Saturday, July 05, 2014

Jose Quintana is better than you think

The Chicago White Sox have not been very good the last couple of seasons even though this year is a lot better than last year. Chris Sale gets a lot of the attention with the press along with some rookie from Cuba who has 27 homers already. An often overlooked player on the team is another lefty that has to follow Sale in the rotation. He is Jose Quintana. And he is much better than you think.
If I was to ask you where you would find Jose Quintana on's leaderboard, where do you think you would find him? Probably most would say around 30th or somewhere like that. Would you ever guess that he is tied for twelfth along with Zimmermann and Richards? Probably not. Here are a couple of other numbers you might not guess:
  • FIP - 20th, tied with Greinke
  • Home Runs per fly ball - 10th, tied with Zimmermann
But Jose Quintana is 5-7. So he can't be that good, right? Wrong. Consider that he pitches in front of the 24th least efficient defense out of thirty teams with the 26th worst fielding percentage. That has led to eight unearned runs during his time on the mound. More than that, it leads to more batters to face and get in trouble.
Jose Quintana is only 25-years-old. He is already in his third big league season. His numbers do not put him among the elite pitchers of the league, but considering the team around him, he's doing great.
Quintana was signed by the Mets as a seventeen-year-old out of Columbia. That was in 2006. The Mets released him a year later. He was awful and could not find home plate. His season with the Mets resulted in double-digit walks per nine. He did not play professional baseball in the United States in 2007. In 2008, the Yankees signed him.
His rise with the Yankee organization was painfully slow. He was granted free agency and re-signed with the Yankees in 2010. He went 10-2 in High A for the Yankees in 2011 and then he was a free agent again. The White Sox picked him up.
The White Sox started him in Double-A in 2012 and called him up early in the season that year (making the big jump from Double-A) and he has never looked back since. He has put together three solid seasons despite learning on the job. The White Sox have a great pitching coach, so he could not have had a better education. And he is only going to get better.
And he has been durable. He does not miss starts. He started 33 games last year and finished with 200 innings. This year, averaging 6.2 innings per outing, he is on pace to slightly beat those numbers.
As a lefty, he has been tough on left-handed batters, limiting them to a .650 OPS this season. But he is nearly as good against batters from the other side who have had a .680 OPS against him. He throws both a two-seam and a four-seam fastball combined about 59 percent of the time. His fastball has rated well for the last two season. His curve is his second best pitch and it has improved greatly this year.
One of his biggest strengths is that he throws an unusually high number of first pitch strikes. He was over 65% in that category last year and over 64% of the time this year. While he could still cut down a bit on his walks, he has a better chance setting up hitters if he can pour that first pitch in for a strike more often than not.
Quintana is on a particularly good run right now. He has pitched 21 innings in his last three starts and has given up only three runs in those games. He has allowed only one run in his last two outings against the Orioles and Blue Jays, both wins, against two good offenses.
Perhaps someday Jose Quintana will pitch for a better team with better defense. He would be considered a ground ball pitcher with a 1.53 ground ball to fly ball ratio so defense is important to him. Someday, with a better team behind him and a few less walks, Jose Quintana will be a star. His is not a star now, but he is very good and much better than most people think.

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: July 5, 2014

The Fourth of July was a bit of a bumpy ride for the Game Picks but the day still pulled out with an 8-6 record with one postponement. That's not bad. Boston and Baltimore will play two games today to make up for yesterday. Surprisingly, the Mets did get their game in despite Arthur and even more surprising was my pick that Yu Darvish would lose to the Mets bore out. What did the Rangers accomplish by holding him up? Two losses it would appear.
My extra-inning streak continued as the A's outlasted the Blue Jays and won, 1-0. And Kershaw made my Game of the Day pick look easy. Though, I should get some demerits for stating that the scoreless streak would end. It did not. Clayton Kershaw is amazing.
Jason Hammel made my pick against the Cubs look bad and then was traded with Jeff Samardzija to the A's. The strong get stronger and the Cubs get...well...something...
Saturday's picks:
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles:  I still think Jon Lester beats Miguel Gonzalez, just like I did yesterday.
  • The Yankees over the Twins: I'd like to see MiLB lifer, Yohan Pino get his first win. Two of his three starts weren't bad. But the Yankees are bouncing back a bit on offense and David Phelps will need to be good today to win.
  • The White Sox over the MarinersJose Quintana is about the most underrated pitcher in baseball and I think since he is a lefty, he will shut down the Mariners. It all depends on if the White Sox can scratch a few off of Felix Hernandez, who I hardly ever pick against.
  • The Marlins over the Cardinals: These last two picks are frightening. But Andrew Heaney is too good not to win eventually and the Cards have trouble against lefties. Plus, Shelby Miller has been erratic.
  • The Pirates over the Phillies: This is a punt as both David Buchanan and Edinson Volquez are not very good or reliable. The Pirates are better than the Phillies, so we'll go with that.
  • The Tigers over the RaysAnibal Sanchez has been the Tigers' best starter for a month and a half now and even though Victor Martinez is out, I think the Tigers will score three runs against Chris Archer who is not as good against everyone else as he is against the Yankees and Red Sox.
  • The Braves over the Diamondbacks: I need to stop haranguing Aaron Harang. He has won more than he has lost and the Braves are rolling right now. Mike Bolsinger has been pretty good for the D-backs, though.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: Poor Dan Haren has to keep following Kershaw. That is like Enya following Mozart. I mean, Enya is pretty good, but...  Besides, Jorge De La Rosa will have an advantage at Coors since he is used to it.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: For some reason, I have this man crush on Homer Bailey. He must be pretty good because his contract is always bandied about whenever talk of Jon Lester's money talks come up. So let's go with him over Matt Garza, who I decidedly do not have a man crush.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Remember that thing I said yesterday about the Indians at home? Yeah. Forget all that. The Royals schooled them yesterday and Jeremy Guthrie has found a mile or two more on his fastball lately. T.J. House is a good name for an actor.
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: Yeah, I'm looking at a sweep here. John Lackey has gotten beat his last two times out, but should be better than Ubaldo Jimenez even though the latter had a rare good performance last time out.
  • The Padres over the Giants: All Odrisamer Despaigne has done since was called up was confound writers with spelling his name and winning. Maybe in that order too. Tim Hudson is hard to count against, but this Cuban guy has been great.
  • The Mets over the Rangers: The difficult part of Bartolo Colon's starts is that you know one out of every four are going to be colossal stinkers. But you never know which one of the four it's going to be. It could be today, or it could not be today. That's his own personal crap shoot. Either way, the Mets hit Colby Lewis.
  • The Angels over the Astros: Did you see Mike Trout's walk off homer? The catcher was getting ready to dig it out of the dirt and Trout hits a two iron over the wall. Amazing. The win-less Franklin Morales over Scott Feldman.
  • The Athletics over the Blue Jays: This has been an incredibly pitched series but the Blue Jays have lost both. Scott Kazmir is another great starter and should be slightly better than Mark Buehrle.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Nationals over the Cubs: Who is going to pitch for the Cubs today? Your guess is as good as mine (or Yahoo's or's). The Nationals will start Gio Gonzalez, so that is good enough for me.
Yesterday: 8-6, July: 35-19, Games of the Day: 48-42, Season: 717-594

Friday, July 04, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Friday: July 4, 2014

Happy 238th birthday, United States of America!
The picks had another fine day yesterday with a 6-3 record. The Cardinals and Diamondbacks put an early scare into the day by winning and putting the picks off to a tough start, but everything except for a Rangers' loss went according to predictions.
The Rangers loss peeved me a little bit. Yu Darvish was supposed to start, but he was pulled because of unknown weather. Come on now. I'm glad the Rangers can throw around losses with the season they are having. What a stupid thing. Don't you try to win every game?
Anyway, enjoy the holiday and holiday baseball. The picks:
  • The Nationals over the Cubs: Gosh, they play this game at eleven o'clock in the morning today. Tanner Roark lost to the Cubs at Wrigley a week ago and will want to avenge that. Jason Hammel is adding to his resume for some team who might trade for him.
  • The Red Sox over the OriolesJon Lester is making himself expensive either for the Red Sox who finally cough up the money or for somebody else next year. Miguel Gonzalez is the weakest of the Orioles' rotation.
  • The Yankees over the TwinsChase Whitley should have a decent game today in that big ballpark. Zealous Wheeler provided a spark and even though Kyle Gibson has had a successful season, his lack of strikeouts concern me against a team like the Yankees.
  • The Athletics over the Blue Jays: I need to stop thinking of Tommy Milone as a liability for the A's. He's had a good season and has been steadily good for two months now. As a lefty, he eliminates Rasmus and Adam Lind from the picture. I also think the A's will get Marcus Stroman to throw too many pitches up front.
  • The Pirates over the Phillies: The battle for Pennsylvania should be a bit of a mismatch today as Roberto Hernandez has no business beating the Pirates or Gerrit Cole. Should not the Philadelphia team always be home on July 4th? Seriously. It's Philadelphia's day more than any other.
  • The Giants over the Padres: The combined records for Matt Cain and Eric Stults are 3-17. Ugh. When two pitchers have had that little success, you go with the better team...the Giants.
  • The Indians over the Royals: The Indians love playing at home and Josh Tomlin was lights out his last time pitching. Yordano Ventura is the wild card as you never know if he will be brilliant or all over the place.
  • The Tigers over the Bay Rays: To be honest, I have no idea which team will win this game. Alex Cobb has not been great since he came back from injury and that surprises me. The Emoticon, Drew Smyly had a good game against the Rangers and then stunk up the joint against the Astros. I have no idea.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: The Cinderella season for Alfredo Simon continues and one more win today could land him at the All Star Game. Kyle Lohse is 9-2 himself and will not just roll over. Interesting game.
  • The Mariners over the White SoxRoenis Elias is the key to this pick. As a lefty, he should hurt the White Sox with Adam Dunn and Adam Eaton. Can the M's scratch out a couple of runs off of Chris Sale? That's the big question.
  • The Mets over the Rangers: The Rangers so deserve to lose after dickering around with Yu Darvish. And isn't that hurricane going to threaten this game in New York today? Besides, I like Jon Niese.
  • The Cardinals over the MarlinsLance Lynn sure had a lynning his last time out. Can he avoid that big crooked number today? He is at home, so he should be comfortable at least. Nate Eovaldi should win more with his stuff, but doesn't.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Braves: This is my upset pick of the day. The Braves are at home and Ervin Santana can have a good game and make this look bad. But Josh Collmenter has been like the D-backs' good luck charm with his winning record in a losing season.
  • The Angels over the AstrosDallas Keuchel is back and has had a nice season. But his left-handedness is not as much a factor against the Angels. C.J. Wilson should win at home today.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Dodgers over the RockiesClayton Kershaw. Do I need to say more? Yes, his breaking stuff will not break as much at Coors and his scoreless streak will come to an end. But he will win. The Rockies are starting Jair Jurrjens! Remember him? This cannot go well...
Yesterday: 6-3, July: 27-13, Games of the Day: 47-42, Season: 709-588

Thursday, July 03, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: July 3, 2014

Wednesday was another good day in a nice string of good days. In the last four days, the picks have gone 38-17. Only five picks were wrong yesterday. One was sort of dumb as I even said in the pick that the Cubs could sweep Boston but I didn't pick it that way. The Dodgers and Reds both lost again, which was unexpected with Ryu and Johnny Cueto pitching respectively. The other dumb pick was picking the Diamondbacks. Those poor blighters hardly ever win.
The other incorrect pick was the White Sox walking off on the Angels. The Angels were on such a roll, I didn't see that coming.
Thursday features only nine games. The picks:
  • The Giants over the Cardinals: Not only do the Cardinals struggle against left-handed pitching, but they face one of the best in Madison Bumgarner. The Cards already faced him once this year and whiffed badly. I don't think Carlos Martinez can keep up with that.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: This one is tough to call. The Phillies are faded and should be broken up but the Marlins are starting Brad Hand. And while "Talk to the" Hand is lefty, which bothers the Phillies, he just can't seem to put it together as a Major League pitcher. It's not that I am high on Kyle Kendrick either...
  • The Pirates over the Diamondbacks: Ugh! I want to pick the Diamondbacks here. But I know they are terrible. Even Brandon McCarthy presents a problem. He is 2-10 but was very good his last time out. Vance Worley has pitched well since being called up by the Pirates, so there's that too. Derp.
  • The Rangers over the Orioles: The Orioles really have a chance to knock the Rangers on the Chen as Wei-Yin Chen tries to finish the sweep. However, there is a little problem known as Yu Darvish here. My trouble when picking Darvish though is that he never seems to put back-to-back sparklers together.
  • The Tigers over the Rays: The Tigers just swept the A's and the Rays just swept the Yankees. Which one was the more impressive accomplishment? Well, yeah. That's easy. And with Max Scherzer on the mound? I have to go with the Tigers over Erik Bedard and the Rays.
  • The Dodgers over the RockiesFranklin Morales has pitched out of the Rockies' bullpen since the end of May and now he is starting a game. So that is strike one. Zack Greinke is pitching, which is strike two. The only thing keeping them from a definite strike three is Coors Field.
  • The Yankees over the Twins: What am I doing! Picking the Yankees!? But...but...Masahiro Tanaka is pitching and the Twins play in a big ballpark and Joe Mauer is on the DL. Phil Hughes already beat the Yankees once this year. The Yankees should win.
  • The Athletics over the Blue Jays: Yes, Detroit just took care of the A's and the Jays just walked off in style last night. No matter what happened recently, the A's are tough to beat at home and Sonny Gray is a good pitcher. I feel like somebody is going to take R.A. Dickey deep this one.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Angels over the AstrosMatt Shoemaker had a really bad outing against the Royals his last time out, but otherwise has been good. He should miss a lot of Astros' bats, especially with Fowler out. That and Brett Oberholtzer just doesn't strike me as someone who can hold the Angels down.
Yesterday: 10-5, July: 21-10, Games of the Day: 46-42, Season: 703-575

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: July 2, 2014

July started out well--sort of. Of the sixteen games yesterday, only five were incorrect. But one of them was the Game of the Day. I really thought the Royals would take care of the Twins, but the Twins pounded James Shields and others. The Red Sox loss was a surprise, especially when Clay Buchholz pitched as well as he did. What a surprise that their great closer lost the game. Those were a few of the surprises, but fortunately, there weren't many of them.
If you are keeping track, my luck on extra-inning games has totally reversed and not one of them has gone against me in weeks. It's all random, I know, but it sure is a funny random.
Wednesday's picks:
  • The Blue Jays over the Brewers: This very good match-up continues and I think the Blue Jays win it again. J.A. Happ has gone from Happless to Happy this year and, frankly, I don't know how he is doing it. Wily Peralta is good, but good doesn't intimidate the Jays.
  • The Bay Rays over the Yankees: Yeah, the Yankees have a chance tonight against Jake Odorizzi, but gosh, they can't hit to save themselves. And besides, Vidal Nuno is their starter. It's a sixth straight loss.
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: This is the one game of the series I worry about. Justin Verlander has been better, but he still isn't winning games. Jesse Chavez has his moments. This might be the game the A's get things done.
  • The Royals over the Twins: This was my Game of the Day pick last night and it bombed. So naturally it will be right tonight. Jason Vargas is much better than Kevin Correia, a pitcher who cannot strike batters out.
  • The Mariners over the AstrosDexter Fowler is the guy that keeps the Astros in games and with him out, it's just harder for the Astros to stay relevant in games. Brad Peacock does not thrill me and I think Chris Young is living on borrowed time. But that's the pick.
  • The Dodgers over the Indians: The Indians struck hard yesterday and now I am very confused about this pick. Hyun-jin Ryu should be the favorite at home and Trevor Bauer is just too untrustworthy. But the Indians have this pick quaking a bit.
  • The Reds over the Padres: This pick hasn't been safe all week. The Padres are playing the Reds tough and to me, Tyson Ross is the team's best pitcher. But don't you have to go with Johnny Cueto here, especially in a big ballpark?
  • The Diamondbacks over the Pirates: Gosh, the crush on the D-backs fans from last night's loss was palpable. They had that game won and couldn't hold it. Terrible. They have a chance to win against Charlie Morton with Chase Anderson pitching. They might just win this one.
  • The Orioles over the Rangers: The Orioles have been crushing the ball this series. Miles Mikolas is being asked to stem the onslaught for the Rangers. He'll show good control but give up lots of hits. A lot will depend on BABIP. The same can be said for Chris Tillman. But I'll go with the Orioles.
  • The Red Sox over the Cubs: Surely the Cubs won't sweep the Red Sox, right? Please don't call me Shirley. The Cubs do not benefit from the DH tonight because the pitcher, Travis Wood, is one of their better hitters. Brandon Workman goes for the Red Sox and you know, the Cubs might just sweep.
  • The Braves over the MetsJulio Teheran will limit the Mets to two or less runs and Jacob deGrom will hold the Braves for five or six innings before the Mets' bullpen ruins the game and gives the Braves a pull-away win.
  • The Marlins over the PhilliesTom Koehler will pitch very well tonight for the Marlins for the simple reason that I just dropped him from my Fantasy team. Guaranteed. Cole Hamels will lose another tough one.
  • The Angels over the White Sox: The Angels have spanked the White Sox all week and they should hit John Danks since most of their really good hitters are right-handed. Tyler Skaggs is my only concern. He hasn't been as good as I thought he would be. But he is a lefty too and that gives the White Sox some trouble.
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: Oh, those Cardinals. They keep me guessing all of the time. I think Adam Wainwright will beat Ryan Vogelsong, but who the heck knows with this team...
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Nationals over the RockiesDoug Fister has a chance to pull off a #maddux every time he goes out there (CG with less than 100 pitches). So I like him over Tyler Matzek in this one. The Nats are playing really well.
Yesterday: 11-5, July: 11-5, Games of the Day: 45-42, Season: 693-570

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Chris Johnson and swing batter batter

Remember in Little League or PAL (like I played) where the players on the field would chant, "Swing Batter Batter," before each pitch? Apparently, Chris Johnson of the Atlanta Braves is still hearing those chants in his head. Of course, Johnson has had multiple occurrences of blowing up with his temper, so who knows what else is going on in his head. But the bottom line is that Johnson does not walk very much.
Johnson has never walked much, even going back to his minor league days. But last year he broke out and batted .321 and his 5.3% walk rate at least pushed him up to a good .358 on-base percentage. And he finished with a 127 wRC+ to cap off a good season that was somewhat of a surprise.
The Braves rewarded his season by giving him a $23.5 million, three-year extension that covers 2015-2017 with an option year after that. The good news is that he followed his good season by batting .281 so far this season. But that is as far as the good news goes. His on-base percentage is .299. That's right, .299.
The problem is that Chris Johnson has tumbled from an already low 5.3 walk percentage last year to a staggeringly low 2.2%. A walk percentage that low is pretty hard to accomplish. How hard? Let me show you.
After 81 games, or exactly half the season, Chris Johnson has seven walks in 325 plate appearances. As is easy to do math-wise, Johnson's pace is to finish with fourteen walks. In the last ten years, only five times has a batter finished with more than 500 plate appearances with less than fifteen walks in a season.
To go one step further, in the last ten seasons, no one with more than 600 plate appearances (a pace Johnson is on) has finished with less than 16 walks. So Johnson's pace would be somewhat historic--at least for the last ten years anyway.
The last time a batter finished with 600 plate appearances and less than fifteen walks was Deivi Cruz in the year 2000. So this is definitely something to keep an eye on for the rest of the season.
Right about now, that extension the Braves gave Chris Johnson isn't looking very good. Fangraphs has his season at 0.1 fWAR and has him even worse at -1.0 rWAR. That will hardly justify anything over league minimum money.
So what has led to Johnson's plunge in walk rates? As you might expect, a lot of it is found in his O-Rate or the amount of times he swings at a pitch outside the strike zone. His rate is the highest of his career at 44.1%. His overall swing rate of 57.6% is also the highest of his career. His O-rate is the second highest in baseball and his overall swing rate is third highest.
Add to those numbers the fact that his contact percentage and swing and miss percentage are the second highest of his career, the highest they have been since his second season in 2010. His first pitch strike percentage is also quite high at over 61%.
To add to Johnson's woes, his slugging is way off too. His slugging percentage is 96 points below last year and his overall OPS is 156 points lower! His 84 wRC+ completes the picture of inadequacy he has going on this season.
It is quite possible that Chris Johnson will improve in the second half. The Braves and the team's fans can only hope such will be the case. A .281 batting average that only adds up to a .299 on-base percentage is a bit embarrassing--especially in this day and age where getting on base is a key criteria.