Saturday, September 27, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: September 27, 2014

And then there were two days left. The end of the season is always wistful for me. I love the daily grind of the game. I love that there are games every day. The post season is fun, but it's erratic. Sometimes there are games and sometimes not. I love the seasonal compilation of statistics and seeing the surprises and the new faces that excel for the first time. I love when new teams surge to the limelight. I'm going to miss it after tomorrow. The post season is great, don't get me wrong. But there is nothing to me like the regular season.
September has been really good to me. My correct percentage is over 60% for the month and that almost never happens. And yesterday's 12-4 certainly helped. Even though one of those four incorrect picks (the Mets because Jon Niese had to leave early) was the Game of the Day, that still cannot dampen so much that was positive.
The only other three games that were incorrect were the Twins kicking some Tiger booty. Rick Porcello has really lost it late in the season. The Red Sox game against the Yankees featured a lineup that was unrecognizable. It was like a Spring Training game. So that wrong pick is no surprise. And for some stupid reason, I picked the Rangers to win. Anyway, it was a great day.
Saturday's picks:
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: There will be more of the regular lineups on the field for this game I think. Derek Jeter will be at DH to say goodbye. The pitching line is a good one of Masahiro Tanaka against Joe Kelly, two pitchers these teams will be counting on next season. Tanaka will not go deep into the game, giving the Red Sox the edge.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: I can see Francisco Liriano having a bit of a harder time today. The Reds best remaining players are right-handed batters. But the Pirates' only chance is to win, so they must. Alfredo Simon will try to prevent it.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: I called these two teams' double-header perfectly yesterday. I am not sure why Stephen Strasburg is starting today. I figured he would frontline the playoff series. But maybe he will only go a couple of innings as a tuneup. Nathan Eovaldi goes for the Marlins.
  • The Giants over the PadresEric Stults was put on this earth to teach me humility. I am sure of that. I haven't picked more than a handful of his starts correctly. I think he will be beaten today by Jake Peavy. But that means the Padres will probably win.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: The playoff seeding has been established. So the Orioles will probably rest people. Wei-Yin Chen won't go deep in the game. The Blue Jays just want to go up there and bash the baseball. J.A. Happ is the happy beneficiary.
  • The Indians over the Rays: Did you know that Colome was the real name of Columbus? Anyway, Alex Colome will probably not beat Carlos Carrasco or the Indians at home today.
  • The Phillies over the Braves: Pretend September was a sinkhole. Pretend the Braves were a corvette being swallowed by a sinkhole. A lovely pitching line of A.J. Burnett against Aaron Harang in this one just livens things up all the more.
  • The Brewers over the CubsTsuyoshi Wada is not a bad pitcher for the Cubs. He knows what he is doing. But I think this game belongs to Wily Peralta at home. Peralta has had one of the most overlooked seasons of the year.
  • The Mets over the AstrosRafael Montero has been bouncing back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen. But every time he starts he does well. Sam Deduno is a Twins castoff, so what does that tell you?
  • The Royals over the White Sox: The Royals will probably be eliminated from the division today because the Tigers are going to win. But the Royals will win today anyway behind Danny DuffyJohn Danks gets the start for the White Sox. I do hope that Paul Konerko has some nice moments though. He deserves them.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: I know I chided myself for this pick yesterday, but Derek Holland has been spectacular since he returned. I think he will out-perform Jeff Samardzija.
  • The Cardinals over the Diamondbacks: There is no let up for the Cardinals as the Pirates are keeping them honest. Lance Lynn has had a terrific season and should win the game over Wade Miley.
  • The Dodgers over the RockiesEddie Butler allows the batters to put the ball in play and when that happens, things can happen. The Dodgers should have a good day despite whatever Dan Haren does.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: The Mariners' only chance is to win. But I don't think it will make much difference. They will fall short. James Paxton over C.J. Wilson who should not go deep in this one.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Tigers over the TwinsRicky Nolasco has been about as bad for the Twins as any move made by a team this season. He has easily been the worst starter in baseball. It's brutal. Kyle Lobstein should win.
Yesterday: 12-4, Sept.: 217-143, Games of the Day: 103-66 (-1), Season: 1347-1077

Friday, September 26, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Friday: September 26, 2014

What a baseball day! The Giants clinched a wild card berth with the Brewers total collapse official. The Royals had a thrilling comeback win to ensure a tension-packed weekend to either determine the AL Central or the pecking order of the wild card game. And biggest of all, Derek Jeter had the walk-off hit in his last ever appearance in pinstripes.
As for the picks, they started out zero for four. The Brewers had a game that typified their season. They got out to an early lead and Yovani Gallardo was pitching effortlessly. Then he lost it and the game got away. Say goodnight, Brewers. Then I got both ends of the Nationals - Mets double-header wrong. And the Mariners finally beat the Blue Jays. Zero for four. Uh oh.
But I did not get another pick incorrectly for the rest of the day and ended Thursday at 8-4. Nice comeback, kid.
Three days to go. Today's picks:
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: Holy cow! The Nationals played two yesterday and will play two again today. It's a good thing they have expanded rosters. I think they will split like yesterday, but I got the order wrong yesterday. Doug Fister should shine in his final tuneup before the post season. He will only go five or six innings, but it should be enough over Jarred Cosart.
  • The Marlins over the Nationals: Who knows what will happen this game. Andrew Heaney gets the start for the Marlins. He has the most hype of any prospect in the Marlins' system, but hasn't had much fun in the Majors thus far. He faces Taylor Hill making his first MLB start. Since Hill is a BABIP kind of pitcher, I'm going with Heaney.
  • The Phillies over the Braves: What will this off-season hold for the Braves? We already know part of the answer as Wren was fired as the GM. Will we see a complete house cleaning in management and coaching? It will be interesting to watch. In the meantime, the Braves have to play three more games and I imagine they are a dispirited bunch. Jerome Williams has been good for the Phillies and Ervin Santana hasn't won a game in a while.
  • The Indians over the Rays: There is a lot going on in this game. If Corey Kluber pitches well, he is my CYA pick. If he doesn't, then I will have to look at it much more closely. But I think he will against the offensively-challenged Rays. Chris Archer gets the Rays' call. What the heck happened to him in the second half?
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: I can't imagine Chris Tillman pitching very long into this game since Showalter has already said he is the Game One pitcher for him against the Tigers in the ALDS. Drew Hutchison is unpredictable, but when he is good, wow.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: The Tigers have to win one more game, perhaps two. Rick Porcello has struggled down the stretch. Anthony Swarzak, however, won't hinder their offense at all.
  • The Red Sox over the YankeesChris Capuano has been dreadful and a start should go to someone else. Plus, the Yankees should be emotionally drained after yesterday. The only caveat is how well Steven Wright will pitch. He is highly regarded for the Red Sox' system.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: Finally! I can pick a visiting team! The Pirates are still alive for the division title and need to win two to have home field in the wild car. All that said, they will be motivated. Vance Worley over Mike Leake.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: It is amazing that the A's found themselves in this position. They are highly fortunate that the Mariners could not sieze the moment. I just feel like the Rangers are rolling and would like nothing better than to knock the A's around to end the season. Nick Tepesch over Scott Kazmir.
  • The Cubs over the BrewersJimmy Nelson has just been so-so for the Brewers this season. The Cubs have a chance with him. The Cubs will give Eric Jokisch his first MLB start. The young pitcher has excellent control and that is half the battle.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: The Royals' only chance for the division is to win out and hope the Tigers fall, which won't happen. But they have to give it a go. It's too bad they have to pitch Jeremy Guthrie to start it off. But if they score on Hector Noesi, they can make it happen.
  • The Cardinals over the DiamondbacksTrevor Cahill should not be much of an obstacle for the Cardinals. Michael Wacha most likely will not figure into the Cards' post season plans, so it would be nice for him to finish the season on a high note.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: The Dodgers don't have much to play for, but have the depth to win anyway, especially at home against the Rockies. Roberto Hernandez over Jordan Lyles.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: The M's are totally at the mercy of what Oakland does this weekend. They have to win all three and hope. I don't think Hisashi Iwakuma is healthy. There is something wrong there. But if I am wrong, he will pitch well at home and Jered Weaver is not going to go very deep in this game.
  • The Padres over the Giants: The Giants have clinched the wild card and can ease up a bit. I just don't think Ryan Vogelsong has much left to offer the Giants' rotation. Ian Kennedy has had a nice second half to his season.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Mets over the AstrosJon Niese is very overlooked as a quality MLB starter. He should win his last start of the year working against the Astros. Brad Peacock goes for the Astros.
Yesterday: 8-4, Sept.: 205-139, Games of the Day: 103-65 (+3), Season: 1335-1073

Derek Jeter and hyperbole

I purposely stayed off Twitter tonight and just watched the last game Derek Jeter will play at Yankee Stadium. And I was not going to write about it either. What more could I possibly say that has not been said on both sides of the Derek Jeter narrative? Plus, I cannot passively talk about the evening because Derek Jeter has long been my favorite player, so that should excuse me for having too personal a view of what I saw tonight. But as most writers will tell you, the only way we can work out how we feel is to write it all out.
Being a Derek Jeter fan and a baseball writer has been like a thin piece of land that is the only divide between two oceans. One ocean sweeps toward you with over-ventilated god-making such as what Bob Costas and Jim Kaat did tonight on the broadcast. As I have written several times before, nobody is that saintly or should be exalted that highly over other mortals. Derek Jeter's post season heroics can be explained because he had more opportunities than anyone who ever played the game. He was bound to succeed on some of those occasions.
The other body of water is made up of critics--those who write either in negative reaction to all the hyperbole (which I respect) and those who want to add to their street cred or make a name for themselves by not only tearing down this god-making narrative by statistics but also by coming up with hyperbole of their own as to why Jeter was not that great in the first place.
The latter body of critics are harder to respect and are often just as guilty on the polar opposite extreme as the god-makers. Even the much-respected Buster Olney fell prey to the temptation of blaming the entire Yankee season on Jeter in this past week. Seriously!? Did you watch this team play?
Standing on that thin piece of land, I have written thousands of words basically stating that nobody is as good as Derek Jeter has been exalted as being and at the same time, he has been much greater than the critics would want us to believe.
I pretty much know what I am talking about because I have watched him every time I could in the past twenty years. Since came along, that has been nearly every single game.
There have been plenty of players who were greater than Derek Jeter. He often was the third or fourth best player on his own teams through the years. His greatness and his Hall of Fame career really come from his metronome-like onslaught of playing day after day for most of his nineteen full seasons (I don't count the cup of coffee season and I really shouldn't count 2013) and being productive day after day, week after week and year after year.
Through the hyperbole, Kaat and Costas did come close to the essence of Jeter's career by talking about how Jeter used the same model glove for twenty years and the same model bat. Nearly everything he did was dependable. Two-hundred hits? Sure. A .380 on-base percentage? Sure. A post season matching his in-season stats? Sure. He was always very good year after year after year.
Watching Jeter as much as I have, I understand that Jeter was limited in range at shortstop. It never took a genius to see that. The defensive numbers make sense. If his defensive metrics were baseline at least, he would have been closer to being the best shortstop ever.
But I will swear to this until I am out of breath or these fingers cannot type anymore: During the post season in the glory years and during a no-hitter or something like that, I wanted the opposing batter to hit the ball to Jeter. He would get the out. Yes, that is a fan talking, but there is something to being a fan who wants a ball in a big spot to be hit to that awful-fielding shortstop. He wasn't that awful. Derek Jeter was not going to cough it up in a big spot. That meant something.
As much as Derek Jeter has been bashed--and believe me, it became a flood this year--why is it that his uniform jerseys outsell any others? Why is it that players from every team have been universal in their praise for him? Why is it that so many shortstops and other infielders want to wear Number 2 for their respective teams? It's for much the same reason that my generation wanted to wear Number 7 or Number 24.
You cannot trust the hyperbolic god-making of people like Costas and others. They go way, way over the line in their effusiveness. I get that. But there is something there. There are his teammates that wanted him to succeed so badly tonight. There are a clubhouse full of Boston Red Sox players that were super happy for Jeter according to Pete Abraham.
Trying to find the real Derek Jeter is like sifting through tons of sand to find the gold nuggets. Once you dig through the hyperbole from both sides--through the god-making and those who hang up numbers to puncture his myth--you get to the gold that Derek Jeter was vastly respected by his peers and teammates and that just about everything in his career was as storybook as you could imagine.
But I have to be honest in the end that I was not thinking of any of those things when I was watching his last Yankee Stadium game while cringing at Costas and Kaat. I was watching my favorite player play for the last time in pinstripes. I just wanted him to do okay.
And okay he did and everything was perfect going into the top of the ninth. Others who will probably never wear pinstripes again like Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki had successful games and Derek Jeter had a hand in three of the Yankees' five runs. It was perfect.
Unlike Dan Plesac (apparently), I was not hoping for a blown save so Jeter could get up again. I did not want to see him fail in his final Stadium at bat. Just a couple of nights ago, I watched him make the last out of a game that pretty much ended the season. I know Jeter isn't the hitter he once was. I did not want him to bat again in the game.
And that's why, when David Robertson coughed up the lead, while possibly playing his last game in pinstripes and ruining Kuroda's start and ruining the scenario "I" wanted, I was about as mad as I've ever been watching a baseball game. I was furious. "He ruined it! Oh no, he ruined it!"
I was glowering going into the bottom of the ninth. I had seen Jeter nearly break down at short the half inning before (before the blasts) and I just had no feeling he would do anything but strike out or ground out weakly in the ninth.
But no, the situation turned into the biggest hyperbole creating moment of Derek Jeter's career. Driving in the winning run was so hokey-movie-like that the entire MLB Network would explode in its myth-making histrionics. I instinctively knew that the critics would be blasting Buck Showalter for not walking him.
But in that moment, nothing mattered except that Derek Jeter knocked in the winning run...a walk his last Yankee Stadium at bat. I sat in my chair and wept. The sobs were one part sadness and knowing I would never watch him again in pinstripes and also euphoric that he had ended it in that fashion.
And then my son called from Florida. He wanted to share the moment with me. Jeter has been his favorite player and unlike me, has rooted for him for almost two-thirds of his life. My son's voice was quivering and we shared that moment, father and son, in a way that only baseball can do and for both of us, we were emotional between sadness and elation. That call was probably the icing on the cake for me.
After my son hung up, I stared at the television and half listened to the continuing hyperbole, but I didn't care. All I could think about was that I had just watched something I will never forget and shared a moment with my son that will be a lasting memory for both of us. Take your narratives, all ye who disseminate them.  This was baseball and exhibit 4,543 why it is the greatest sport of them all.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: September 25, 2014

At one point during last night, the picks were sitting at 3-7 and I was thinking, "Uhhh...." and then (thankfully) all the rest of the games went the picks' way and I finished dead even at 7-7 with one cancellation. Normally, I wouldn't be happy with such a record, but considering where the day was, I'll take it.
So what if the last game of Derek Jeter's career at home in Yankee Stadium is rained out today? That will bite. The game won't be made up either as it would not affect the outcome of anything. The weather isn't looking good.
But let's look at that game and the rest of the picks today:
  • The Brewers over the Reds: I picked against Lohse last night and regretted it. If I pick against Yovani Gallardo today, I know I'll regret it too. The Brewers are the better team, but both teams have nothing to play for. David Holmberg goes for the Reds.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: The two teams will play two today to make up for the rain out yesterday. But it does change the pitching lines. I'll take Blake Treinen in the first game. The kid looks impressive. Dillon Gee goes for the Mets.
  • The Mets over the NationalsZack Wheeler will probably face a lineup of irregulars. So that influences the pick. Gio Gonzalez will audition for the playoffs though and he will want to do well.
  • The Blue Jays over the Mariners: The M's sure blew it for the wild card. I mean, they were right there. Starting relief pitchers like Tom Wilhelmsen is certainly confusing. Daniel Norris had a big year in the minors. A lefty, Norris has a big arm and some control problems.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: This pick did not work out yesterday. That darned Kendrick did it to me again. I still like Tom Koehler over David Buchanan.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: If the game is played, the Yankees have to win on Derek Jeter's last day in New York, right? Any other outcome is unacceptable. If the game is cancelled, the Yankees will have to refund all those tickets. Hiroki Kuroda could be making his last start for the Yankees. Kevin Gausman goes for the Orioles. If I were the O's, I would rest the kid for the playoffs.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: The Tigers still need to clinch the division. Max Scherzer will get the job done. Trevor May or may not have a good game. Ha! I kill me.
  • The Red Sox over the Rays: My favorite prospect, Garin Cecchini, hit his first Big League home yesterday and I want him to go five for five tonight. I want him at third base for the Red Sox. Make it happen. Love this kid. Oh, the game. Allen Webster over Jeremy Hellickson.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: The A's can pretty much coast as everyone else gave them the wild card by default. But it's not like they have earned it. And they won't clinch it today. Colby Lewis over Jason Hammel.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: Big Game James Shields really makes his living against so-so teams, not the really big games. He should beat Jose Quintana because as good as Quintana is, he just doesn't catch any breaks.
  • The Giants over the Padres: The wild card is your consolation prize, Giants. Enjoy it. Yusmeiro Petit over Andrew Cashner.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Pirates over the Braves: The Braves won yesterday, which threw me all off. Whut? But I'm pretty sure the Pirates will come back today. They are still not eliminated for the division title and have something to gun at. David Hale goes for the Braves. Meh. Edinson Volquez goes for the Pirates.
Yesterday: 7-7, Sept.: 197-135, Games of the Day: 102-65 (+2), Season: 1327-1069

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: September 24, 2014

Five picks from yesterday were incorrect. I had hoped the Yankees would run it and at least give themselves a chance. But their old RISP problem cropped up again and sank them and probably their season for good. The Mariners got pounded. I really thought Felix Hernandez would be better. He had nothing.
I had the Padres and the Rockies wrong. I had the Diamondbacks and the Twins wrong. Good old Kyle Gibson did me in again with his bamboozle balls. And finally, I thought the A's would beat the Angels with so much on the line and Sonny Gray on the mound. But Wade LeBlanc of all people shut them down which just goes to show how badly the A's are hitting.
So those were the bum picks. But speaking of Bums, I did get the Dodgers and Greinke over Bumgarner. I did get the Cubs over the Cards and those were two pretty good picks.
Wednesday's picks:
  • The Orioles over the Yankees: The Orioles simply have too much offense for someone like Shane GreeneBuck Showalter shows no letup and is managing each game for the win (which he should). Bud Norris will benefit from the offensive support.
  • The Tigers over the White SoxJustin Verlander is finishing the season strong and he will have to here as the Tigers face Chris Sale. The Tigers are far from clinching the division and have to keep winning.
  • The Twins of the Diamondbacks: The D-backs are fighting for the top draft pick, which is about the only positive thing you can say to their season. Vidal Nuno has not won a game for them yet. Phil Hughes should dominate.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: This pick did not work out yesterday even though Pujols and Trout and combined oh-fers with five strikeouts between them. Jon Lester is the difference maker, however, and Hector Santiago will keep the Angels in the game.
  • The Nationals over the MetsGio Gonzalez has won three of his last four starts and is the only reason I am picking the Nats. Gonzalez is going to want one more strong start to see if he can get himself in the playoff rotation. Dillon Gee won't make it easy for him.
  • The Mariners over the Blue Jays: Taijuan Walker will try to do what Paxton and King Felix have not been able to do: Stop the Blue Jays' offense. Their own offense has a chance at least against Mark Buehrle.
  • The Royals over the Indians: The Royals are playing well down the stretch. They have taken over the wild card lead and still want to run down the Tigers. Jason Vargas is not the guy I want on the mound, but I will pick him over Trevor Bauer.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: The Brewers fall from grace is complete. They looked so good in the first half of the season and then pfffttt. I'm taking Danny Corcino over Kyle Lohse. That's how bad the season has ended.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: I have no idea which team will win this game. I don't think I have gotten a Kyle Kendrick game pick correct all season. Brad Hand is not a favored pick. Whatever...
  • The Pirates over the Braves: The Pirates can rest easy except they would like to play the wild card game-off at home. Jeff Locke has been good down the stretch and Julio Teheran will hope his team scores something...anything.
  • The Rays over the Red Sox: I hope the Red Sox keep playing Cecchini. He is my favorite prospect and I see another Wade Boggs in him. But that is the only reason to watch the Red Sox these days. Jake Odorizzi over Anthony Ranaudo.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: The Rangers have totally blown their first round pick status with this hot streak. Lisalverto Bonilla hasn't exactly been gangbusters, but he keeps winning. Scott Feldman will pitch for the Astros. Meh.
  • The Cubs over the Cardinals: The Cardinals seem determined to keep this interesting right up to the end. Jake Arrieta gentille Arrieta has looked terrific and John Lackey throws better tantrums than fastballs these days.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: This pick did not work out yesterday and today's pitching line is messy. Joe Wieland is the definition of a 4-A pitcher (no offense) and Yohan Flande has not been impressive.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: What better way for the Dodgers to clinch the division over the rivals than for it to be Clayton Kershaw. Put a cap on your season, bud. Tim Hudson should probably retire.
Yesterday: 10-5, Sept.: 190-128, Games of the Day: 101-65 (+1), Season: 1320-1062