Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mark Teixeira and the first pitch

I wrote an article over at It's About the Money, Stupid on how it isn't just the shift that is eating up Mark Teixeira's productivity. His outright refusal to swing at the first pitch has also contributed. Check it out.

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: September 13, 2014

The picks had their second straight good night. They are 25-5 in the last two days. But as good as that sounds, the Game of the Day feature has been wrong three days in a row. Yesterday, I had no idea whatsoever that Nathan Karns was capable of shutting down the Blue Jays on two hits. Seriously!?
Other incorrect picks from yesterday included the first game loss of the Yankees. They had the game at 1-0 and brought in Adam Warren in the bottom of the 11th. Terrible decision. Boom and goodnight. And by the way, the Yankees are officially dead. I did not expect the Red Sox to beat the Royals. Wow, those Royals fans must be in full panic mode now. Gosh, I was hoping for a team over than the Tigers in that division. Lastly, the Mets beat the Nationals again.
So, are two great days of picking worth not having the Game of the Day feature correct? No. Hey, that's the way I roll. I want it all.
Saturday's picks:
  • The Braves over the Rangers: There should be a moratorium on weird baseball names. It's getting out of hand. The latest addition is the Rangers' starter today, Lisalverto Bonilla. I mean, come on already. Can't these scouts in South and Central American only scout guys with easy names? Julio Teheran sounds tame by example.
  • The Orioles over the Yankees: I have officially given up on the Yankees and their offense. Watching their offense is like watching the desert sky waiting for a rain cloud. Don't be surprised if Kevin Long is the designated scapegoat after the season is over. Miguel Gonzalez over Shane Greene.
  • The Rays over the Blue Jays: I have to think about my bias against R.A. Dickey after the season is over. I think I might have picked him once or twice this year. But I always seem to find a reason. Today's is that the Rays' offense is an opportunistic one to make up for their lack of talent. Dickey is good for opportunists. Jeremy Hellickson goes for the Rays. The Blue Jays are just about dead too.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: These two teams play two today after a rain out yesterday. I still like Phil Hughes over the hard luck of Jose Quintana in the first game.
  • The White Sox over the Twins: The second game has a troubling pitching match-up which makes it hard to pick either team. But I guess I'll take Scott Carroll who has thrown a decent game once in a while over Logan Darnell who has seemed out of his element thus far.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: I have a little harder time picking against the Cubs in this game. Felix Doubront has been pitching very well since heading to Wrigleyville. But I will stick with Jeff Locke and the Pirates.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: I have picking against Kyle Kendrick all season so why stop now? I have also been picking against Brad Hand and he was good his last time out. I just wonder where the Marlins will get any offense to win the game.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: The #$%## Tigers are going to win this division again. How freaking boring is that? I can't count on Danny Salazar and Kyle Lobstein has made me look foolish for four starts in a row now.
  • The Royals over the Red Sox: If the Royals cannot beat Rubby De La Rosa, I don't know what else to say. Of course, I would feel a whole lot more confident if Jeremy Guthrie wasn't the Royals' starter today.
  • The Brewers over the Reds: Once again, I am going with Yovani Gallardo at home even though he is not as much of a lock there as in the past. David Holmberg was pretty good in his last start even if I have no idea who he is.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: Maybe Jayson Werth can get on the field today despite his "dead legs." Whoever heard of such a thing? I like Zack Wheeler a lot. But I like Doug Fister more.
  • The Padres over the DiamondbacksChase Anderson has had a decent season. But he does not get a whole lot of decisions in his starts. Tyson Ross gets lots of decisions but has only won half of them. When Ross is on, he is awfully good.
  • The Angels over the Astros: I have not given Jered Weaver his due. No pitcher does more with less stuff. And he is 16-8. You can't argue with that. Scott Feldman will be today's victim.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: At 9-10, Tim Hudson is in serious danger of breaking his streak of winning seasons. He has never had a losing season in his long and brilliant career. Zack Greinke might be the one to seal that fate.
  • The Mariners over the Athletics: For the first time in his career, Felix Hernandez is going to pitch a meaningful game that could vault them into the post season. I think he will bask in the moment. Sonny Gray will not get any support.
And the Game of the Day
  • The Cardinals over the RockiesFranklin Morales will give the Cards some trouble simply because they don't hit lefties well. That said, Shelby Miller has been on fire in his last three starts.
Yesterday: 11-4, Sept.: 98-65, Games of the Day: 92-63 (-3), Season: 1228-999

Friday, September 12, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Friday: September 12, 2014

I was one blown save away from a perfect picking day. When Chris Young hit his three-run blast in the bottom of the ninth off of Jake McGee to win the game for the New York Yankees, a dream 11-0 day went out the window. That was also the Game of the Day pick. And you know what? How can I be upset about that?
I had called the double-header sweep by Cleveland. I had called the Red Sox win. I had called Cueto's gem over the Cardinals. I had gotten it all. And then that homer. But I don't care. I'm happy.
The only thing I'm not happy about was what happened to Giancarlo Stanton and Chase Headley. Both got hit in the face by fastballs. I really hope that both will be okay. That was very, very scary.
Friday's picks:
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: These two teams play two games today and this will be a tough task for the Yankees. The Orioles are starting two of their regular rotation guys and the Yankees will have to use an untested rookie in the second game. Besides that, the Yankees are missing lots of players due to being banged up. The Yankees have their best chance in the first game as Brandon McCarthy faces Kevin Gausman.
  • The Orioles over the Yankees: I really like Bryan Mitchell and I think he is going to be a good pitcher. But this is a lot to ask of a guy making his first MLB start. Bud Norris goes for the O's.
  • The Pirates over the CubsTsuyoshi Wada has been great for the Cubs and the 33-year-old Japanese star knows how to pitch. I just think that Gerrit Cole and the Pirates the way they are playing will be too much for the Cubs to overcome.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Without Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup for the Marlins, they have little to work with. Plus, Cole Hamels is very, very good. Henderson Alvarez does have flashes of brilliance, but what support will he get?
  • The Tigers over the IndiansDavid Price is way due for a win and though Carlos Carrasco has pitched really well for the Indians, I can't see him matching Price if Price is on his game.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: There is some bad blood brewing in this series already. Dillon Gee looked good against the Reds, but the Reds are struggling. Gio Gonzalez had a good start his last time out too.
  • The Rangers over the Braves: If Derek Holland pitches like he did his first two starts, then the Braves won't touch him. But that is the only way the Rangers win the game. Otherwise, this pick could go up in flames with Alex Wood going for the Braves.
  • The Royals over the Red SoxYordano Ventura has to pitch well for this pick to come in. Otherwise, Allen Webster and the Red Sox could prevail for the second straight game.
  • The Brewers over the Reds: I always like picking Kyle Lohse at home. He traditionally does better in those cases. Mat Latos can come up big, but I don't see it happening today.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: The one thing I can be sure about is that Phil Hughes will probably not walk anyone and Jose Quintana just never gets a break. Both of these pitchers have been really good all season.
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: The Cardinals have stumbled again and if ever they needed a stopping kind of win it is from Adam Wainwright today. Jorge De La Rosa is the Rockies' best starter.
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: Is it just me or do Vidal Nuno and Eric Stults always seem to face each other? How do you pick a winner out of those two guys? I'm going with the Padres, but I have no good reason.
  • The Angels over the Astros: The Angels hardly ever lose these days and are clicking really well. Brett Oberholtzer should get some props for taking the ball every fifth day and giving it his best. I don't see him beating the Angels and C.J. Wilson today.
  • The Mariners over the Athletics: This is the Mariners' chance to knock off the A's while the A's are really vulnerable. James Paxton has been terrific and Jason Hammel can be had.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: This is a tough one as two tough lefty pitchers square off. I am giving the edge to Madison Bumgarner over Hyun-jin Ryu because he has been at the top of his game in the last month.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Blue Jays over the Rays: The Rays will start Nate Karns who they got in the Loboton trade with the Nationals. Karns made three unimpressive starts last year for the Nats and has not had a good season in Triple-A. I'm going with J.A. Happ even though he looks out of gas lately.
Yesterday: 10-1, Sept: 87-61, Games of the Day: 92-62 (-2), Season: 1217-895

Thursday, September 11, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: September 11, 2014

Never forget.
Several streaks ended for me yesterday. The first was the Game of the Day feature. I picked Oakland and their offense again took a dive and the streak ends at seven. I also had a two-day hot streak with the picks. That ended with a crash of a 6-8 day (one postponement). And lastly, the puppy had gone two good days in a row, but yesterday wasn't a good day. Puppies will be puppies. By the way, his name is Jeter.
Oh! Nick Tropeano beat the odds yesterday. Congrats to him.
Thursday's picks:
  • The Indians over the Twins: These two teams play two today after getting rained out yesterday. Kyle Gibson now picks up Corey Kluber. Those are the breaks.
  • The Indians over the Twins: I'm feeling a sweep here. As mentioned yesterday, T.J. House is putting things together nicely and I have no trouble picking against Ricky Nolasco.
  • The Reds over the Cardinals: Okay. Now the Cardinals have me confused again. They were starting to roll and headed into play one of the most struggling teams in the first half. And they lose. Now they face Johnny CuetoLance Lynn can save them though...and defeat me.
  • The White Sox over the AthleticsChris Sale has nine no-decisions this season. Sheesh. If you look at all his numbers, they are just sick. They are like video game numbers. He is so good. Scott Kazmir goes for the A's.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: I picked the Diamondbacks yesterday. That was dumb. Jake Peavy has been really good for the Giants. I am a bit worried about picking all home teams thus far and about how well Randall Delgado pitched in his first start last week.
  • The Pirates over the PhilliesA.J. Burnett has been on the every-other-merry-go-round in his last four starts. This would be the bad turn. But who knows with Burnett...ever. Francisco Liriano will give the Phillies some problems.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: I believe the Nats will jump all over Bartolo Colon. Their offense is just too good. And Tanner Roark is still my guy even if he hasn't won in a while. The Mets and Yankees are home at the same time!?
  • The Angels over the Rangers:  I still don't know what the Angels are doing by starting Cory Rasmus for the third time. Even so, in a series and in a setting where even Albert Pujols can hit a triple, I have to go with the Angels against Nick Martinez.
  • The Red Sox over the Royals: I shouldn't pick against the Royals and I was quite impressed with their win yesterday over the Tigers. That showed me something. But this pick is based on the Royals starting Liam Hendriks to cover Danny Duffy and because Clay Buchholz has been super impressive lately.
  • The Brewers over the MarlinsMike Fiers, he's my guy. Pick against him? No, not I. Heh. Nathan Eovaldi starts for the other team.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Rays over the Yankees: Alex Cobb just destroys the Yankees. They never can do anything against him. Plus, they never score for Michael Pineda either. But who knows, who would have thought Chris Young would have a three-hit game?
-Yesterday: 6-8, Sept.: 77-60, Games of the Day: 92-61 (-1), Season: 1207-994

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

First year starters are a crap shoot

Tonight, Nick Tropeano will be the 45th pitcher this season to make his Major League debut as a pitcher (and start at least one game). Last year, 57 pitchers did the same and there were 48 who did so in 2012. The data from those pitchers in their very first year and starting at least once in that first year shows that Tropeano and the Houston Astros are hoping for the best in what has not been a very successful adventure.
I don't know about you, but I love players making their debuts. It's part of that baseball circle of life thing that keeps the blood fresh and interesting. And I always root for the guy to do well. With the exception of the guys drafted in the top rounds, many of these pitchers worked their way through the systems, rode buses galore, didn't make a whole pile of dough and earned a shot. You want someone to make it after knowing that kind of history.
More often than not, it does not work out. Of the 48 pitchers that made their debut in 2012, only sixteen of them had an ERA better than league average. For every Chris Archer, there were two like Brooks Raley. And yet, I bet to a man, each and every one of those pitchers would not trade the experience for the world. I'm not sure about their managers.
Let's look at some of the overall numbers. The league average ERA in 2012 was 4.01. The average ERA of pitchers who started in their debut seasons was 4.41. In 2013, the league average ERA was 3.87 and the debut season guys compiled to a 4.20. This year, the average ERA is 3.76 and the debut guys are averaging 4.27.
And don't forget that those debut season numbers are propped up by guys who really succeeded. For example, Hyun jin Ryu and Jose Fernandez really propped those numbers up quite a bit in 2012.
Let's look at some other data:
Hits per nine: The league average has remained pretty stable at 8.7 hits per nine in 2012 and 2013 and 8.6 this year. The debut pitchers have averaged, 8.9, 9.1 and 9.4 respectively.
WHIP: The average WHIP in baseball for the last three years has been 1.309 (2012), 1.300 (2013) and 1.281 this year.  The debut pitchers have averaged following that same year pattern, 1.369, 1.372, 1.373. Again, significantly higher despite some real success stories bolstering the numbers.
Strikeouts per nine from 2012 through 2014: 7.6, 7.6 and 7.7. Same timeline for the debutantes: 7.4, 7.4 and 6.9.
Walks per nine from 2012 through 2014: 3.1, 3.0 and 2.9. For the debut review: 3.2, 3.3 and 2.9.
Strikeout to walk ratio in MLB from 2012 to 2014: 2.48, 2.51, 2.64. Now for the first timers: 2.33, 2.24 and this year, 2.34.
Did you notice a trend with those numbers? While the MLB averages have shown better peripherals across the board for pitching each season, with the exception of walks per nine and K/BB, the numbers for the debut guys are worse each year. Why would that be?
I have some theories but do not have time to test them out. One is that teams are pushing these debuts to younger pitchers or those with less experience. This theory might not hold water because the average debut age this year is 25 and it was in the 23 range in 2013 and 2012. But that also may be skewed by older debut guys like Tsuyoshi Wada and Jason Lane (as a pitcher). The other is that many of these debuts come for teams down in the standings with low payrolls and they might not benefit from the same quality of fielding behind them.
One last statistic because most don't think it significant: The winning percentage of the debut pitchers are (from 2012 to 2014 respectively), .461, .482 and .442.
We have looked at ERA, WHIP, H/9, K/9, BB/9 and K/BB. Of those six categories leading to eighteen numbers to look at over the three year period, only one stat for one year matches that year's average. One out of eighteen. All in all, the peripherals for every category were worse than league average and worse for successive years from 2012 to this year.
I will be rooting for Nick Tropeano. For one thing, he is Italian (or at least his name is). Secondly, he is from New York and lastly, I am a sucker fro guys trying to make a mark in their world. But as much as I root for Nick Tropeano, the odds are against him.

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: September 10, 2014

Have you ever noticed that my picks are always more successful west of the Mississippi than they are east of it? For example, I started yesterday with the east coast and was 1-3 before my supper digested. I built that up to 5-5 and then did not get another game wrong the rest of the day. Weird. Maybe in the east, the teams are more on par and play closer games and in the west, there are more differences between the teams. Whatever it is, the west gave me a good night.
I did pick Collin McHugh and Houston to beat the Mariners. That was a nice pick. I was unfortunately correct about the Tigers though Joe Nathan made it interesting as he always does.. I did not see the Phillies beating the Pirates though.
Wednesday's picks:
  • The Orioles over the Red SoxBrandon Workman wants to start and not be in the bullpen. He hasn't exactly made a case for himself. Wei-Yin Chen has a great record but it hasn't changed much in a while. I just pick the Orioles every night and that seems to work pretty well.
  • The Nationals over the Braves: Here we go again...picking Stephen Strasburg against the Braves. Hey, he has to have a good outing against them some time...even if it's just lucky or something. Aaron Harang goes for the Braves.
  • The Indians over the Twins: This pick did not work out yesterday. Mr. T.J. House has put it together, however, and has two really good outings in a row. Kyle Gibson wins more than he loses, but you got me as to how.
  • The Pirates over the Phillies: I told you in the past that Jerome Williams' magic only lasts for a couple of starts with each new team. Then he turns into the guy his team wants to DFA. That's just his history. Vance Worley isn't grooving much better these days...
  • The Rays over the YankeesJake Odorizzi over Chris Capuano. I don't want to talk about it.
  • The Blue Jays over the Cubs: Hmm...which great young pitcher will pitch better, Drew Hutchison or Kyle Hendricks? That's a tough one. I turned it around to which team is better able to hit against each pitcher. There was my answer.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: Poof. I knew this series would go down just like it did. Let's see if I'm right through the end. Rick Porcello needs to be better than he has been lately. James Shields is "Big Game" except when it comes to the Tigers.
  • The Mets over the Rockies: Location is everything. If Rafael Montero wasn't pitching in vast Citi Field, I wouldn't pick him. But since he is with his fly ball tendencies, he can get away with that and get his first big league win. Tyler Matzek grimly takes the ball every fifth day...
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Despite a bad loss last night in which the Cardinal twitter universe spewed all over manager, Mike Matheny, I am predicting a good game from John Lackey and a bad one from Alfredo Simon.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: Until Derek Holland came back and with Darvish out, Nick Tepesch was the best of the Rangers' young starters. That still wasn't saying much. Matt Shoemaker is a machine. Does he have a flaw?
  • The Marlins over the Brewers: The Brewers can't do anything right and are sinking like a mafia swimmer. Wily Peralta has had a good season and maybe he can stop the bleeding. I wouldn't count on it. Jarred Cosart has been really good for the Marlins.
  • The Mariners over the Astros: Nick Tropeano is from West Islip, NY, so you have to say his name right. Turn your hand up and tough your thumb to your forefinger and say, "Nick Trop-ee-AH-no." The young man, making his MLB debut, has impressive numbers for the PCL (a hitter's league) and good control. Too bad he goes against Hisashi Iwakuma at home. Sorry about that.
  • The Dodgers over the PadresDan Haren and Ian Kennedy both confuse and confound me, so I'll just pick the home team.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Josh Collmenter has really impressed me this season. Nice job, sir. Ryan Vogelsong has a very nice wife.
And the Game of the Day
  • The Athletics over the White Sox: I hate to be a hound, but Chris Bassitt doesn't have the command to beat a team like the A's. Jeff Samardzija should feel at home back in Chicago.
Yesterday: 10-5, Sept.: 71-52, Games of the Day: 92-60 (+6), Season: 1201-986