Saturday, June 28, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: June 28, 2014

By the time the first three games had been completed, the picks were already 0-3. And things only slightly improved after that. For example, I watched the Red Sox not able to do anything against Vidal Nuno and I was shocked. How did that happen?  The Tigers lost another game Justin Verlander pitched...again. He did pitch well though. The 1-10 Brandon McCarthy won! Now he is 2-10, but that was the wrong pick. And so it went.
I am a bit excited about one development though. Something like the last seven extra-inning games have gone my way. The tide has turned there somehow!
There are TWO double-headers today. That is seventeen games! Whow! Saturday's picks:
  • The Nationals over the Cubs: This is one of the double-headers. The Cubs will call up Dallas Beeler, the second Beeler to play in the MLB. The first one was Jodie who played one game in 1944. Dallas has a brother named Chase Beeler who plays in the NFL. Dallas Beeler was a 41st round draft pick. And here he is! But he is still going to lose to Gio Gonzalez.
  • The White Sox over the Blue Jays: I am taking a chance here that Chris Sale will be so good that the Blue Jays won't be able to do anything and somehow the White Sox score a run or two off of Marcus Stroman.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: I have Ervin Santana and Roberto Hernandez somehow lumped all inside my head as the same sort of pitchers. But they aren't and Santana should win the game.
  • The Angels over the Royals: Every time I go to Hector Santiago's player page on, his duck-lipped face is seriously trying to get me to pick him. Come on, dude, you are 0-7. Oh, okay, you broke me down. Yordano Ventura goes for the Royals.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: The last couple of times I have picked Yu Darvish, I have lost the pick. But, golly, he's supposed to be that good, right? Phil Hughes has been good too though and never walks anyone...
  • The Pirates over the Mets: I really like both Gerrit Cole and Jon Niese in this game, so it is hard to choose. Knowing these two teams, they will play twelve innings anyway and my extra-inning mojo has been impressive lately...
  • The Orioles over the Rays: The Rays are sinking again. Erik Bedard has not been good for them and Wei-Yin Chen is having a good season.
  • The Brewers over the Rockies: Sometimes I wonder if the Rockies will ever have a truly good where they pitch well, hit both on the road as well as home and have good management. Nah. Matt Garza over Jhoulys Chacin.
  • The Athletics over the Marlins: That really was a sad end to the game for the Marlins yesterday. Poor Steve Cishek look like he was trying to stop hurricane force winds with a Chinese fan. Sonny Gray over Nathan Eovaldi.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: Yes, I am going for the sweep here. Sean O'Sullivan has never fooled anyone in all the chances he's had in his career. David Hale, on the other hand, and done well in spot starts and probably should be traded to get a chance somewhere.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: The Red Sox could not beat the Yankees' worst pitcher. Watch them beat the best one. Oh well, I have to go with Masahiro Tanaka, right? Even if Jon Lester is pitching?
  • The Dodgers over the Cardinals: This pick did not work out yesterday and with Lance Lynn on the mound, it might not work out today either. But again, I have to go with Zack Greinke to be better.
  • The Cubs over the Nationals: I am going for a split in this double-header. I think Jeff Samardzija will be better than Blake Treinen and that is the reason for the pick. The Cubs' offense has picked up lately too.
  • The Reds over the Giants: You cannot stop Alfredo Simon. This miracle must go on forever. I don't understand it, but I don't question it either. It's just amazing. Stand back in awe, Matt Cain.
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: Have any idea why I am making this pick? If you have learned my logic (or lack of it) by now, you would know that Brandon McCarthy was 1-10 and won yesterday, so Eric Stults, who is 2-10, will win today. Yeah, it's that simple and Josh Collmenter will be the victim.
  • The Mariners over the Indians: Once again, the Indians are heading in the wrong direction. Roenis Elias will shut them down and Josh Tomlin will give up enough runs to lose the game.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Tigers over the Astros: How impressive is Bo Porter? I just love that guy as a manager. But no amount of coaxing will convince me that Brett Oberholtzer is going to beat Max Scherzer.
Yesterday: 7-9, June: 200-171, Games of the Day: 43-41, Season: 654-552

Friday, June 27, 2014

Watching the Palm Beach Cardinals

My son and I had the pleasure of going to see the Palm Beach Cardinals host the Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays) in a Florida League battle of High-A baseball at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. First, it was fun to see a game with my boy, who shares my baseball passion. And secondly, it was nice to take in a minor league game in an intimate setting, something only minor league baseball can provide.

The stadium, unfortunately, only had a few hundred fans show up and the concession stands were limited as a result. We sat in Section 107, just behind the home dugout, which was very hot until the sun went down, but that did not take away from the enjoyment of the game.
In minor league baseball, you can hear the players and coaches talking. You can hear their cleats when they run the bases. You can hear the ball hitting the infield between innings as the first baseman warms up the infielders. Stadium employees bring kids on the field for a variety of sponsored games to win prizes. Everything is magnified in its closeness. Foul balls are sudden, the speed of the pitcher evident and the arms of infielders show that this is professional baseball, even if it is a long way from the Big Leagues.

In minor league baseball, the stadium's sound man can get away with playing the Three's Company theme song when the manager goes to the mound or Peter Griffin's voice from The Family Guy laughing when an opposing batter struck out looking. And since the Cardinals' Jimmy Reed was making his High-A debut, the announcer gleefully read Reed's statistics (all zeroes, of course). It's baseball at it's most enjoyable.
The Cardinals won the game, roughing up the Stone Crabs' starter Reinaldo Lopez. But to be sure, one of the weaknesses of a weak Stone Crabs' unit is the team's defense and Lopez was not aided greatly there.
Reed is a good prospect according to some Cardinal sites, one even ranked him second in the Cards' system. I am no scout, so I could not tell why. He sat most of the game at 85-87 with his fastball but he did seem to have good breaking stuff that the Stone Crabs could not do much with. When he got men on base, he was able to entice two double-plays to get out of jams. He gave up two runs in 6.2 innings and was efficient and threw a lot of strikes.

The real fun was the guy who followed Reed for the Cardinals. His name is Sam Tuivailala. We had no idea how to pronounce the guy's name so we said, "lalalalala," a lot. But the guy could throw the gas. He threw an easy 97-98 and blew it by a lot of hitters. His breaking stuff had a lot of spin, but he had little command of it. H did give up a run in an inning and a third, but he also struck out two and is blowing people away at a rate of over 15 strikeouts per nine. He was impressive.
None of the Stone Crabs' pitchers impressed me. I was only impressed with three of their position players. One was the catcher, Justin O'Conner. He did not hit in this game, but his receiving skills looked top notch. Conversely, shortstop, Leonardo Reginatto, had three hits but was totally unimpressive in the field.
But the guy I really liked was the Stone Crabs' first baseman, Patrick Leonard. Leonard does not show up on prospect lists, but he can rake. He hit his 11th homer of the season in the game and just looks like a hitter.
The same could be said of the Cardinals' first baseman, Luke Voit. He's a big guy at 6'3" with a good idea of the strike zone. He showed pretty good range at first and good scooping ability.
I also liked Charlie Tilson. He had two hits including a double and made a great diving catch in center. It looks like he is one to watch in that system. I liked Dante Rosenberg both as a catcher and a batter. I loved Edward Mejia's glove at shortstop--very acrobatic--but I hated his bat.
One other thing impressed both my son and I. He was a baseball lifer who coached first base for the Cardinals. His name is Roger LaFrancois. He always looked interested and jogged out to his position even though he has been doing this for decades and his players pay little attention to him. That's a love of baseball.
It was a great night in a great park and it was especially great watching it with my son and I hope we get to do it again together next year.

MLB Game Picks - Friday: June 27, 2014

Thursday was a positive day for the Game Picks but things looked even rosier in the beginning. After the early games, the picks stood at 6-1. However, all three late games came up short. Josh Beckett out-dueled Adam Wainwright and it could have gone either way, just as I said in the picks. Mike Leake was better than Ryan Vogelsong and the Cubs took care of the Nationals in the gloaming.
Here are Friday's picks:
  • The Orioles over the Rays: The O's and Rays play two games today and I'm pretty sure the O's will pick up the first one. Kevin Gausman is a much better prospect than Alex Colome. Of course, nothing is that easy in baseball, but Colome does not have command.
  • The Nationals over the Cubs: Of course, this pick did not work out yesterday and the Nationals never seem to win the games they should. But I do like Tanner Roark better than Jason Hammel before Hammel gets traded.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: The Phillies are playing tough and getting late heroics from its aging stars. But Kyle Kendrick is still who he is and Julio Teheran is too good if he is on. If Teheran isn't on, all bets are off.
  • The Pirates over the MetsBrandon Cumpton and Jacob deGrom are two good looking pitchers. Both pitched really well their last times out. I like Cumpton a little more and thus the pick here.
  • The Orioles over the Rays: Yeah, I'm going with a sweep here. Chris Tillman is not an ace. But he wins his share of games. Jake Odorizzi is still in the rotation for some reason. Perhaps I am too hard on the guy.
  • The Blue Jays over the White SoxR.A. Dickey will either pitch well or Jose Abreu and Adam Dunn will pound him. There usually isn't much of an in between. John Danks has had a decent comeback season. But the Jays' offense is loaded. Of course, Danks does neutralize Adam Lind.
  • The Athletics over the Marlins: The A's do lose the DH here, but Anthony DeSclafani has been getting beat up in the Majors. I am going with Jesse Chavez and the visiting A's.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: I wrote yesterday about Kevin Correia not striking people out. That means, with his stuff, he throws batting practice. The only way he ends up with a decent game is when a lot of At-em balls are hit. Nick Tepesch does not excite me either, but I'll take my chances with him.
  • The Angels over the Royals: What did I tell you about the Angels? Now that they have Pujols, Trout and Hamilton all in the lineup, look out. The Royals jumped a game and a half over the Tigers and ever since have stumbled and are now four back. Matt Shoemaker over Jason Vargas.
  • The Brewers over the Rockies: You know the drill by now. I always pick Kyle Lohse at home. He is pretty much a lock there. Tyler Matzek lost to this same Brewers team at Coors his last time out.
  • The Tigers over the Astros: Ugh. Justin Verlander. What is happening here? He is now 6-7 and getting raked. I keep picking him like he is the same guy. But he isn't. But I cannot help myself.
  • The Padres over the DiamondbacksBrandon McCarthy is 1-10. Would you pick the guy to win? Nope. Tyson Ross at least has a chance to win once in a while and takes advantage of it. Something is going to happen in Arizona soon.
  • The Mariners over the Indians: Every time I shake my head and predict Chris Young to lose, he doesn't. He is especially hard to beat at home even though he never strikes anyone out. Trevor Bauer goes for the Indians who are a long way from home here.
  • The Dodgers over the CardinalsHyun-jin Ryu is a lefty. The Cardinals don't like lefties. Carlos Martinez is the wild card and could come up big. But that is a long shot.
  • The Giants over the Reds: This is a big time match-up between two of the best pitchers in the National League not named Kershaw. Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto are both really good. This will be like the Wainwright - Beckett match-up where anything can happen.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: All I need to know are two things. First, is Vidal Nuno pitching? Yes. Loss. Secondly, is Nuno pitching at home? Yes. Big time loss. Brandon Workman just needs to be decent here.
Yesterday: 6-4, June: 193-162, Games of the Day: 43-40, Season: 647-543

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Swimming against the strikeout tide

Never in the history of Major League Baseball has the strikeout been as prevalent as it is in today's game. The rate has risen every year and 2014 stands to break another record as the average strikeout rate in baseball is 7.73 strikeouts per nine. Even so, there are a few throwbacks to a bygone era whose current strikeout rates would not have been league average unless they pitched way back in 1981.
There are currently six pitchers who have pitched at least 50 innings who have a strikeout per nine rate less than 5.0 per nine. They are: Paul Maholm (3.96), Nick Martinez (4.22), Kevin Correia and Chris Young (4.48), Bronson Arroyo (4.92) and Kyle Gibson (4.93). Two of those pitch for the Twins.
It gets worse for the Twins from there. There are eighteen pitchers who have logged twenty innings or more this season with less than five strikeouts per nine innings and five of them are Twins. And Matt Guerrier would be on the list too if he had two more innings pitched. Throw them strikes, boys, and let them hit the ball!
The K/9 rate might not actually be the best way to look at strikeouts and pitchers. There is also strikeout percentage, which is all about the percentage of strikeouts per plate appearance rather than by inning. It might be a truer picture.
There are 21 pitchers whose strikeout percentage is less than 15% and who have pitched at least 50 innings. There are 55 who have done the trick with 20 innings or more. Just to give you some perspective, 20.3% is the Major League average. So these guys really are swimming against the strikeout tide.
Only one pitcher is averaging less than 10% for a strikeout rate with 50 or more innings and that is/was Paul Maholm. If you go to twenty innings or more, there are four: Mike Pelfrey (8.4% [!]), LaTroy Hawkins--otherwise known as Methuselah--(9.8%), Scott Carroll and Maholm at 9.7%.
For those who are close to Maholm with more than 50 innings, there is Nick Martinez at 10.7% in 59+ innings whose home ballpark is in Texas--not a good combination. Kevin Correia comes in at 11.3% followed by Chris Young at 12.2% and then by Eric Stults at 12.5%. These guys are fighting the tide and only Chris Young is somewhat succeeding with his offerings.
Last year, there were only five qualified starters who finished with less than 15% for a strikeout rate. The bottom two were Jeremy Guthrie and Kevin Correia. So far this year there are twelve. I don't know if that means there are more exceptions to the rule this year than last or that injuries have forced teams to go with more pitchers who do not fit today's pitching mold.
What I do know is that ten years ago (2005) there were 42 qualifying pitchers that finished with a strikeout percentage of less than 15%. While to this point, twelve is more than the two from last year, we can easily see that this is a dying breed.

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: June 26, 2014

My son reads these posts faithfully and is down with me for a few days while I am in Florida. He likes to poke fun of me when things go wrong. For example, he wryly mentioned that I had called Tim Lincecum the worst pitcher on the Giants and the guy threw a no-hitter. I weakly replied that I had picked the guy to win and the worst pitcher on a very good rotation can still be pretty good. The Number One son wasn't buying it.
At least I had a good day, so he can't rag on me too bad (heh) today. But make no mistake, I can rag on him too. I took him to a crab place yesterday and he ordered blue crab, something he had never had before and he had no idea how to eat them and could not get any of the meat out. Ha! I stuck with the snow crab I know and had a great meal.
Thursday's picks:
  • The Braves over the Astros: The Braves are never quite as dead as they appear to be and just when you think they are sinking, they pull off a winning streak to stay at or near the top of the division. Jarred Cosart is good. But Mike Minor will be better.
  • The Angels over the Twins: The Angels have played .613 baseball this month and are now ten games over .500. They are looking mighty snug in the wild card race and are only four back of the A's. Mike Trout is at the magical .300/.400/.600 level and the pitching rotation is solid. Jered Weaver should win today at home against Ricky Nolasco.
  • The Phillies over the MarlinsCole Hamels has been very good. Tom Koehler is having a nice season, but the Marlins have stopped hitting, especially on the road.
  • The Pirates over the MetsVance Worley shows you that you need to take a second look once in a while before you go on shooting your mouth (or keyboard) off. Worley has walked only one batter in his two starts (1-0) and only five in 59+ innings all season between Triple-A and the Bigs. I'll take him over Daisuke Matsuzaka.
  • The Blue Jays over the White Sox: Wow did the White Sox blow their game last night. That was sad. Scott Carroll has done a decent job in June as the last guy in the bullpen mopping up innings. But I doubt he can slow the Blue Jays' lineup down very much. J.A. Happ reverted back to his happ-less days last time out but has had a good season.
  • The Tigers over the RangersNick Martinez has pitched two pretty good starts in a row. But the guy's WHIP is 1.58 and he only strikes out 4.22 batters per nine innings. That would qualify him for the lowest in baseball if he had enough innings to be among the leaders. I'll take Rick Porcello.
  • The Nationals over the Cubs: I did not expect the Nats to lose so badly yesterday, which makes me a little hesitant today. Strasburg has really let me down. But Doug Fister has been terrific. So I will take him over Travis Wood, a guy I like very much.
  • The Cardinals over the Dodgers: This is a very interesting match-up! It will be Adam Wainwright in the spacious Dodger Stadium against a reinvented Josh Beckett. Very interesting indeed. Toss a coin.
  • The Giants over the RedsMike Leake had his best start in more than a month against the Blue Jays his last time out. It might have been his best start of the season. But I don't want to pick against the Giants at home even if Ryan Vogelsong is the starter.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Brewers over the RockiesChristian Friedrich pitched pretty well against the Brewers at Coors in his first start. But he still lost and will probably do so again today. Wily Peralta needs to pitch a good game though.
Yesterday: 10-5, June: 187-158, Games of the Day: 42-40, Season: 641-539

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How and stat signs turned me into a pessimist

I used to follow baseball with optimism, but lately, I am just one big negative Nelly. Why did it change? How did I become a pessimist?

Read all about it at It's About the Money, Stupid.

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: June 25, 2014

Yesterday wasn't pretty. The Game of the Day was only off by nine runs. No big deal. In fact, the day started bad, but the picks rallied to a 6-6 tie only to have the last three games of the night come up wrong. That's baseball.
Something really strange did happen last night. Two games went deep into extra innings. When the dust cleared, both were settled in this picker's favor. That never, ever happens. So maybe a new trend started on a bad day. If so, I'll take it.
Wednesday's picks:
  • The Rays over the PiratesDavid Price is too good a pitcher to lose this many games. And yet he is sort of messed up about being traded, the team behind him is spotty and I could see him losing to Charlie Morton. But he shouldn't.
  • The Nationals over the Brewers: This is another game that Stephen Strasburg should not lose. He should never lose. But he is 6-5. So he loses plenty. Marco Estrada is good at home, so we'll see what happens.
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: How the heck do you pick this one!? Both starting pitchers are making their MLB debuts. Marco Gonzalez is 22 and a lefty. He has terrific numbers in the minors showing good control and low home run rates. Yohan Flande has pitched in the minors for nine years with three different organizations and is 2-9 in a hostile pitcher's park at Colorado Springs. Gonzalez is a first round draft pick. I could write another story here the same as when Yohan Pino and Andrew Heaney pitched on the same day last week. And another Yohan!
  • The Giants over the Padres: The Giants have lost eleven of their last fourteen games and their last two to the Padres. So why am I picking them today? Because their worst starter is pitching (Tim Lincecum). How do you like that logic? Ian Kennedy goes for the Padres.
  • The Orioles over the White Sox: I have no idea which team will win this one. Hector Noesi and Ubaldo Jimenez are so unreliable that there is no way to figure this one out. When in doubt, pick the home team.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Come on now. I get Noesi, Jimenez and now Edwin Jackson in two straight game picks!? That is unfair. U.N.F.A.I.R. Mat Latos is the pick. Grrr...
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Ha! Noesi, Jimenez, Jackson and now A.J. Burnett. The picking gods hate me. Going with Burnett over Henderson Alvarez.
  • The Blue Jays over the Yankees: I saw some good signs in the Yankees' bats yesterday. Some slumping hitters hit the ball hard. But they still lost and I don't like the thought of Hiroki Kuroda in the dome. A lot will depend on how well Drew Hutchison does.
  • The Athletics over the MetsZack Wheeler was amazing his last time out and I picked against him. And I am doing so again today even though he is facing Brad Mills of all people. The A's are just a better team no matter what happened last night.
  • The Tigers over the RangersAnibal Sanchez might be the most overrated pitcher of the last five years. The guy is just silly good. Joe Saunders just drives me up a tree. The guy always fouls me up.
  • The Braves over the Astros: Both pitchers, Alex Wood and Collin McHugh, will not pitch more than five innings. McHugh might go six. So then the pick is based on which team has the better bullpen. It has to be Atlanta.
  • The Royals over the Dodgers: All things being equal, and they are probably not, I would take James Shields over Dan Haren. But Kershaw sure made the Royals look silly yesterday.
  • The Indians over the DiamondbacksChase Anderson has pitched well for the Diamondbacks, so it is tough to pick against him. For a while, Corey Kluber was untouchable. But not lately. I'm thinking that Kluber gets on track and pitches really well today.
  • The Mariners over the Red Sox: I don't like the thought of Hisashi Iwakuma's back flaring at any time. If he is not completely on his game, the Red Sox will win. The wild card here is how well Clay Buchholz does in his return from Siberia the DL.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Angels over the Twins: While I root for the career minor leaguer, Yohan Pino, I think Garrett Richards will be dominant and should win this game easily.
Yesterday: 6-9, June: 177-153, Games of the Day: 41-40, Season: 631-534