MLB Game Picks – Tuesday: July 29, 2014

July is winding down and I’ll be a little sorry to see it go. Up here in the far north of Maine, our summer months are precious and August will pretty much be it for us for sun and warmth. July has also been a decent picking month here. At least it was much better than June. But last night wasn’t so good.

I don’t think I could have been any more wrong about the Red Sox winning, eh? 14-1 is about as close to being correct as reading an eye chart from half a mile. And then I was concerned about Jesse Chavez and rightly so as the A’s lost to the Astros. It took fifteen innings for my pick of the Reds to be incorrect. And I was correct about the Nationals until Rafael Soriano entered the game. He was awful. Just awful and gave up four runs to blow the save. Those were some of the lowlights of the day.

Tuesday’s picks:

  • The Orioles over the Angels: The O’s have been very impressive on this extremely difficult stretch they have faced since the All Star Break. They have stilled a lot of doubters with their play. Chris Tillman remains solid if somewhat easy to hit, which is pretty much the same you can say about Jered Weaver. I like the O’s at home.
  • The Mariners over the Indians: The Mariners are not scoring. And Trevor Bauer has been pitching pretty well over his last four starts. I just have a hard time picking against Hisashi Iwakuma at this point. Did you know that he has not walked a batter in his last five starts and has only walked eight batters all season?
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: This is an upset pick. Anibal Sanchez has been roughed up badly in three of his last four starts. He never seems to have a good second half of a season. But the biggest reason for the pick is Jose Quintana. The poor guy has pitched his heart out and has nothing to show for it with no decisions in his last four starts despite great pitching.
  • The Reds over the Diamondbacks: Mike Leake has not pitched particularly well. But even Leake at his worst is better than Trevor Cahill these days.
  • The Rays over the Brewers: Matt Garza comes home to St. Pete. And the Rays will jump him and his ugly goatee. Alex Cobb will shut the Brewers down.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Cole Hamels has really been impressive and is making contenders drool. Will a trade happen this week? I doubt it. Dillon Gee has fallen on hard times lately. Maybe home cooking will turn it around. But I have to go with Hamels.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Yes, I am probably out of my mind. But hear me out. Marcus Stroman has been terrific. But he is due for a learning experience. Rubby De La Rosa has been much better at home than on the road. All those runs last night tuckered the Blue Jays out.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: This game is a classic trap. If you have followed along with me this season, you know what I am talking about. Henderson Alvarez has been very good, especially at home and has surprised people. Stephen Strasburg has been mediocre, especially early in games and has become the anti-ace. So the pick would be the Marlins then. But it’s a trap. The Nats will win.
  • The Rockies over the Cubs: Oh Edwin Jackson, I hate when you pitch. I just never know what he is going to do. Jorge De La Rosa, on the other hand, has been steady and good. So he is the pick.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Ron Gardenhire is a beloved manager. But I think it is time to change the philosophy that he sets for the organization. Kyle Gibson is a case in point. He is a strike thrower. But he strikeouts hardly anyone. He’ll have his good games, but he’ll get creamed in others depending on where the ball bounces. James Shields takes this one.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: Scott Feldman is in the top five over pitchers averaging the highest hard hit balls against in the Majors. He is getting lit up. The A’s will oblige and Jeff Samardzija will continue to feel like he got out of jail.
  • The Dodgers over the Braves: Uh oh, I am picking against Aaron Harang. That can be dangerous although I still don’t understand it. Instead I am picking Josh Beckett at home despite two out of his last three starts not going so well.
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Lance Lynn has been on a prolonged good streak and he should like it in San Diego. The Cardinals should play well there since they don’t hit homers anyway. Tyson Ross is pretty good for the Padres though.
  • The Giants over the Pirates: Francisco Liriano is somewhat back in last year’s form. But I am feeling Tim Hudson tonight. I think the old guy will put his particular spin on this game and win it.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Yankees over the Rangers: Maybe now that Joe Girardi is done throwing games away by resting regulars he’ll break this three-game losing streak. Brandon McCarthy has been terrific for them. Nick Martinez pitched his best game against the Yankees, but I consider that in the fluke category.

Yesterday: 4-6, July: 190-150, Games of the Day: 61-49 (-1), Season: 873-725

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David Ortiz defies objectivity

There is a segment of the baseball writing world that can write dispassionately about baseball players. They focus on the cold, hard facts of performance. Beat writers are paid to be objective. Objectivity, in fact, is a journalistic must.  Not being a journalist but trying always to be fair, being objective about David Ortiz is impossible.

There probably isn’t a player besides Ortiz (Jeter maybe?) that stirs up such passion from his own fans and those who are not fans of the Red Sox. Write any article about Ortiz and Red Sox fans are going to comment viciously and the return volleys will be just as pointed. To criticize Ortiz in any way is to provoke an entire fan base who worship the guy. To extol his accomplishments provokes anyone who isn’t a Red Sox fan.

Take the latest story about Chris Archer taking aim at Ortiz for the dramatic bat flip Ortiz exhibited with the slugger’s latest three-run homer. Archer wasn’t pleased and in a very articulate interview, explained why he was unhappy with what Ortiz did. As reported on, the comments show you what I mean. Dueling Red Sox fans and those not sparred endlessly to the point of nausea.

I thought to respond to what Archer said, but could not find an objective way to do so. I have long respected David Ortiz’s ability to rise to the moment and change a baseball game.  The man has a .946 career OPS in high leverage situations. You can’t argue with those kinds of numbers. But I cannot respond as such without admitting that I have never liked the guy.

And then I have to face the music because I have long stated that all those unwritten rules about showing emotion on the field are bogus. So what if a player celebrates? So what if a players bring a little flair to what they do. Remember Rickey Henderson snatching fly balls out of the sky? Ichiro has that flair in right field. Fist pumps by pitchers should not be a bad thing. Traditionalists do not believe that any emotion should show or any showmanship should be allowed. I don’t agree.

Examining my thoughts fully, Ortiz falls under the showman category. When he flips his bat, it is no different than when Puig does so or others. The main difference is the entire persona Ortiz seems to inhabit on the field.

While Archer should probably get over the bat flip thing (fans rightly pointed out the time Archer kissed his arm after a big strikeout), he does have a point about the world revolving around Ortiz.

Ortiz and his on-field persona remind me a lot of Pedro Martinez when Pedro was king of pitchers. Martinez was in your face. He did not mind exhibiting that he was in charge, that he was going to dominate you. If you were not a Red Sox fan, it was hard to like.

The difference was that Pedro threw a hundred pitches. He was out there battling a juiced up offensive world for a hundred pitches and was nearly untouchable. He was the matador and was center stage. Ortiz has one skill: He can hit and he can hit important hits at important times. Pretty cool skills, no doubt, but not in the same category as Martinez as matador.

David Ortiz is not the only guy who flips the bat. But there are other things that add up after a while. Pitchers are not allowed to crowd him. Official scorers are not supposed to score against him. Umpires are not supposed to call a close pitch against him. And there is body language that tells you infield shifts are unseemly to him.

When was the last major event hosted by the Boston Red Sox that wasn’t taken over by David Ortiz? The one-hundred year anniversary of Fenway was dominated by him. The post Marathon terrorist ceremony was dominated by him. The World Series ring presentation was dominated by him.

You could say the same thing being true at Yankee Stadium by Derek Jeter. The difference is that Jeter is the captain of the team. Ortiz is not.

All players have egos…big ones. They have been pumped up as special since they were kids in Little League. But it is obvious that Ortiz has the crowning achievement of egos. Those are strong words, I realize, and will provoke anger from Red Sox fans. I wish it wasn’t so because many of my friends are such fans and I respect them and the Red Sox. But there are times when Ortiz is insufferable. Forgive me for saying it.

In the patriotic fervor following the Marathon bombing, what Ortiz said was cheered and fist pumped. I found it appalling. Call me old-fashioned, but polite speech should still be the norm and a stadium full of kids should not be given that kind of role model. There is enough of that kind of talk in their own playgrounds. Such a profane statement was pure Ortiz bravado at its worst and he did not care that such a statement would be cringe-worthy to at least 40 to 45% of people watching.

No one can deny what David Ortiz has done with his solitary baseball skill of knocking the stitches off a baseball. No one can deny or take away a career full of major accomplishments in big moments that propelled his team to improbable victories. He doesn’t have to field and he doesn’t have to run. He just has to hit and no one can deny that he has done that extremely well for his career.

But that doesn’t mean that, for those outside of Red Sox Nation, we have to like him. His is a persona that defies objectivity. You either love him or you hate him. Red Sox Nation loves him with an almost bunker-like mentality and it is hard to blame them. Three championships in ten years is hard to argue or not be grateful about.

What I am saying (poorly) is that this gratitude should not always come at the expense of blindness to the fact that his persona and his demeanor are disrespectful and egocentric and does get old for many of those that witness it. Chris Archer was wrong. And yet, in some ways, he was right.

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MLB Game Picks – Monday: July 28, 2014

Ten plus hours of driving and an eleven hour day on Sunday and we have our puppy, “Jeter.” He is cuter than a button but boy, do we have our work cut out for us. He is only two months old and needs constant supervision. Wow, at my age, I don’t know if I am up to this! But I have to be as he is ours now.

While I was busy all day, the picks were busy as well. They started the day at 2-5 after the Yankees, Rays and White Sox lost. But they came roaring back and went 7-1 the rest of the day. I need to watch the puppy, so I better get to the picks:

  • The Braves over the Padres: Ah, if only you could pick games completely with your heart and not your head. Jason Lane‘s story is so compelling, that if it had a Hollywood ending, he would win this game just because that is what we would all want. Instead, the Braves will spoil the party and Ervin Santana will win instead.
  • The Reds over the Diamondbacks: Chase Anderson hasn’t won a game in a while. So he might be due. Homer Bailey seems like he should never lose and yet he does. I guess I’ll go with Bailey even if I do not have a lot of confidence in the pick.
  • The Rays over the Brewers: If Kyle Lohse was pitching at home, I would pick that way. But instead, he is in St. Pete pitching in that horrible dome. I have paid dearly for picking against Jake Odorizzi his last five starts. It is time to acknowledge that he has been schooling me.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: A.J. Burnett and Bartolo Colon might be the two most difficult pitchers to pick in baseball. Both have games at times where they remind you of past glory and thrilling highs. And then they crash and burn in the worst way. So how do you ever know when which will be which? And when they face each other, what do you do? Both were great their last outings. I’m going to go with Burnett because Ryan Howard is mad.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: R.A. Dickey will probably have a couple of his pitches end up in the Green Monster seats. So the game, then, hinges on which Clay Buchholz shows up. The one that did last time shouldn’t have bothered. The good one should show up at home.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: I cannot remember the last time Nathan Eovaldi won a ballgame. I had to look it up to go way back until the June 23. That was his only win in his last ten starts. Needless to say, I am picking Jordan Zimmermann to win tonight, or at least the Nationals anyway.
  • The Cubs over the Rockies: Yohan Flande and Tsuyoshi Wada have pitched a combined 29 innings in the Major Leagues. What in the world do you do with that? Perhaps look at other things like the Rockies not hitting well away from Coors and the Cubs not hitting pretty well anywhere. I’m still stuck. Wada at least had years pitching in Japan. I’ll go with that.
  • The Rangers over the Yankees: Yu Darvish has had some of his most dominating games against the Yankees. And he is pitching at home. I don’t think David Phelps can keep up with him…not in Texas.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: The Astros got swept over the weekend by the Marlins. They have really fallen on hard times. Brett Oberholtzer is not going to turn it around against the A’s. My only concern in this one is Jesse Chavez.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Giants over the Pirates: Madison Bumgarner is great and has already won twelve games. When he doesn’t pitch great, that’s a surprise. But it does happen occasionally. Vance Worley has won three of his four decisions for the Pirates. But I think he will be dwarfed by Bumgarner here.

Last two days: 17-13, July: 186-144, Games of the Day: 61-48 (2-0), Season: 869-719

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MLB Game Picks – Sunday: July 27, 2014

I am writing this on Saturday night because we are heading on the road for a five hour drive at six in the morning to pick up a puppy. Scary stuff! So there will not be results in this post from Saturday. I can tell you that after four completed games, I’m already down 1-3, so that doesn’t bode well. The only correct pick was the Blue Jays win.

Here are Sunday’s picks:

  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: J.A. Happ has had a remarkably good season. That said, the Yankees are very familiar with him. On the other hand, Shane Greene is a bit of an unknown for the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays broke the Yankee Stadium streak. But it lasts only a game.
  • The Nationals over the Reds: This pick was wrong on Saturday as the Reds won, 1-0 behind Cueto. Mat Latos has been good for the Reds and his WHIP is much better than his results. The Reds, however, are not hitting and Doug Fister can shut them down.
  • The Phillies over the Diamondbacks: It’s not like I want to pick Roberto Hernandez to win. Ugh. No. But at the same time, I have watched a lot of Vidal Nuno this season and I certainly cannot pick him to win. Not many good options here.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: Trading Jake Peavy told me all I wanted to know about where the Red Sox think they are. Allen Webster will probably be okay, but Chris Archer is the pick here.
  • The White Sox over the Twins: This is another one where I pick the lesser of two evils…kind of like a Presidential election. Yohan Pino has been decent and fairly consistent. But he is nothing special really. Scott Carroll has been much better on the road than at home.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Bruce Chen is such a smile machine. How does he get anyone out? But at home, something just happens. I’ll never figure it out. Danny Salazar was fairly impressive in his first start back from the minors.
  • The Astros over the Marlins. Tom Koehler didn’t get it done for me, so I am hoping Collin McHugh does better. Jacob Turner was better his last time out, so this could be way wrong too.
  • The Mets over the Brewers: Sometimes my picks are colored by my fan-heart falling for players that I root for. Jacob deGrom has become like that for me. So I am picking him to win. Will it be right? Well, I don’t care. You take me as I am in this daily walk. Jimmy Nelson goes for the Brewers.
  • The Tigers over the Angels: Hector Santiago pitched well his last time out. But he cannot be counted on to go more than five innings. That gives Rick Porcello more of an edge.
  • The Orioles over the Mariners: Roenis Elias pitched well against Mets. But the Orioles are not the Mets. And the last time I picked against Miguel Gonzalez, he made me look silly.
  • The Pirates over the Rockies: Who the heck knows what will happen in this game. Edinson Volquez and Franklin Morales are not exactly trustworthy. And at Coors Field, color that in spades. SO I don’t know!
  • The Braves over the Padres: Has there been a bigger disappointment than Mike Minor this season? I don’t think so. And yet, I keep picking him. I might as well keep at it until it’s right. Eric Stults has an outside chance at losing 20 games this season.
  • The Athletics over the Rangers: Okay, Miles Mikolas pitched very well against the Yankees. But the team from the Bronx makes a habit out of making mediocre pitchers look really good. The A’s are not such a team. Scott Kazmir all the way.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: What makes Jake Peavy think that he will get more run support in San Francisco than in Boston? I think he will pitch well. But Hyun-jin Ryu will pitch better.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Kyle Hendricks was quite impressive in his last start. And Adam Wainwright was quite a disappointment in his last one. But Wainwright has been at this a long time and the edge has to go to the ace.
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Checking in on Adam Eaton

There was a lot of head scratching going on before the season started when the Arizona Diamondbacks traded two promising young players in Adam Eaton (25-years-old) and Tyler Skaggs (22-years-old) for basically a lumbering power hitter and two minor league players that do not appear to be going anywhere. Sure, there is a power shortage in the Majors and Trumbo can hit homers, but many viewed this trade through squinted eyes as some sort of organizational waywardness by the Diamondbacks. After two-thirds of the season, where do we stand on Adam Easton, one-third of the big trade?

It seems the answer to that question depends on who you ask., Baseball Prospectus and all have different takes on what value Adam Eaton has brought to the White Sox. All agree that his defense has been quite good. All agree that his base running has been a problem, but to a varied degree.

Baseball Prospectus has him valued the lowest at 1.2 WARP. Then comes at 1.5 fWAR and finally, doubles that to 3.0 rWAR. Well…that’s confusing.

Okay, if we put that all aside, what do my non-expert eyes see in Eaton’s season with the White Sox? I see a lot of positive things. Eaton has missed time at three different points in the seasons with hamstring problems with both legs and a wrist problem. But he has still managed to get into 82 of the White Sox’ 104 games.

The constant starting and stopping of his season might have slowed him down at times, but, like I said, I see a lot of nice things in his season. A lead-off batter’s primary responsibility is to get on base and Eaton has done that at a higher than league average rate of .355. If you compare that to the average lead-off batter in baseball, that is 25 points higher than average. So far so good.

Eaton’s batting average is also higher than the league average lead-off guy and his slugging percentage is about eleven points lower. That leaves him with an OPS that is 14 points higher than league average. Not bad. His 107 OPS+ and wRC+ (depending on which system you prefer) is above league average overall as well. So for overall offense, Eaton is doing his job.

And what should be pointed out is that for the last two months, he has really been above average. Adam Eaton had a horrible May and that month colors all of his numbers. But his slash lines for the last two months look like this respectively: .309/.391/.454 and .299/.379/.403.  He has a .986 OPS in his last eight games.

What about this base running thing? Most of the problem seems to be with his stolen base attempts. Adam Eaton does not appear to be very good at stealing bases. He has attempted to steal sixteen times and has only been successful ten times. A 62.5% success rate is not going to cut it. And his success rate over his short career is worse at 60.7%.

But the good news is that he is five for his last seven attempts showing his overall boost in performance over the last two months. A 71.4% rate is a little better to deal with. The success rate might show that he has better wheels under him now that the season has gone along. Remember that I mentioned those two hamstring issues earlier in the season.

I also like some other things about him as a lead-off batter. For one, I think he is going to get better with his plate discipline. His 9% walk rate is not bad, but it is way below what he did in the minors. His O-rate, or rate of swinging at pitches out of the strike zone is 28%, which isn’t bad, but could be a little better. What I like most is that he swings and misses only 4.7% of the time and his strikeout rate is an acceptable 16%. Without looking more closely, the guess would be that most of his strikeouts are looking.

As a left-handed batter, Adam Eaton handles left-handed pitching quite well. In fact, his batting average is higher against lefties. The only real loss against southpaws is that he doesn’t steal any bases against them.

Eaton, at this point in his career, is a slash and dash kind of hitter. His ground ball rate is Jeter-esque, but with his speed, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing as his BABIP on ground balls is .325, which is pretty amazing. It would be nice if Eaton hit more line drives and drove the ball a little bit more, but perhaps that will come with maturity.

Something about Adam Eaton did not click with the Diamondbacks. His Twitter handle calls himself AdamSpankyEaton. He plays with a lot of enthusiasm but perhaps is a bit of a free spirit. Who knows. And it is not fair to really judge the Diamondbacks’ return right now because Trumbo got off to a great start and then had a really bad injury and has been abysmal since getting back.

What can be said is that Adam Eaton has a higher on-base and OPS than center fielders in Arizona and their lead-off batters. He could have helped them. But as it is, a few injuries and a poor May that was probably a result has held Adam Eaton’s overall numbers down a little bit this season. But for a 25-year-old guy in his first full season, he’s doing quite well–especially in the last two months.

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MLB Game Picks – Saturday: July 26, 2014

The playoff landscape seems to change every week. One week a team seems to be out of it and is playing poorly and the next week, they are on top of their game and back in the hunt. These changes of course have affected the picks. Where the Mariners seemed like a lock to win most games just last week, this week, they sank like a stone. What will they do next week. The Yankees looked dead before the break and have only lost once. The Giants and Dodgers take turns looking awful and then good. Picking baseball games is already difficult and it is not getting any easier.

As such, I was fortunate to finish just a game over .500 yesterday in a seesaw day. The Game of the Day was wrong for the second day in a row as the Rangers actually beat the A’s. Huh? With Jerome Williams on the mound? Yasiel Puig had eleven total bases with three triples and a double and the Dodgers only scored two runs. How is that possible? But they still beat the Giants, 2-1. Heh. Baseball.

Saturday’s picks:

  • The Blue Jays over the Yankees: Left-handed pitching does not bother the Blue Jays. In fact, I think it helps them. And forgive me if Chris Capuano doesn’t fill me with warm fuzzies. I think Chase Whitley would have been better. But anyway, it all depends on Drew Hutchison who has not pitched well at all lately.
  • The Cubs over the Cardinals: The Cardinals should never lose to the Cubs. And yet they do no matter how often Cardinal fans make fun of the Cubs and their fans. Jake Arrieta gentille Arrieta will shut them down and Shelby Miller will allow enough runs for the Cubbies to take the second game of the series.
  • The Nationals over the Reds: It’s hard to pick against Johnny Cueto here except that Gio Gonzalez (if he is on) should be able to match Cueto. The Nats have more firepower and are the better team right now. The Reds have lost seven in a row.
  • The Orioles over the Mariners: The right-handed Bud Norris gives the Mariners a greater chance to hit a little bit but I still think the Orioles’ offense is going to chew up Chris Young and spit him out. So much for this tough schedule the O’s were supposed to be facing after the break.
  • The Phillies over the Diamondbacks: Yeah, I was wrong about the Phillies yesterday and maybe that made me rethink today. Stuff affects you after a while. Still, I do think Cliff Lee‘s second start will go better than his first and I do think the Phillies will score a few off of Josh Collmenter.
  • The Red Sox over the Rays: While the Red Sox have lost four in a row and the Rays have won a gazillion in a row, this game is ripe for a Red Sox win. Jeremy Hellickson makes his comeback start after a long DL stint and I never thought he was that good to begin with. The Rays seemed better off without him. John Lackey has to have a good game though.
  • The Royals over the Indians: As much as Jeremy Guthrie is a weakness for the Royals and something that helps the Indians, Zach McAllister sputters away that weakness by being one himself. The Royals have picked themselves off the deck.
  • The Marlins over the Astros: Tom Koehler is my guy and he has been pitching well. But he gets little run support and Jarred Cosart can be pretty good for the Astros. With George Springer on the DL, it becomes harder for the Astros to score.
  • The Brewers over the Mets: This one is tough for me because I like Jon Niese as a pitcher. But I am not sure how healthy he is and the Brewers are playing well again. Wily Peralta is inconsistent, but should win today.
  • The Padres over the Braves: Yeah, let’s go for three in a row for the Padres over the Braves. Why the heck not? Odrisamer Despaigne has been bamboozling MLB hitters since he arrived and Julio Teheran has been off of late.
  • The Athletics over the Rangers: Fifty Shades of Sonny Gray. I love this guy and picking him rarely leads me astray…which rhymes with Gray. Nick Tepesch should not be much of an obstacle for the A’s offense.
  • The Pirates over the Rockies: This pick did not go well yesterday. And any pick that concerns Coors is a Hail Mary anyway. In a battle of lefties, I guess I would go with Jeff Locke over Tyler Matzek.
  • The Angels over the Tigers: The Angels can hit Justin Verlander as Verlander is no longer the dominant pitcher that he was. On the other hand, those Tigers hit pretty well themselves and Matt Shoemaker is going to have to pitch really well–something has done more often than not.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Once again, you cannot pick against Clayton Kershaw. On any given night, he can just make you look feeble. He is 11-2 after all. Ryan Vogelsong does not have the same cred.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The White Sox over the Twins: I thought at first this would be a easy win for the White Sox with Chris Sale on the mound and a rookie fresh from the minors pitching for the Twins. But Logan Darnell is a lefty and that isn’t good for the White Sox and he is a lefty that looks pretty good. If Sale does his thing, I should be correct anyway.

Yesterday: 8-7, July: 169-131, Games of the Day: 59-48 (-2), Season: 852-706

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MLB Game Picks – Friday: July 25, 2014

Corey Kluber deserved better. The only run that scored while he was pitching was this stupid play by Ryan Raburn who failed to catch a sliding attempt at the ball in the eighth inning and then inexplicably spiked the ball in the ground allowing that same runner to score. Kluber should have won pitching nine innings of two-hit ball as he struck out ten. Instead, the game went into extra innings with a 1-1 tie and his team eventually lost. Along the way, my Game of the Day pick went with it.

But otherwise, it was a good day as the picks went 7-4. I got all the afternoon games correct but the later games gave me some problems. Maybe the picks were up past their bedtime.

Friday’s picks:

  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Travis Wood simply isn’t throwing the ball well and while the Cards never like going to Chicago, I think they will get this one with Joe Kelly on the mound. They should have kept Tavares up though.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Phillies: Wade Miley has been on a roll and the Phillies don’t handle lefty pitching well. Besides, Kyle Kendrick has been pitching and he has been on the opposite of a roll.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Mark Buehrle has always had trouble with the Yankees and with Yankee Stadium. The Yankees can stack up a lot of right-handed bats including their new third baseman, Chase Headley. Hiroki Kuroda will need to have a good night.
  • The Rays over the Red Sox: This one may well be decided by the bullpens but I think David Price is just a smidge above Jon Lester and David Ortiz hurt himself yesterday so that isn’t good for the Red Sox.
  • The Nationals over the Reds: Let’s see if Alfredo Simon is beginning to turn back into a pumpkin as the Yankees beat him last time out. Tanner Roark is one of my favorite picks if you haven’t noticed.
  • The Braves over the Padres: I have to pick against one of my favorite pitchers here in Jessie Hahn (Chaka Hahn, Chaka Hahn). But the Braves are a better team and Alex Wood has been really good lately.
  • The White Sox over the Twins: You watch, I’ll make this pick and the White Sox will trade John Danks to somebody today. That’s always the danger this time of year. Either way, the White Sox should beat Kevin Correia and the Twins.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Are these two teams difficult to figure out or what? Take this game (please!). Josh Tomlin hasn’t been great and Yordano Ventura can go from brilliant to brutal in any given game. Plus the two teams played fourteen innings yesterday and combined for thirteen hits. Nice.
  • The Astros over the Marlins: I have no idea who will win this game. Brad Hand versus Dallas Keuchel. Your guess is as good as mine.
  • The Mets over the Brewers: I’ve really burnt my brain on this one going back and forth. Yovani Gallardo is tough to beat at home. But he hasn’t been so much so this season. Zack Wheeler has given up exactly one run in each of his last four starts. So basically, the decision was to go with Wheeler.
  • The Pirates over the Rockies: Oh dear. It’s another of those “who knows” picks. Charlie Morton at Coors Field sounds frightening. But not quite as frightening as Brett Anderson pitching there for the Rockies. Yeesh. And Tulowitzki is on the disabled list.
  • The Angels over the Tigers: Tyler Skaggs has been roughed up a bit in his last two starts, but I still like the guy’s stuff. I like it more than The Emoticon, Drew Smyly‘s stuff. And in case you haven’t been following along, a smyly face is an emoticon.
  • The Mariners over the Orioles: Felix Hernandez has been so good that it’s scary to pick him. You figure every pitcher has a hiccup once in a while and he seems due. But then if he pitches as great as he is, the Orioles won’t have a chance. Kevin Gausman can bring it too, so the M’s have to score to win.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: This game comes down to who has a better chance to stop the opposition, Zack Greinke or Tim Lincecum. I would have to go with Greinke. If the Dodgers don’t get this division done, Mattingly might not survive.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Athletics over the Rangers: Desperate for any pitching whatsoever, the Rangers picked up Jerome Williams, which is fine for Oakland because they are very familiar with him from his days with the Angels. Yeah, that was a good idea. Jason Hammel with the win.

Yesterday: 7-4, July: 161-124, Games of the Day: 59-47, Season: 844-699

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The Rays would not stay dead

American League East fans outside of Florida had to feel good about life on June 10, 2014 when the Tampa Bay Rays were fifteen games out of first place and were eighteen games under .500. After all, the Rays have been the perennial thorn in everyone’s side winning over 90 games five of the previous six seasons on a shoestring budget and with a manager who had too much fun, showed too much cool and was everyone’s resident genius. The Rays’ plight was a comfort.

Even as late as June 24, 2014, the Rays were seventeen games under .500 and thirteen games back. People started speculating on where David Price and Ben Zobrist would end up by the trading deadline. The Rays were dead. They were out of it. They could not score. They had a lousy bullpen. Injuries had wrecked its rotation.

But since June 24, the Rays took three of four from the Orioles, swept the Yankees three straight, took three of four from the Tigers, had a little problem with Kansas City, took two of three from the Blue Jays, swept three from the Twins and have beaten the Cardinals’ two best pitchers on successive nights. They were 17-5 from that point to now and are 13-4 in July.

Now the team is just four games under .500 and just seven games out of first place. Suddenly, every fan of every other AL East team is nervous and sweating those danged Rays who would not stay dead.

Now there seems to be little question for the need to trade David Price or Ben Zobrist. The bullpen that was terrible has flipped with Jake McGee as the closer and Brad Boxberger as the set up guys. McGee has a WHIP of 0.864 and Boxberger’s is even better at 0.857. McGee has a strikeout to walk ratio of 5.50.

And they pretty much don’t have to worry about much more than those two because Price has been amazing, Alex Cobb has come back with a vengeance, Chris Archer is nasty and even Jake Odorizzi has really turned his season around.

Did you know that Odorizzi is striking out more than ten batters per nine innings? I didn’t until I started looking at those statistics. This is suddenly a really challenging rotation.

So far, we have just discussed the pitching. The offense has averaged 4.9 runs scored per game for those last 22 games after averaging 3.96 runs per game for the season. Kevin Kiermaier has provided a huge lift to the offense (where do they get these guys!?) and Zobrist and company have hit much better as the season has hit the present time.

The Rays have a +27 run differential in July as the pitching has hit its stride and the offense has gained more traction. Not too much is going wrong for the Rays right now.

If the Rays can survive a coming stretch where they play the Red Sox, Brewers, Angels and A’s, they will be in good shape and then have seven games against the Cubs and Rangers. They do not have an easy road in their last sixty games. But they are set up to make some noise.

Yeah, the Rays were dead and fans all over the American League East were feeling good and making toasts. The Rays did not stay dead. They never do. And those toasts have turned to drinking binges of worry. They may take some comfort in the odds-makers giving the Rays a slim choice, but they know better. We all know better.

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MLB Game Picks – Thursday: July 24, 2014

Last night was strange. The Yankees won using only five innings because the skies opened up and the grounds crew could not get the tarp on the field. Bartolo Colon three a no-hitter into the seventh and beat the Mariners. Hunter Pence broke a 0-0 tie with a three-run double in the ninth. Yangervis Solarte made his presence felt in San Diego.

The only thing not strange was the Rays winning again. My goodness they are going crazy. Never leave a Joe Maddon team for dead. They never stay dead.

There are eleven games on tap today. Here are the picks:

  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: I am very torn over this one because the two young pitchers have shown flashes of brilliance but are susceptible to being hit by a good team. And David Ortiz is hot again with homers in his last three games. But I am going with Marcus Stroman over Rubby De La Rosa.
  • The Phillies over the Giants: I picked against Cole Hamels last time and paid for it. And it’s not that I think the Phillies will hit any better against Tim Hudson, but they at least have a chance to.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: The rain really helped the Yankees last night and both teams got a break for their bullpens. However, the Rangers just lost their closer, who was traded to the Tigers. Brandon McCarthy has looked great for the Yankees. Colby Lewis is more concerned about bunts with a 2-0 lead than with winning.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: I am getting antsy about picking all home teams. But I cannot pick Scott Feldman and the Astros in this one. Jeff Samardzija should win and the A’s should keep on rolling.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Hmm…another home team. I have learned my lesson picking against Aaron Harang. And also for picking Henderson Alvarez. Alvarez can be brilliant. You just have to pick when and that is difficult. The Braves should win.
  • The Padres over the Cubs: Okay, here is a game I can go with the road team. The Padres seem to enjoy the Cubs and Wrigley. Who can blame them. Tyson Ross should shut down the Cubs and the Padres should get a few runs of of Edwin Jackson.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: Three of the last four starts by Hector Noesi have not been very good. I’m a little worried about Phil Hughes and the long ball with Dunn and Abreu to pitch to. But the Twins should win this one.
  • The Brewers over the Mets: I trust Matt Garza not at all. But every once in a while a blind squirrel catches a nut. I usually trust in Dillon Gee, but his first start back from the DL was bad and it shook me. Maybe I will regret this.
  • The Angels over the Tigers: What a superb match-up of Max Scherzer against Garrett Richards. The last time such a match-up occurred was Richards against King Felix and Richards came out on top. He has been unbelievable and that’s the way I’m going.
  • The Orioles over the Mariners: This one is difficult. Hisashi Iwakuma has thrown four gems in a row. Can he keep that up? Wei-Yin Chen hasn’t be as good but has won his last three starts. Which will win? Iwakuma has a more difficult lineup to face and the Mariners don’t do as well against lefties.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Indians over the Royals: In Corey Kluber do I trust. In Danny Duffy I do not trust. Kluber is very good and the Royals just aren’t hitting very well with the exception of last night.

Yesterday: 8-7, July: 158-120, Games of the Day: 59-46, Season: 837-695

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MLB Game Picks – Wednesday: July 23, 2014

Despite both extra-inning games going fourteen innings and still going my way, it was not a good picking day for the old guy here. A lot of underdogs won including the Cubs and Astros. But mostly I just got them wrong by underestimating the Orioles, Rays and Brewers.

The big one that hurt was the Astros game. I had the A’s as the Game of the Day behind Scott Kazmir. That should have worked, right? But Brett Oberholtzer matched him despite not striking out anybody and the Astros’ bullpen actually performed better than the A’s.

Wednesday’s picks:

  • The Indians over the Twins: Trevor Bauer seems to be getting better all the time and the Indians are playing well. The Twins are falling back hard and Anthony Swarzak is not going to help.
  • The Brewers over the Reds: The woes continue for the Reds who are beset with injuries. Kyle Lohse is good at home and even though Mike Leake is on my fantasy team, I have to pick against him here.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: James Shields should be traded, but seeing as he won’t be, he might as well go out and beat the White Sox. I have been pushing Jose Quintana all season, but despite great outing after great outing, he never wins.
  • The Rockies over the Nationals: I have become so disenchanted picking Stephen Strasburg that I use any excuse not to pick him now. How about Coors Field? Okay, that will work. Jorge De La Rosa is a guy being mentioned in trade talks.
  • The Tigers over the Diamondbacks: The D-backs surprised me by beating the Tigers yesterday. Can they do it again? I doubt it. Anibal Sanchez should be fine and Trevor Cahill is unlikely to survive here.
  • The Mariners over the Mets: Taijuan Walker hasn’t been all that impressive thus far since coming back this season. But tonight, he’ll put it together. Bartolo Colon cannot even be given away by the Mets as they try and try to trade him for something…anything…
  • The Pirates over the Dodgers: I am assuming that Francisco Liriano is healthier than he was earlier in the season. His five innings in his first start back from the DL was pretty impressive. So let’s go with that. Dan Haren faces a hot Pirates lineup.
  • The Rangers over the Yankees: There are two stories going on here. First, Yu Darvish has pitched three times in his career against the Yankees and has yet to have a bad outing. Secondly, he is averaging 6.77 innings per start, very important after a 14-inning game. David Phelps can be efficient and go long too. But will the Rangers’ bats stay quiet?
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: The bad Clay Buchholz showed up last time. But perhaps that was just a blip. I cannot imagine R.A. Dickey having a good day against the Red Sox, but I could be wrong.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Ervin Santana has had a good enough season for the Braves that it seems safe to pick him most times. Nathan Eovaldi, on the other hand, hasn’t been safe to pick in a while.
  • The Cardinals over the Rays: Now come on, the Rays can’t win every game they play, right? Even though it seems they can. Alex Cobb is tough, but Lance Lynn is probably tougher. Lynn should at least fare better than Wainwright did. Grrr.
  • The Cubs over the Padres: I picked the Padres yesterday, but that was before I knew Headley would get traded. Today, the Cubs pitch 33-year-old Tsuyoshi Wada against the Padres who do not like lefties. They neutralize guys like Seth Smith and others. Ian Kennedy will have a good night in a losing effort.
  • The Orioles over the Angels: Alright, alright already, you win. The Orioles are a good team and I should take them seriously. Chris Tillman over Jered Weaver who might give up three homers tonight.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: Yes, Brad Peacock was good his last time out. Yes, Jesse Chavez has not been good since the early part of the year. But the A’s should win this thing.

And the Game of the Day is:

  • The Giants over the Phillies: It’s funny watching all the baseball shows on television talking about A.J. Burnett being traded. Imagine all the fans in each suggested city going, “No! No! Not here!” Yeah. Madison Bumgarner with the win.

Yesterday: 6-9, July: 146-113, Games of the Day: 58-46, Season: 829-688

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