Saturday, September 20, 2014

VMart and Donnie Baseball

Victor Martinez is having a remarkable offensive season. And it isn’t just the 31 homers and 31 doubles and the .333 batting average. What is remarkable is that in the inglorious age of the strikeout, Martinez has only struck out 40 times all season. He is on pace to finish with 43 strikeouts. When considering that remarkable number, it made me curious as to how many times since 1961 someone has hit over 30 homers with less than 45 strikeouts.  So I went to my trusty and checked it out.
First of all, why did I only go back to 1961? Good question. The answer is that 1961 was right around the first time when the strikeout rate averaged five strikeouts per team per game (1959 to be exact). And even going that far back is problematic. The average strikeout rate in 1961 was 13.2% compared to it being 20.3% this season.  If you go back further than 1961, then a low strikeout rate with a lot of homers just wasn’t that remarkable.
For example, Lou Gehrig had a remarkably low strikeout rate in 1934 (by today’s standards). But the strikeout rate for the league in 1934 was just 9.8%. It just isn’t the same kind of apple to an apple. The bottom line is that I chose to only go back some 53 years to 1961. That’s still a lot of baseball years.
Unless Victor Martinez goes on a strikeout binge in the last week of the season, he will be the eighth player since 1961 to put together that combination of 30 or more homers with 45 or less strikeouts. Moises Alou had 45 strikeouts with 30 homers in 2000. Gary Sheffield had 40 strikeouts with 33 homers in 1992. Barry Bonds did it twice, once in 1994 which most would say was legit and again in 2004 when most would say it wasn't.
I’ve left three other occasions out, haven’t I? Oh yes, all three belong to Don Mattingly. And Mattingly did it in three consecutive seasons from 1985 to 1987. The only players that put that combination together as many times or more times than Don Mattingly compiled their last one at least 30 years before Mattingly. And like I said, that apple wasn't an apple back then.
Those three years just go to show you how easily Don Mattingly would have made the Hall of Fame if his back didn't ruin his career. In those three years, he hit 96 homers and struck out only 114 times in 2099 plate appearances. That works out to a 5.4% strikeout rate for those three seasons. Martinez’s strikeout rate this season is 6.6%.
In Don Mattingly’s best season, 1986, he came to the plate 742 times and struck out only 35 times. Since 1961, only 26 players have compiled over 700 plate appearances with 35 or less walks. Mattingly is the only one with more than 30 homers that season. Rusty Staub had 24 in 1978 and no one else is over fifteen.
But it’s only fair to compare Victor Martinez’s season to Don Mattingly’s three seasons as evenly as possible. The first way is to compare the strikeout rate to the league average. If you take Martinez’s 6.6% strikeout rate and compare it to the 20.3% league average, then you have a 1/3.08 ratio for Martinez to the rest of the league.
Doing the same calculation for Mattingly’s three seasons from 1985 to 1987 respectively are: 1/2.5, 1/3.27 and 1/2.58. Only Mattingly’s 1986 is more impressive than this season’s personal strikeout rate to league rate for Victor Martinez.
If we go by wRC+, then Martinez has an edge over all three of Mattingly’s seasons. Martinez’s wRC+ of 164 compares with the respective 151, 160 and 142. But then again, this is Martinez’s only season thus far with a wRC+ higher than 130.
If you go by offensive runs, Martinez has compiled 42.8 offensive runs this season. Mattingly’s respective numbers were: 44.5, 54.2 and 33.4. So Mattingly has the edge there except for 1987. The biggest difference in the wRC+ number is Martinez’s walk rate of 10.4%. Mattingly was at 7.7%, 7.1% and 8.1% for those three seasons.
Intentional walks may account for that difference. Victor Martinez has been given a free pass 26 times! Mattingly’s totals for intentional walks for those three years were: 13, 11, 13. If you go by just non-intentional walks, the numbers become remarkably similar.
In short, Victor Martinez is having a season that a peak Don Mattingly would be very proud of. But Mattingly did it three times and had a 5.7% strikeout rate for his entire career!  Martinez’s is over 9%. In fact, since 1961, only twenty players had a lower career strikeout percentage. And none of those twenty had an career ISO within 25 points of Mattingly’s.
Take nothing away from Victor Martinez on the offensive season he is having. He has been remarkable. And his 40 strikeouts are certainly something to gawk at and marvel over. But take this season for Martinez, easily the best of his career, and just try to wrap your mind around the fact that Don Mattingly did it three straight seasons.

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: September 20, 2014

The Game Picks are on a nice little roll. After last night's 13-2 tally, the picks aer 30-10 for the last three days. The only two incorrect picks from yesterday were the Orioles, who obviously do not have any urgency right now, losing to the Red Sox in extras and the Rangers pouncing on the equally devoid of urgency Angels. In the former game, David Ortiz did his thing with a homer in the tenth with a man on, his second homer of the day.
Clayton Kershaw won his 20th game, which is cool. The Royals continue to fall flat against the Tigers when it counts. The Cardinals rode a good performance by John Lackey while his former partner, Jon Lester was doing his thing to keep the A's in the hunt. And Derek Jeter had two more hits in his final homestand.
Saturday's picks:
  • The Royals over the Tigers: I am really questioning myself here. James Shields is pitching for the fourth time against the Tigers this year. His peripherals are excellent in those four games but nearly every base runner he's put on has scored somehow. That's unlucky and it reverses today against Max Scherzer. This is the Royals' best chance to win a game this series.
  • The Cubs over the DodgersRoberto Hernandez better not be on the Dodgers' post season roster. I don't see him winning today as Felix Doubront has gotten his mojo back with the Cubs.
  • The Athletics over the PhilliesDrew Pomeranz has come a long way and should be fine against the Phillies. The A's are very familiar with Jerome Williams and that will help their offense.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: As always, it all depends on how well the pitchers do. Marcus Stroman has been great at times, but he is young and a guy the Yankees can push into pitch count trouble. Chris Capuano has to be so fine to be good that it's stupid. I think the Yankees are going to roll in Jeter's last homestand.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Ugh. These two teams again. And the pitching match-up. Blech. Trevor Cahill has been awful. And in Eddie Butler's first start, he wasn't treated very kindly. This could go either eay.
  • The Orioles over the Red SoxChris Tillman is a quality pitcher and I have a feeling that the Orioles' offense will have a fun day off of Rubby De La Rosa and that's what he gets for having four names.
  • The Pirates over the BrewersMatt Garza has been very good in three of his last four starts. But even if he is good today, tha bullpen will need to get nine outs and I don't see it. Edinson Volquez has had a very solid season.
  • The Rays over the White Sox: The Rays' offense hasn't been doing much, but they at least get their best bats in the lineup against Hector Noesi and thus have a chance. Whether they win the game or not depends a lot on Chris Archer, who has not been sharp in the second half.
  • The Twins over the Indians: I have picked consistently against Trevor May since he had such an odious start to his big league career. But he has been coming on strong and it is time to switch gears. The problem is that the same can be said for T.J. House.
  • The Mets over the Braves: Gosh, the Braves. Jon Niese should be able to hold down a nonexistent Braves' offense and will scratch enough off of Mike Minor to continue to keep the Braves in free fall.
  • The Mariners over the Astros: While I still don't believe in Chris Young, especially away from his home park, the Astros have been posing little resistance. Dallas Keuchel has had a decent year though.
  • The Marlins over the NationalsJordan Zimmermann will only go five or so innings and then the Marlins can win the game if Jarred Cosart pitches as well as I think he will at home.
  • The Giants over the Padres: It's one thing to beat a beat-up, old Tim Hudson. It is another to do the same thing against a young arm like Yusmeiro Petit. He will shut the Padres down and the Giants will get just enough against Andrew Cashner.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: The Angels have been lollygagging around since they clinched. I think the offense will have a fun day against Colby Lewis and Jered Weaver gets his 18th win.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: The Cardinals are still hoping Michael Wacha can gather it together before the playoffs start. Today will be watched closely. The Cardinals should jump on Mike Leake for four or five runs.
Yesterday: 13-2, Sept.: 157-104, Games of the Day: 99-63 (+7), Season: 1287-1038

Friday, September 19, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Friday: September 19, 2014

Derek Jeter hit a home run. That being the case, everything else that happened was icing on the cake. And it was good icing as the picks went 7-3. I didn't have to worry about Jered Weaver as the Angels won with most of their stars sitting down. I had to laugh though when I finally broke down and picked Kyle Kendrick and he got his butt kicked. Heh.
I was quite surprised when both extra-inning games went my way. That hardly ever happens. The Cardinals won despite the team's entire fan base getting mad at Mike Matheny. And the Indians gutted it out to win their game after blowing the lead late in the game.
Friday's picks:
  • The Dodgers over the CubsClayton Kershaw is going to win his 20th game. The Dodgers will find a way to score enough runs off of Edwin Jackson and more accolades will follow for the Dodgers' lefty.
  • The Orioles over the Red Sox: The Red Sox get their DH back, which should make things a bit easier. But otherwise, things are really sad for the Red Sox these days. The O's are on the other end of the emotional spectrum and Kevin Gausman has been much better than Allen Webster.
  • The Pirates over the Brewers: The Brewers are officially sunk after last night's loss in extras to the Cards. Well, maybe not officially, but they might as well be. Yovani Gallardo hasn't had a great season and that's part of the problem. I'll go with Jeff Locke instead.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Yankees have one more chance this season to beat up on Mark Buehrle, a guy who just loves to pitch in Yankee Stadium. Not. Hiroki Kuroda needs to have a good night against the tough Blue Jays' lineup though.
  • The White Sox over the RaysJose Quintana has had a brilliant season and is only 8-10. He did win his last start, however with 14Ks. That was impressive. Jeremy Hellickson goes for the Rays.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: I have to go with Doug Fister even if he only goes five or six innings. Tom Koehler is tough at home though.
  • The Mets over the Braves: The Braves stopped hitting. The Braves stopped winning. The Braves are a sad, sad team this month. Facing Zack Wheeler will not improve things and Julio Teheran won't get any support.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: This is a series that is too close to call. I got it wrong yesterday, but that is to be expected when you can't figure out what to do. Picking between Jordan Lyles and Chase Anderson is impossible too.
  • The Twins over the Indians: The Indians are not hitting. Phil Hughes has had a very good season. Trevor Bauer is unpredictable and 1+1+1 equals a Twins win.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: I wish it weren't so, but the Tigers always come through in times like this and the Royals usually do not. Justin Verlander sounds like a better pick than Jason Vargas anyway.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: I heard that John Lackey was upset that he had a turn skipped over. Well, then, pitch better, Big Fella. He is a good guy I am told, but boy, what a hot head. Meanwhile, David Holmberg is a lefty that might give the Cards some trouble.
  • The Athletics over the Phillies: The A's keep losing, but not when Jon Lester pitches. Lester should get some consideration on the CYA ballot. David Buchanan will try to match Lester and might even be capable of doing so.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: Some of the regulars should be back in the lineup. Hector Santiago is better than his record and, despite his win his last time out and the movement of his pitches, Lisalverto Bonilla just doesn't have enough command for my tastes.
  • The Padres over the GiantsTim Hudson looks old and tired and is dealing with minor injuries. He will not have a winning record for the first time in his illustrious career. Odrisamer Despaigne is hard to predict though.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Mariners over the AstrosTaijuan Walker has been brought back cautiously but he has pitched well when given the opportunity. He should beat the Astros and Brad Peacock. The M's are still in a good spot for the wild card and only one game back.
Yesterday: 7-3, Sept.: 144-102, Games of the Day: 98-63 (+6), Season: 1274-1036

Thursday, September 18, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: September 18, 2014

The definition of a good picking night for me is when twice as many picks are correct than incorrect. Call it my "quality start." By that definition, last night was a good one as the picks went 10-5. What impressed me the most (hey, nobody else is going to pat me on the back!) was picking the Cubs and not only picking the Cubs but making them the Game of the Day. Righteous!
Of the five that were incorrect, I had warned myself about picking James Paxton against the Angels. But I didn't listen and C.J. Wilson was much better. I picked both New York teams incorrectly. The Yankees won and the Mets lost. I had them both the other way around.
Thursday's picks in a light schedule day:
  • The Athletics over the Rangers: The Rangers have had a nice little run, but that will end today against Sonny Gray and the A's. Nick Martinez will try to keep it going for the Rangers, but I don't see it today.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Both of these teams have stumbled and bumbled and the Blue Jays were crushed by the Orioles. Shane Greene is a mixed bag so who knows how good he will be. R.A. Dickey is a guy I always seem to pick against. But even Jeter can catch up to his stuff. The last homestand.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: I hate picking teams that have clinched. The starters will only go five innings. The lineups will be sparse. It's awkward and like picking Spring Training games. All that said, the Marlins are in a bad way without Stanton. Gio Gonzalez and Brad Hand are the starters.
  • The Dodgers over the Cubs: The Dodgers still have work to do. So Zack Greinke has to grind it out and go deep against Tsuyoshi Wada. I told you starting Frias was stupid. Now they have to work even harder.
  • The Indians over the Astros: I never know what to do with these two starters. Danny Salazar can be dominating or he could throw too many walks. Scott Feldman needs BABIP and great control. Sometimes it is there, sometimes not.
  • The Cardinals over the BrewersShelby Miller has really turned it on down the stretch and it couldn't have come at a better time. The Cards' old friend and golf partner, Kyle Lohse, goes for the Brewers. He might pitch tough.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: The two starters are a combined 2-16. Yeah, that's fun to pick, especially at Coors. I cannot pick Yohan Flande, so I guess it's Vidal Nuno. Yeesh.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: Okay, you win, Kyle Kendrick. I always pick against you and you always foil me. Well, here you go, Big Fella. It's your pick. Robbie Erlin is like a blank slate to me. I don't know him very well as a player.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: The M's still have something to play for and Felix Hernandez needs two more good starts to seal the Cy Young Award. Jered Weaver can't knock down a piece of cardboard with his fastball, but has won 17 games. Go figure. You know I don't like to pick teams that just clinched.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Pirates over the Red Sox: The poor Red Sox can't get out of Pittsburgh fast enough. They are getting their fannies slapped. Brandon Workman has not performed as a starter and has proved he is a relief pitcher. Gerrit Cole will shut the feeble offense down.
Yesterday: 10-5, Sept.: 137-99, Games of the Day: 97-63 (+5), Season: 1267-1033

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kevin Long will get the blame

I wrote a piece over at It's About the Money on how Kevin Long will be the sacrificial lamb for this season's New York Yankees offensive crater. Check it out.

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: September 17, 2014

Last night was fun to watch for a lot of Beltway fans as the Nationals and Orioles clinched their divisions. I feel happy for the fans of those teams as they get to celebrate (for now) the accomplishments of the teams. For others seeking the wild card, last night was a problem as several of them lost and that became a problem for me as I did not have a good night of picking at all.
I should have picked Jake Arrieta. Wow, what a game he had. I shouldn't have picked the Royals when the best they could do was start Liam Hendriks. But KC's vaunted bullpen let them down too. Speaking of bullpens, Trevor Rosenthal blew his sixth save and caused the Cards - Brewers game to go twelve innings and the Brewers won. And I lost. Heh.
Wednesday's picks:
  • The Rockies over the DodgersCarlos Frias? Seriously, Dodgers? The poor guy hasn't started since the minors and has to pitch at Coors Field. Nice. Jorge De La Rosa is my pick by default.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: While the Dodgers are frittering around, they have kept the hopes alive for the Giants. The D-backs start Andrew Chafin, their 2011 first round draft pick. He was pretty good in his first start. I worry about his control in the long run. Madison Bumgarner becomes the difference here.
  • The Pirates over the Red Sox: Playing in an NL park hurts the Red Sox more than anyone else in the AL. Besides, the Pirates are playing for a goal and the Red Sox are just playing. Francisco Liriano over Clay Buchholz.
  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: This will be the norm for the Orioles for the rest of the way with starters going five innings or so and Spring Training like lineups. I still have them beating J.A. Happ who has turned to mush. Bud Norris starts.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: The Mets have pretty much owned Henderson Alvarez in his last two starts against them. Besides, Dillon Gee is a reliable starter for the Mets who are playing well despite their circumstances.
  • The Rays over the Yankees: The Yankees cannot beat Alex Cobb and they cannot hit to save themselves. Brandon McCarthy has been a nice addition for the Yankees but like all Yankee pitchers this year, he'll have to be perfect. I hope there are no head huntings in this one.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: The Braves cannot hit either but have a chance at least against Blake TreinenAlex Wood is good, which rhymes, and the Nationals might be hung over.
  • The White Sox over the RoyalsAdam Eaton can be a force when he is healthy. Jose Abreu has been too quiet. But most importantly, Chris Sale is pitching. Yordano Ventura will try to keep up.
  • The Indians over the AstrosCarlos Carrasco has had a really nice season that nobody knows about. Brett Oberholtzer, again, is a hero for taking the ball week after week and doing his best with little support.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: Weird game last night. Joe Nathan blew it again and then blamed it on his outfielder. Nice. Hopefully for the Tigers, David Price will go deep and the Tigers will score often on Kyle Gibson.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: These are games an ace is supposed to win. Adam Wainwright needs to win. I am worried about how Mike Fiers reacts in his first start since breaking Giancarlo Stanton's face.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: I just love James Paxton. The kid is amazing. Of course, sooner or later, picking him is not going to work out. This might be the night as the Angels are mighty good. C.J. Wilson starts for the Angels.
  • The Rangers over the AthleticsDerek Holland has been amazing since returning to the Rangers. Three starts, seven innings in each start, 21 innings, two runs, no walks. Until he falters, I have to ride him. Jeff Samardzija goes for the A's.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: This pick is based solely on the fact Cole Hamels is pitching. It doesn't help that Eric Stults is going for his 17th loss.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Cubs over the Reds: I like Kyle Hendricks a lot better than I like Daniel Corcino. In this stage of their respective careers, Hendricks is much more polished and has better command.
Yesterday: 6-9, Sept.: 127-94, Games of the Day: 96-63 (+4), Season: 1257-1028