Sale has been sensational. Scherzer not as much lately. This all depends on which ace is on top of his game.
  • The Yankees over the MarinersChase Whitley has been very good for the Yankees, but only at five innings an appearance. That means the bullpen has to be great. It can be. Roenis Elias beat the Yankees at the Bronx earlier in the season. Revenge time.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Red Sox over the IndiansJosh Tomlin (the way he has been pitching) and Jon Lester seem to have an equal chance to pitch well. The one thing that pushes me to the Red Sox is that the Indians have a team OPS of 110 points lower against left-handed pitching.
Yesterday: 7-8, June: 78-74, Games of the Day: 34-34, Season: 531-452

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: June 11, 2014

The good news is that the Game of the Day feature finally went over the .500 mark as Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals shut out the Rays (again). However, just about everything else was wrong in one of the worst final tallies in Game Picks history. It was brutal, awful, terrible, shocking. I am dumbfounded and a bit embarrassed to be honest. It was bad.
But, I am getting back up on the horse and riding again. Actually, I've only been on a horse once in my life and I couldn't get it to go anywhere. But here are Wednesday's picks:
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: The Blue Jays have suddenly hit a hole in their march for the AL East and have lost several games in the last week.  Phil Hughes has pitched well for the Twins, but I see two Jays' homers in his future. Marcus Stroman has been very good.
  • The Royals over the IndiansYordano Ventura will never become Ace Ventura until he can string good appearances consistently instead of good, bad, good, bad. I think he'll be good tonight at home and be better than Trevor Bauer.
  • The Orioles over the Red Sox: I am upset that Manny Machado appealed his suspension. That doesn't show a whole lot of remorse there. But I like Wei-Yin Chen's chances better than Rubby De La Rosa to shut down the offense.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: It was nice that the Pirates finally brought up their great prospect and he helped. But unless they get better pitching, it won't matter. But I'm still going with Brandon Cumpton over Jason Hammel.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: I got this one wrong yesterday. What didn't I get wrong yesterday? I am taking Cole Hamels over Tyson Ross. I'd vote for Tyson, but I'm chicken. Ha! Get it?
  • The Dodgers over the Reds: The last time I picked against Hyun-jin Ryu, he made me look silly. The last time I did pick Johnny Cueto, he had a bad night. Both are capable of shutting the other team down. But which one will do so? This was a coin toss.
  • The Mets over the Brewers: I just picked up Jacob deGrom on my fantasy team, so I am not being real objective in this pick. He's been pitching great with no run support. Wily Peralta has been uneven.
  • The Cardinals over the Bay Rays: It is impossible for the Cardinals to keep pitching shutouts and for the Rays to keep getting shut out. But until either streak stops, I have to keep with the narrative. Michael Wacha over Erik Bedard.
  • The Rangers over the Marlins: This was another pick that went south yesterday. But I can't pick against Yu Darvish making the Marlins look silly. Jacob Turner goes for the Fish.
  • The Astros over the DiamondbacksDallas Keuchel is 7-3. Can you believe that? I can't. But that is the numbers in front of me. Meanwhile, Brandon McCarthy has given up a bunch of runs in his last three outings and is 1-8. What would you do?
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: This is the same match-up that was supposed to happen yesterday but got rained out. Justin Verlander over John Danks.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: This series has been fun and the Angels are making a statement. Now Jered Weaver has to avoid the long ball and do his thing to keep it going. Tommy Milone goes for the A's.
  • The Yankees over the MarinersChris Young has been phenomenal at home. But Masahiro Tanaka has been phenomenal everywhere. The Yankees will need to score a few runs though.
  • The Giants over the Nationals: The Nats got the best of the pitchers' duel yesterday and won, 2-1. Today could be a similar score as Tanner Roark and Matt Cain have looked good recently. I'm going with the home team.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Braves over the Rockies: This should be interesting. The Braves are not a patient team and are tenth in the NL in walks and face the MLB debut of Tyler Matzek, a former eleventh overall pick for the Rockies who has shown nothing but control problems in the minors. I'm going with Julio Teheran regardless.
Yesterday: 4-10 (ouch), June: 71-66, Games of the Day: 34-33, Season: 524-444