Saturday, September 06, 2014

What now for the Texas Rangers?

No one should speculate on what caused Ron Washington to step down as manager of the Texas Rangers. If his personal difficulties are that problematic, we should pray for him and hope that things work out for he and his family. The bottom line for the Rangers is that Washington probably saved them some trouble. Somebody was going to have to pay for this season.
That somebody is usually the manager. The Rangers, a preseason favorite for some, have a .376 winning record and are actually more than eight games behind the Houston Astros in the AL West standings. That is a steep fall from grace for a team that went to the World Series in 2010 and 2011.
Everyone can point to the injuries and they are myriad. Yu Darvish has been just the latest of the projected starting rotation to go down. A cursory look at the team's forty-man roster shows 60-day DL designations for: Matt HarrisonMartin PerezAlexi OgandoPedro FigueroaJurickson ProfarShin-Soo ChooPrince Fielder and Mitch Moreland. And Derek Holland just made his first appearance of the season.
So yes, the injuries were debilitating. But can a .376 winning percentage totally be pegged on just that staggering list of injuries? Other teams like the Yankees have had similar injury issues if not to the extent of the Rangers and have at least been decent.
The Rangers' nose-dive has been across the board. The offense ranks 12th in the American League in runs scored. Adrian Beltre, cementing his Hall of Fame case, is having another great season but is the only current Rangers' starter in the lineup with an OPS+ over 100.
And the offense should not have been this bad. Alex Rios has four home runs. Four! After several seasons, it must be now assumed that Elvis Andrus will never be an offensive star at shortstop. Leonys Martin has not lived up to the promise and at Age 26, probably will not. Rougned Odor has shown flashes, but not a sustained season and the catching has been a black hole.
The offense was not as impacted as the pitching so it should have been better. The pitching has been almost historically bad. The Rangers are last in the American League in ERA. They are next to last in hits and homers allowed and next to last in strikeouts. And to top it all off, they are 13th in walks allowed. And Yu Darvish propped up a lot of those numbers!
Every pitcher in the current rotation except Nick Tepesch has an ERA over five. Colby Lewis has the best FIP among the starters (not including Darvish) at 4.33.  They have been blown out thirty times. They only have 25 total saves.
So where do the Rangers go from here? Do they simply hope all their stars return and then return to form in 2015? Things are never that simple. It is difficult for a player to miss significant time and come back at a level maintained before.
The team does not have to worry about what to do with Ron Washington as he solved that for him. The fan base is unhappy and does not totally buy into the injury excuse. And Washington does not seem to be the target of their ire. Jon Daniels gets far more heat. I don't know if that is justified or not. He gets a lot of the blame for forcing Nolan Ryan out and Ryan was (right or wrong) given much of the credit for turning the pitching around.
General Managers rarely get fired and because of the Rangers' past success, Daniels will probably get a pass and a chance to see if the team can bounce back in 2015 with a healthier team.
The fans will be watching. They have already spoken by attending over 200,000 less times to games this season for an average loss per game of over 4,100 seats. A loss of that kind of revenue should give Daniels a shorter leash (if he makes it to 2015).
The team also has to select a manager going forward. Will it be a rebuilding manager or one that takes the talent they have and brings them back to a team to contend. When a team like the Rangers sinks this low this quickly, the most difficult part is to know how much the injuries played in how badly the season went. Those injuries certainly didn't help.
Jon Daniels will have an interesting off season and an unhappy fan base will be watching closely.

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: September 6, 2014

I'm not having a good morning. I was really tired last night and went to bed way early for me. I woke up to get the puppy from his room and he had pooped and peed all over it. Happy Saturday, William! Then I got to the picks from yesterday and there were four extra-inning games. Three of them went against the picks. Besides that, the Orioles and Yankees were shut out.
The final ugly tally was a 6-8 day with one suspended game to be finished today. So it could actually get worse depending on how that turns out. Oh, and the Astros beat the A's. You can't predict ball.
Saturday's picks:
  • The Orioles over the Rays: This could be wrong again if The Emoticon, Drew Smyly, has a good day. Kevin Gausman certainly has the ability to shut the Rays down. Perhaps the O's know they are so far ahead that it matters little.
  • The Giants over the Tigers: You have two great left-handed aces going here in Madison Bumgarner and David Price. They are even in my book. So if they cancel each other out, the Giants' bullpen is slightly better than the Tigers'. This game is too close to call.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: For the first time all season, I don't know what to do with Scott Kazmir. He has fallen apart and his old control issue is back. Was it just a couple of bad games? Will he put it back together? Can the A's muster any offense these days? Scott Feldman hopes not.
  • The Yankees over the Royals: I don't know why I am doing this. Yesterday should have discouraged me enough on the Bronx team from ever picking them again. But I like Brandon McCarthy at Yankee Stadium in a day game. Of course, Danny Duffy is very impressive these days. I am probably throwing this pick away.
  • The Nationals over the PhilliesTanner Roark had a bad game his last time out in Seattle. I still trust him more than A.J. Burnett. But the Nats' defense and bullpen leave a lot to be desired. Every game the Phillies win here down the stretch adds to Amaro's delusion.
  • The Cubs over the Pirates: Felix Doubront has gotten a new life in Chicago. He was so far south in the Red Sox' doghouse. I think he can beat Francisco Liriano with those young bats behind him.
  • The Reds over the MetsJohnny Cueto should not allow the Mets to pile up runs again like yesterday. Dillon Gee has been disappointing. The Reds can't hit these days though. By the way, I called that Granderson homer yesterday.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: What do you do when a pitcher has been god-like most of the year and suddenly loses three in a row? Do you stick with Corey Kluber or bail? I don't know, frankly. Carlos Quintana never gets a break and his quality has gone down a bit now. Cleveland at home is what I am basing this pick.
  • The Twins over the Angels: Oh what the heck, let's go with Phil Hughes. The Twins took the Angels to extra-innings before losing yesterday and Hughes is their stopper. Corey Rasmus starting for the Angels forces their bullpen to come up big.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: I simply cannot rely on Nathan Eovaldi to pitch well to pick the Marlins. Yeah, Stanton is killing the ball right now as are some of his teammates, but Eovaldi sours me. Alex Wood is going for the Braves.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: First let me say that A.J. Pierzynski is such a jerk that it still angers me that he got a job after the Red Sox let him go. Him saying something on the way back to the dugout is typical of the kind of jerk he is. He is an embarrassment to the Cardinals. Lance Lynn over his old buddy, Kyle Lohse.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue JaysClay Buchholz seems to be back to the star pitcher he once was. For now... J.A. Happ seems to be running out of tricks to keep what was a promising season going. My only problem here is that Buchholz's recent success does not include his home appearances where he is routinely awful.
  • The Mariners over the Rangers: Regression has been calling Chris Young's name. Nick Martinez has been awful. So the final score here could be double-figures for both. Ugly game to pick.
  • The Rockies over the PadresJorge De La Rosa just got an extension to his contract and thus should be a happy man. He has weathered Coors Field just about better than anyone. Joe Wieland is young (24) and gets his first big league appearance since 2012. I like him a lot because he has great control. But it is too bad he has to start his rebirth at Coors.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: I cannot see anything but good things for a game started in L.A. by Hyun-jin Ryu. Chace Anderson will try to battle to keep his team in the game, but the Dodgers should win this one.
Yesterday: 6-8, Sept.: 34-31, Games of the Day: 88-60 (+3), Season: 1164-965

Friday, September 05, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Friday: September 5, 2014

Following two 8-7 days, the tally for last night was 4-4. How uninspiring. When I looked at my picks this morning, my first thought was: "Why in the world would I have picked the Texas Rangers!?" Yes, exactly. Sometimes in life, we just make choices that don't make sense.
Friday's picks:
  • The Cubs over the Pirates: The Cubs are my new obsession. I love how they have been pitching and how they have been fearless in bringing up young players. And today, I like Tsuyoshi Wada over Vance Worley.
  • The White Sox over the IndiansT.J. House pitched really well in his last start which gives me pause for this pick. Also, the Indians are tough to beat at home. However, Chris Sale is the great equalizer and one of the best pitchers in the game.
  • The Yankees over the Royals: The Yankees have handled James Shields pretty well over the years although he has an occasionally great game against them. If Michael Pineda is on, it won't matter what Shields does.
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: Has Stephen Strasburg finally turned a corner? Is he now a reliable pick? We'll see. Jerome Williams will try to continue his hot pitching for the Phillies.
  • The Tigers over the Giants: This is a tough one. The Giants will get to put the Panda at DH and get an extra bat. And Jake Peavy has pitched well for the Giants. My feeling is that Peavy will suffer a bit coming back to an AL park and having to pitch to nine hitters. Rick Porcello with the win.
  • The Marlins over the Braves: Hasn't this Jarred Cosart - Aaron Harang match-up already happened like seven times this year? No, just once. And Cosart got the better of the day. I like him again at home this time.
  • The Orioles over the Rays: I've said it before: Buck Showalter is the only manager that schools Joe Maddon on a regular basis. Wei-Yin Chen has been reliable and Alex Cobb has seemed more vulnerable lately. The O's seem unstoppable.
  • The Mets over the Reds: It is so hard to predict the games that Bartolo Colon will be great. There is the expectation that he will be great for one game out of four. But which one? Great America Ballpark doesn't seem like the obvious choice. We'll see. Alfredo Simon will try to keep his bounce-back going. I feel a Curtis Granderson homer here.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: The loss last night for the Red Sox had to have been devastating. But ballplayers are good at taking things day to day. So this all depends on Drew Hutchison and how well he pitches. Allen Webster will go for the Red Sox who should get Captain Jammypants Dustin Pedroia back tonight.
  • The Mariners over the Rangers: I would really like to pick the Fabulous Scott Baker to continue his comeback in style. I learned my lesson last night picking the Rangers. Besides, I'm not picking against Hisashi Iwakuma, even if it is at Texas.
  • The Brewers over the CardinalsJohn Lackey is due for one of his dominant starts. And the Brewers have been terrible. My only reason for not doing the sane thing by picking the Cardinals is that Mike Fiers is pitching for the Brewers. He's my guy.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: How do you pick this one? Tyler Matzek and Eric Stults are a combined 10-24. Fun. I'll go for the Rockies at home in what could be a long, long game.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: I'm still disappointed that Jeff Samardzija did not go to the Red Sox. I was looking forward to the pronunciation of, "Sahmahdzah," Anyway, he will beat poor Brett Oberholtzer.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Dodgers: Vidal Nuno has been surprisingly effective for the D-backs after throwing nothing but meatballs for the Yankees. He has a 3.23 ERA over his last ten starts. He hasn't won any of those starts though. Dan Haren has had a tough season.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Angels over the Twins: There are two pitchers you can't go wrong picking against. Garza is one and the other is Ricky Nolasco. To top that thought off, Matt Shoemaker is pitching. Ah yes. This can't go wrong........can it?
Yesterday: 4-4, September: 28-23, Games of the Day: 87-60 (+2), Season: 1158-957

Thursday, September 04, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: September 4, 2014

Wednesday provided a second straight kiss-your-sister 8-7 result. Whenever you have two aces like Felix Hernandez and Jon Lester, one of them has to win and it is like flipping the coin. I lost the toss. I did not expect Josh Collmenter to continue his really outstanding pitching and he did. I did not expect the Yankees to win. And they did behind a big night from Brian McCann. I did not expect the Angels to lose to the Astros again. And Justin Verlander had nothing yesterday. Those and more sabotaged some good picks like the Cubs, Nationals and Cardinals.
There are only eight games on the schedule today and surprisingly, none are day games. Here are my Thursday picks:
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Not having Dustin Pedroia in the lineup really hurts the already hurting offense of the Red Sox and while Chris Capuano is not a guy to stake my reputation on, Brandon Workman isn't either.
  • The Orioles over the RedsMike Leake is very unpredictable and could hurt this pick, but the Orioles are always the team to pick these days, especially behind Chris Tillman who always looks beatable, but always seems to win.
  • The Rays over the Blue Jays: I like the Rays chances against Mark Buehrle today. Buehrle will keep it to four runs or under so the key is Jake Odorizzi who has shown flashes of brilliance lately.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: This is probably a stupid pick but I'm feeling Robbie Ross Jr. after his last start and because as a lefty, he might give the Mariners' offense some trouble. Besides, Roenis Elias is not all that reliable and has lost his last three starts.
  • The Angels over the Twins: The Angels have gone a little cold here lately and when Mike Trout doesn't hit, this team has problems. That said, they are better than the Twins and I will take Hector Santiago over Kyle Gibson.
  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: You should know me by now in that I never trust a pitcher coming back from a long absence on the DL. Though I will say this: If Michael Wacha can come back and be Michael Wacha, that is a huge boost to the Cardinals down the stretch. I like Wily Peralta at home here.
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: This pick went all wrong yesterday. But I'm feeling good picking against the D-backs today because Randall Delgado is starting. I am not knocking him. It's just that he hasn't gone more than three innings in an outing since early in the season. I will take Ian Kennedy here.
And the Game of the Day
  • The Tigers over the Indians: I got this wrong yesterday thanks to Verlander. But also because Danny Salazar was outstanding. I don't think Trevor Bauer can match that performance and Max Scherzer is still the Tigers' ace.
Yesterday: 8-7, September: 24-19, Games of the Day: 86-60 (+1), Season: 1154-953

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Collin McHugh - a flower amidst the ruins

The Houston Astros have been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. Another big losing season (with some improvement) meant the chopping block for their highly regarded manager, Bo Porter. Some young studs have been brought up from the minors (with some controversy) and have not delivered. But amidst such a ruinous season has emerged Collin McHugh as a bright spot.
Collin McHugh was never regarded as a top prospect. He was drafted in the 18th Round of the 2008 draft by the New York Mets. They traded him to the Rockies for Eric Young. Yes, you may laugh now. The Rockies exposed him to waivers and the Astros snatched him up. Give the stat folks in the Astros' front office some credit for that coup.
McHugh won regularly in the minors. His strikeout rate suffered some in the infamous hitter-crazy PCL while in the Rockies system. But the control was still there and the Astros liked what they saw. And they should have.
And don't be fooled by Collin McHugh's 7-9 record. Seven of those losses occurred when the Astros failed to score more than two runs. He is 7-2 in games his team scores three runs or more. And his peripherals are great.
How great? How about 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings? How about his 3.3 strikeout to walk ratio? He also has allowed only 7.3 hits per nine innings and has done a great job of keeping the ball in the park. His 25% strikeout rate is identical to Cueto and Lester. And his WHIP is a very good 1.12.
I like to look at the ERA compared to FIP and McHugh is doing very well there too. His ERA is 2.99 while his FIP is 3.26 (xFIP of 3.23). So Collin McHugh has done very well. But how has he done it?
McHugh does not have much of a fastball and tops out in the low 90s. But he throws curves 22.5% of the time and sliders 29.2% of the time. Both pitches have been exceptional for him. The slider is especially effective rating out at 12.6 runs above average. That ranks fourth among starters.
While he doesn't fool people out of the strike zone, he has a good rate of first pitch strikes, which is important for a guy throwing a lot of breaking balls and he has a very good 11% swing and miss rate.
Perhaps he has been a bit fortunate with a BABIP of .273 and a strand rate of 76%, but the rest of the numbers seem to point to a pitcher that has found himself in the Majors.
One area McHugh can improve upon is his efficiency. In his 21 starts, he is averaging only 6.02 innings per start. And yet, he consistently throws more than 100 pitches a game. If he can be more efficient, he can last longer into the game and not have to trust a spotty bullpen to work for him. I would guess that he is trying to be perfect with his breaking stuff when he gets ahead in the count.
Collin McHugh will face the Angels tonight. They are a tough team and McHugh's outing will be tested. But if he is on, it doesn't matter who he faces. He has a 2.25 in three starts against the Angels thus far this year and a 3.32 ERA against teams with a record better than .500. 
There has been a lot of gray in Houston this season, but Collin McHugh has been a hue of bright colors. He has been a flower amidst the ruins.

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: September 3, 2014

Tuesday's picks went a perfectly mediocre 8-7. I had picked the Indians, which looked good until the ninth inning. Carlos Carrasco did something never done before, but in vain. He struck out ten while giving up ten his while only allowing one run. And he did that all in 5.1 innings. I had said on Twitter that this combination had never been done before and was quickly shot down. But I was correct and when I proved it, the shooter never acknowledged that I was correct in the first place. Don't you hate that?
The Braves and Yankees continue to tank and my picks are not reflecting the fact. Both teams were brutal yesterday. I have failed to acknowledge the Cubs as they keep winning. And the Astros beat the Angels too. It is a pretty strange night when the Mets win a slugfest.
Wednesday's picks:
  • The Braves over the Phillies: I must be stubborn or something as I keep picking the Braves when they clearly are in a slump. But, golly, Ervin Santana should beat David Buchanan, should he not?
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: You have to give the Pirates credit. If they can turn around Edinson Volquez, they can turn around anybody. And I would pick him today except that through all the miserable starts Shelby Miller has made this year, he has been great in day games. You have to dig deep to do this stuff. Heh.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: There hasn't been any pitching in this series, so stating that Ryan Vogelsong and Christian Bergman are pitching doesn't mean a whole lot. The win will go to the first team to ten runs.
  • The Athletics over the MarinersFelix Hernandez has been a bit vulnerable in his last four starts and except for last night, the M's have been in a bit of a hitting funk. I like Jon Lester's chances in this one.
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: I have to be good here because forged will be on me, but I have just about had enough of the team from the Bronx. I want their season to end and for Derek Jeter to ride off into the sunset. So many emotions! Anthony Ranaudo has won all three of his starts, Hiroki Kuroda should also retire after this season.
  • The Orioles over the RedsDylan Axelrod apparently has rebuilt his career as he is pitching great since his return to the big show. And Miguel Gonzalez is the Orioles' weakest starter. But can you really pick against the O's these days? Nope.
  • The Tigers over the IndiansDanny Salazar has been very good his last three outings. The problem is that he doesn't go deep into the game. We are talking five innings here. And the Indians' bullpen is frightening. Justin Verlander would be the cheeky pick here. That was a pun over his recent exposed posterior being spread around. He can take his vengeance out on the Indians.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: I really like both pitchers in this game in Jacob deGrom and Tom Koehler. I have had both on my fantasy team. I like deGrom more though, so that's the pick.
  • The Blue Jays over the RaysMarcus Stroman got bombed by the Rays on August 22. So either he will be shaky or have revenge on his mind. He had a great start his last time out. Chris Archer has been scuffling over his last month after looking terrific for most of the season.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Okay, Cubs. I've started to belief. I especially like Kyle Hendricks. And I especially don't like Matt Garza. Besides, Cubs, Garza mouthed off about his time with the Cubs. Incentive enough?
  • The Angels over the Astros: I really, really want to pick the Astros as Collin McHugh is a terrific young pitcher. And Jered Weaver isn't overly inspiring, though he wins a lot. The Angels are the better team and if Weaver has a good day, they should win.
  • The White Sox over the Twins: Ugh. This is a match-up from down below. John Danks can never be counted upon and Trevor May isn't exactly enjoying his time in the Majors thus far and is 0-4. Like I said: Ugh. And it looks like Adam Eaton is out again.
  • The Royals over the RangersJason Vargas is never my favorite pick to make. And Nick Tepesch has pitched much better of late. The Royals have a slight edge at home and with their bullpen.
  • The Padres over the DiamondbacksJosh Collmenter has had a very good season. Andrew Cashner has pretty much had a lost season. The pick comes down to how hot the Padres are as a team, especially at home.
And the Game of the Day
  • The Nationals over the DodgersJordan Zimmermann will have to have a good game as the Dodgers are a good team. Carlos Frias gets his first MLB start after five relief appearances. Signed as a 17-year-old free agent way back in 2007, Frias has paid his dues. He has good control but not a knock out pitch.
Yesterday: 8-7: September: 16-12, Games of the Day: 85-60 (-1), Season: 1146-946