Saturday, August 16, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: August 16, 2014

Even though yesterday finished over .500 (barely), it was a disappointment after the previous three days. In those previous three days, the picks had gone 29-10 including 9-1 on Thursday. That kind of success made me happy. Yesterday did not.
And you know what? It was those danged extra-inning games that continue to drive me crazy. There were three of them yesterday and all three went against the pick. That's stupid and yet so typical. I should have kept track of this and maybe next year (God willing) I will.
Saturday's picks:
  • The Giants over the Phillies: This was one of the extra-inning games and the real problem with this pick is that the Phillies are back to facing a right-handed pitcher in Tim Hudson. They are much better in those situations. But the Giants at home with Kyle Kendrick going for the Phillies is too attractive not to take.
  • The Rays over the Yankees: One team is going, "Yay! We're at .500!" While the other one is saying, "Oh no! We are almost back at .500!" Two teams going in opposite directions with the Yankees sinking fast should produce another Rays win. The Emoticon, Drew Smyly, will now become a great pitcher in Tampa while Shane Greene will be treated somewhat rudely at the Trop.
  • The Indians over the Orioles: There are so many competing forces going on here. The Orioles have been indestructible the last month while the Indians have one of the best home records in baseball. Carlos Carrasco was great his last time out but only pitched five innings. Ubaldo Jimenez has been awful all year but goes back to Cleveland where he had success. There is too much going on here!
  • The Nationals over the Pirates: This is a tale of two lefties. Gio Gonzalez has lost his last four starts and five of his last six (the other was a no-decision). He is due for a win, but I worry about his health. Jeff Locke seems to pitch and never get decisions. He is only 4-3 after thirteen starts. Locke has been prone to the long ball this year and the Nats might hit a couple.
  • The Mariners over the Tigers: This is a great pitching match-up and again, either ace can win depending on how their day goes. Felix Hernandez is 9-2 lifetime against the Tigers and 5-1 lifetime at Comerica. That's hard to ignore. So I give him the edge over David Price.
  • The Marlins over the Diamondbacks: This pick was wrong yesterday but I am going back to it because Henderson Alvarez is pretty hard to beat at home. Plus, Wade Miley might run into Giancarlos Stanton's bat once or twice.
  • The Mets over the Cubs: I am uncomfortable looking over the picks so far that I have so many home teams winning. I do take the location of the game into account, but mostly I go with match-ups and let the pick fall where it is. So, I'll keep going. Jon Niese makes me much more confident than Dan Straily. Simple.
  • The Red Sox over the Astros: The Astros win yesterday (yes, in extra innings) surprised me. And it would surprise me if they win again today. While Rubby De La Rosa is inconsistent, at least he is capable of wow. I can't say that with Brad Peacock.
  • The Royals over the TwinsPhil Hughes has won twelve games. He has walked only fifteen batters in 150+ innings and his home run rate is way down. So why am I picking against him? The Royals are too much on a roll and if Yordano Ventura has a good game, the Royals will find a way to win.
  • The Athletics over the Braves: I'm starting to think that the A's should have left their team alone at the trade deadline. But I am still a fan of Sonny Gray. The only thing that can set this pick aside is if Julio Teheran can somehow regain his fine form of a year ago.
  • The White Sox over the Blue JaysMark Buehrle couldn't get Mo'Ne Davis out at this point. He's been getting pounded. John Danks is not much more of a solid pick, but that's how I have it today.
  • The Padres over the Cardinals: Jesse Hahn Chaka Hahn is my guy. He has had a little come down to earth in his last two starts, but I like him better than this year's version of Shelby Miller.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: All Matt Shoemaker does is win. I'm still not quite sure how he does it. But he does. Colby Lewis has been better of late, but he is still a hit machine.
  • The Rockies over the Reds: The Reds have had some success turning around pitchers with really bad track records. I wrote about one yesterday in Zach DukeDylan Axelrod had gotten worse and worse with more MLB exposure. But since he joined the Reds organization, his stats look better. But then he gets to make his first MLB start of 2014 at Coors Field. That's cruel! Jordan Lyles with the win.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Dodgers over the BrewersClayton Kershaw. Do I need to say more? Okay, how about Clayton Kershaw at home? That's enough. Yovani Gallardo has been good lately though.
Yesterday: 8-7, August: 117-88, Games of the Day: 73-54 (+4), Season: 1011-835

Friday, August 15, 2014

Zach Duke of Earl is a pearl

One of the amazing surprises of the year for me has been the success of Zach Duke. After all, for so many years as a starter in the early part of this millennium, Duke came to symbolize everything that was wrong with the (then) perennial losing Pittsburgh Pirates. After a successful rookie season, he quickly sank into a slot of one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball. And here he is reinvented as one of the most solid relief pitchers in baseball.
Let's look at Duke's amazing numbers this season. He has vultured four wins in relief against no losses. He has a 1.94 ERA with a 2.24 FIP and 2.10 xFIP. His ground ball rate is the highest of his career at 55.7% and he is striking out 11.65 batters per nine innings.
That last statistic is the most amazing of all. If you prefer strikeout percentage, he is sitting at 32.3%. His career average is 12.7%. His career K/9 rate is 4.97. His strikeout to walk rate is 4.29 compared to a career average of 2.02. Who is this guy and what have you done with the real Zach Duke!?
Here is a guy who has pitched for four different organizations in the past four seasons and during that time was released twice. This is the same guy who came into this season with a 50-76 career record with a 1.470 WHIP. His average game score as a starter was 46 when fifty was average. Of all his starts, only 50% were quality starts. What happened here?
The Reds have to be given credit in 2013 for turning Duke permanently into a relief pitcher. The Nationals had him earlier than that and used him as a starter in the minors and then gave him a few relief appearances in the Majors. But the Reds, once they acquired him, put him in the bullpen permanently. And it has made all the difference.
Also different is how Duke pitches. He has completely ditched the four-seam fastball that was a staple of his repertoire. He only throws fastballs 50% of the time and most of those are two-seamers. Almost 49% of his pitches are a combination of curves and sliders and he has a positive value on the two-seam, slider and curve this season. His fastball has picked up a mile per hour over his past seasons. Significant but still only an 89.4 MPH heater.
What has really helped Duke is that 61.3% of his first pitches are strikes. Getting ahead in the count has really helped and his swinging strike rate has gone up to the highest rate of his career.
Sure, he is sort of a LOOGY. He has pitched 45.1 innings in 55 outings. But he has actually pitched to more right-handed batters (103) than he has lefty swingers (83). And his success rate against either is terrific. Right-handed batters have only a .581 OPS against him and lefty swingers, .552.
Zach Duke has gone from a pitcher of derision to someone that manager, Ron Roenicke, has 100% confidence in. Duke's resurgence as a relief pitcher after a bumpy career as a starter has been one of the really fun stories of 2014 and is one of those little reasons why we love this game so much.

MLB Game Picks - Friday: August 15, 2014

The picks went off nearly flawlessly yesterday with a 9-1 record. The only incorrect pick was picking San Diego over the Cardinals. Trevor Rosenthal almost gave that game away too for the Cardinals as he allowed five base runners in the ninth but only one run. How is that possible? Heh. If the Padres had secured that comeback, it would have been a perfect day.
We have a new commissioner. I don't know how I feel about that. Time will tell I guess. I won't be sad to see the end of Bud Selig's reign. Other than the labor peace for the last twenty years and the financial condition of the game, I have pretty much detested the guy.
Let's see if I can keep this hot streak going. Friday's picks:
  • The Orioles over the Indians: Can even Corey Kluber stop the Orioles? I doubt it. As good as Kluber is, the zeroes can be matched by Wei-Yin Chen and then the Orioles win the bullpen battle. Either way, I see an Oriole win. The two starters are 25-10 between them.
  • The Nationals over the PiratesBryce Harper is heating up and Tanner Roark has had a solid season. The Pirates miss McCutchen and are still a starter short with Charlie Morton continuing in the rotation.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: This is a tough one. James Paxton is a special young arm. But the Tigers are bothered less by lefties than pretty much anyone. Plus, Rick Porcello has had a good season for the Tigers. This could go either way though.
  • The Marlins over the Diamondbacks: The Marlins are tough at their home park. My only reservation is Brad Hand getting the start. Then again, Trevor Cahill does not inspire me either. I am going with the home team since the pitchers seem to cancel each other out.
  • The Mets over the CubsZack Wheeler has had a great month and a half and if he has found himself now, the Mets have to feel good about their future rotation. Good old Travis Wood goes for the Cubs. With him a lot depends where he spots his 88 MPH fastball.
  • The Red Sox over the AstrosClay Buchholz is still a mystery and picking him gives me the shivers. But facing a team of free swingers, he should be fine. Dallas Keuchel hasn't been as good in the last month and a half as he was earlier.
  • The Rays over the Yankees: Tropicana Field is kryptonite to the Yankees who are already struggling to the point of no return. The only interesting question between these two teams is which one will end up with the better record. It's open for debate right now. Brandon McCarthy versus Alex Cobb.
  • The Braves over the Athletics: The Braves mirror what is going on with the Yankees. The team has lost seven of their last ten and are six games back of Washington and three games out of the wild card. But Alex Wood has been one of their few bright spots of late. I like him over Jason Hammel.
  • The Royals over the Twins: I bet Twins fans are happy to see Ricky Nolasco back off the DL. Not. Of course, Danny Duffy has to have a good day against Joe Mauer and company.
  • The Blue Jays over the White Sox: I'm still not sure what to make of Hector Noesi. Can he really be surviving this well judging from his past history? It's a head scratcher. But I am sure about Marcus Stroman, who, other than a coupld of clunkers, has pitched really well for the Blue Jays.
  • The Cardinals over the PadresLance Lynn has been a real solid part of the Cardinals' rotation all season. Tyson Ross has done well for the Padres, but I have to go with Lynn here.
  • The Reds over the Rockies: While I think that the Reds' season is toast, watching Johnny Cueto is still a treat. I do worry about him pitching at Coors Field. But Franklin Morales has to face that as well and he isn't nearly as good as Cueto.
  • The Dodgers over the BrewersZack Greinke has really struggled of late. But him starting at home has to be worth a shot here. The Dodgers are starting to run away from the division and that should continue. I like Jimmy Nelson, but not enough to pick him here.
  • The Giants over the Phillies: This game is a great match-up of two really great pitchers. Madison Bumgarner and Cole Hamels could be a draw. Either one of them could have a big outing. I'll give Bumgarner the edge at home.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Angels over the Rangers: The Angels still have a real good shot at the division title and it is games and series like this one that they have to win. They have a good chance to start this off well with Garrett Richards on the mound facing Nick Martinez. That seems like a solid mismatch.
Yesterday: 9-1, August: 109-81, Games of the Day: 72-54 (+3), Season: 1003-828

Thursday, August 14, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: August 14, 2014

I really thought I was headed for a bad day of picking and the picks stood at 4-6. But then the picks went on a run and the last six were correct to finish at 10-6. I'll take it. The only extra-inning game went the wrong way of course. Any day you pick the Cubs and Padres and Twins to win and they all do, that is a pretty good day.
There are ten games on today's schedule and here are the picks:
  • The Dodgers over the Braves: This pick did not work out so well yesterday and a year ago, I never would have picked Roberto Hernandez. But his last four of five starts have been very good and he has won his last two decisions. That means I have to pick against Aaron Harang, some thing I paid dearly for earlier in the year.
  • The Tigers over the Pirates: The Tigers finally broke through against the Pirates last night and I didn't see it coming. I do tonight though with Max Scherzer on the mound. Of course, Francisco Liriano could match him zero for zero and then the bullpen sinkes the Tigers. But we'll see.
  • The Royals over the Athletics: I said from the very beginning that I was worried about the A's offense without Cespedes and I have been right on. Only once has the A's' offense resembled what they were doing earlier in the season. James Shields gets to earn his nickname and the Royals get to Jeff Samardzija.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: As stated numerous times, I hate when Edwin Jackson pitches. I never know what he is going to do. But for me, the pick comes down to what I like about Mike Fiers. I think the guy is going to be a star. The Brewers just have to keep him in the rotation.
  • The Marlins over the Diamondbacks: Hahahaha! I'm picking the Marlins to win and Brad Penny is pitching. That's a riot. I've completely gone insane. Weeee. Let's ride this puppy! Chase Anderson goes for the Diamondbacks.
  • The Red Sox over the Astros: I sure would like to see the Red Sox try a couple more of their farm guys. But no matter, Allen Webster will win this game and the Red Sox will muster enough offense to beat Scott Feldman.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: Here I am again with the dilemma named Stephen Strasburg. He should never lose a game. But he hardly ever wins a game, especially on the road and especially when I pick him to win. I guess I'll keep picking him and eventually it will come true. Dillon Gee goes for the Mets and he is a quality pitcher.
  • The Padres over the Cardinals: Don't look now, but Eric Stults has won two in a row and both have been against contenders. Imagine that! Plus, the Padres are hitting better and have Liriano, a powerful rookie mashing baseballs. John Lackey, look out. You might get ambushed here.
  • The Rockies over the Reds: I'm going to continue picking Alfredo Simon to continue his slide since the All Star Break. He has shown nothing since the break...nothing at all. Jorge De La Rosa should win this home game.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Rays over the Rangers: I get really confused between Robbie Ross and Robbie Ray. One of them is good and the other isn't. I'm pretty sure this one, Robbie Ross, is the one that will get cuffed around by the Rays. Jake Odorizzi pitches.
Yesterday: 10-6, August: 100-80, Games of the Day: 71-54 (+2), Season: 994-827

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: August 13, 2014

Picking baseball games is like playing golf. You can have several bad holes and really mess it up for a while and then suddenly hit three gorgeous shots and get a birdie. It is the birdie that keeps you coming back for more. After several shanks the past three days, I hit a birdie last night and went 10-3. And there were some tough calls in there.
Of the three I got wrong, you could tell yesterday that I really wanted to pick the Cubs and I did not dare to. I should have. The Cardinals seem to have gone down the same rabbit hole as the Yankees and it is hard to understand. Miami completely beat them and Adam Wainwright. The Tampa - Texas game was correct for six and a half innings until Joel Peralta coughed up the lead and then of course, the pick became incorrect once it went into extra innings.
At least I got a birdie today and can't wait for my next shot again. Wednesday's picks:
  • The Reds over the Red Sox: I liked what I saw in Anthony Ranaudo when he pitched against the Yankees. The only thing about it was that he was facing the Yankees, who are terrible. So it is hard to gauge how good he is. That said, I'm going with Mike Leake, a more proven entity.
  • The Twins over the Astros: I've flip-flopped the picks on this series so far and got them both correct. Let's see if I can go three for three. I like Kyle Gibson over Brett Oberholtzer.
  • The White Sox over the GiantsJose Quintana remains the best pitcher with a losing record in baseball. Either he gets no run support or the bullpen blows up his victories. The Giants are reeling and Jake Peavy has been even more snake bit than Quintana. Which one will have more bad mojo?
  • The Indians over the Diamondbacks: The rain out yesterday allowed the Indians to bypass T.J. House. Instead they will go today with Trevor Bauer in the first game who goes against Andrew Chafin, making his MLB debut. Chafin was a #1 round draft pick in 2011 whose minor league numbers look ordinary.
  • The Indians over the Diamondbacks: Frankly, I don't know why the D-backs bypassed Josh Collmenter with the rain out. He is infinitely more reliable than either Chafin or Vidal Nuno who is pitching the second game. I will go with Josh Tomlin.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: The Padres have been on a nice roll and the Rockies on the opposite. Ian Kennedy should win this one. Tyler Matzek keeps on pitching and never seems to have his record change. It's weird.
  • The Orioles over the Yankees: This is the Orioles' year. It just seems written down already somewhere. Chris Tillman gets the start and will look infinitely easy to hit but the Yankees will not hit, at least not when it counts. Big Michael Pineda is back for the Yankees, but how long will he last and what will he have? And can he pitch without pine tar?
  • The Pirates over the Tigers: The Tigers are starting Buck Farmer. He raises deer apparently. No, seriously, he is a fifth round draft pick in 2013 who has only logged 32 outings in the minors so far, none above Double-A. His numbers look good. But I'll go with Vance Worley, which looks safer.
  • The Dodgers over the Braves: The Dodgers' lead in the NL West has grown to six games and they are starting to run away and hide. Hyun-jin Ryu is as steady as it gets with only one bad outing in his last ten. Ervin Santana has had a pretty good year himself.
  • The Marlins over the Cardinals: Trading for Justin Masterson was a mistake for the Cardinals. Perhaps he will figure it out some time this year. Or perhaps not. Either way, the Cardinals do not have time to find out. Nathan Eovaldi is good at home.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Yeah, I'm going for it. I like Kyle Lohse, but not as much at Wrigley Field. The Brewers are the best team in their division, but are a little weaker against lefties. Tsuyoshi Wada has made five big league starts and four of them have been very good.
  • The Rays over the Rangers: The Rangers are playing a little bit better these days. But their pitching is still the problem. Miles Mikolas is not winning. Chris Archer, on the other hand, is very good. Keep Peralta out of the game and the Rays win.
  • The Royals over the Athletics: The A's broke the Royals streak last night and could do so again with Scott Kazmir on the mound. The one problem is that Kazmir has been touched up in his last two starts. Has he hit a wall? Jason Vargas is a lefty. That's about all the good I can muster. But that is good enough to win in MLB.
  • The Angels over the Phillies: With A.J. Burnett and Jered Weaver pitching tonight, this game feels like a high-scoring affair. If it is, the advantage goes to the Angels. Burnett should have retired.
  • The Mariners over the Blue Jays: I simply cannot pick against Hisashi Iwakuma at home. He is killer there (and pretty much everywhere else too). R.A. Dickey could have a nice outing, but you never know.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Nationals over the Mets: It's hard to pick against Shrek Bartolo Colon. After all, the guy has won 200 big league games. But he has clunkers too and you never know what you will get with him. Jordan Zimmermann is a stud.
Yesterday: 10-3, August: 90-74, Games of the Day: 70-54 (+1), Season: 984-821

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Tuesday: August 12, 2014

A third negative day in a row. A third day in a row of the Game of the Day being incorrect. This is getting depressing. The Game of the Day was the Tigers over the Pirates. Justin Verlander left early with a sore shoulder. Man. I hope he is okay. Kate will have to nurse him back to health.
Picking the Braves and Cardinals has become an exercise in futility. Picking the Cubs is just stupid. Picking against the Royals has become problematic. The world is upside down. All I can do is keep plugging along.
Tuesday's picks:
  • The Diamondbacks over the Indians: We start off with a tough call. T.J. House isn't setting the world on fire, but he has become somewhat adequate. The same can be said for Josh Collmenter whose only bad start recently came against the Phillies. The D-backs are slightly better against lefties, so that's the pick.
  • The Pirates over the TigersRobbie Ray might give the Pirates some trouble. But he definitely has command issues. Edinson Volquez has actually become quite...good. Amazing.
  • The Orioles over the Yankees: The Yankees are terrible. Watching them all season has been the pits. Most teams would have fired the batting coach by now...or something. This season isn't going anywhere, so bring up Refsnyder or something. Awful. Wei-Yin Chen over Shane Greene.
  • The Red Sox over the Reds: Both teams started life wearing the same stockings. Joe Kelly will make his second start for the Red Sox and ironic enough, both have been against the NL Central. In a small sample size, he has pitched well against the Reds. The Red Sox will have Mat Latos at 100 pitches by the fifth inning. My only problem here is the Red Sox losing the DH.
  • The Dodgers over the Braves: Both Dan Haren and Mike Minor have had very disappointing seasons. The main difference is that Haren has thrown a good game once in a while. Minor has not.
  • The Cardinals over the Marlins: Every time I decide never to pick the Cardinals again, I get faced with Adam Wainwright pitching. The ace hasn't been very ace-like in all his outings though. Jarred Cosart goes for the Marlins. Giancarlo Stanton usually hits homers in bunches. That's scary.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: Whenever I say I'm never going to pick the Cubs again, then I get Kyle Hendricks who has done nothing but win for the Cubs. Wily Peralta has fourteen wins. Did you know that? I didn't and it surprised me.
  • The Rays over the Rangers: Ack! All visiting team picks! That's not good, William!! But really, how can I not pick the Rays over the Rangers? Jeremy Hellickson has been good and Nick Tepesch is not my favorite to pick.
  • The Astros over the Twins: I have to pick a home team here. Man. But it's tough. Collin McHugh has been blowing people away, but rarely lasts more than five innings. Four innings from the Astros' bullpen is not a fun thing to think about. Meanwhile, Yohan Pino hasn't done much for the Twins.
  • The Athletics over the Royals: Number one, I hate picking another visiting team to win. Number two, I hate picking against the Royals at this point. But Jon Lester is seriously more talented than Jeremy Guthrie and that is what I have to go by.
  • The Angels over the Phillies: The Phillies struggle against lefties and even though C.J. Wilson has struggled for the last month, he is that lefty. Jerome Williams makes yet another stop on his trek around the Majors. He is usually good in his first starts for a team.
  • The Padres over the RockiesOdrisamer Despaigne started out great for the Padres and has really flamed out lately. But I still like him better than Yohan Flande. Flande just doesn't seem capable of pitching well at this level.
  • The Mariners over the Blue Jays: The rule this season is that you pick Chris Young at home and not on the road. He is at home. J.A. Happ goes for the Blue Jays, who like the Yankees, are watching the Orioles start to run away.
  • The White Sox over the GiantsChris Sale can't lose two games in a row, can he? I cannot imagine it. Ryan Vogelsong will try to keep up with the zeroes. I don't think he can.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Nationals over the Mets: There is quite a contrast between Doug Fister and Rafael Montero. Fister is an artist without a big fastball. Montero has the big arm but no idea where each pitch is going. Which will prevail? I'm picking way too many visiting teams.
Yesterday: 5-6, August: 80-71, Games of the Day: 69-54 (-3), Season: 974-818