Friday, April 18, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Friday: April 18, 2014

Yesterday was brutal. The picks got their butts paddled like those guys in the movie, "Turning 21." Yes, the things we will watch for our teenage children. The Twins? What is with the Twins!? Sabathia was good while David Price was bad!? A.J. Burnett, who has looked like the Yankees' version all season thus far throws a gem!? Why would I pick the Astros to win!? And there were two great pitching match-ups yesterday. Both went against me.

But, we move on. Baseball is an every day sport. So, like Joe Maddon said in his tweet last night, "When you let it bother you, that's when it gets more profound." Okay, Joe.

Friday's picks:
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Alfredo Simon has been incredibly good thus far as a starter. Will that continue? Not likely. But the Cubs can't hit. Jeff Samardzija spits into the wind.
  • The Pirates over the Brewers: Yesterday's whipping kind of rips away the Brewers' 2014 mystique. Charlie Morton over Kyle Lohse. I'm not sure about this pick because Morton is always a scary deal.
  • The Nationals over the Cardinals: Left handed pitching has the Cards a more of a chance to lose than the opposite and Gio Gonzalez is a good one. Michael Wacha can shut the Nats down though and if that happens, anything can happen.
  • The Indians over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays got spanked by Minnesota. So you would think the Indians could beat them too, especially at home. Justin Masterson has to pitch well and Drew Hutchison can be very good at times too.
  • The Tigers over the Angels: Jered Weaver has looked awful. Watch him throw a gem tonight. Heh. Drew Smyly <--the Emoticon goes for the Tigers.
  • The Mets over the Braves: There is no way that Aaron Harang is this good. The coach has to turn into the pumpkin and it has to be midnight soon. Jonathon Niese isn't a great option either.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: The Yankees have caught the Rays in a down time. Erik Bedard is the wild card here and Hiroki Kuroda needs to be good for the pick to come in.
  • The Marlins over the Mariners: Nathan Eovaldi is starting to convince me. Chris Young can't put two good performances in a row in, can he?
  • The Rangers over the White Sox: Martin Perez has been very good. Felipe Paulino has been very bad. Thus are the basis of some picks made.
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: The Red Sox are starting to look resilient again. You didn't think they were going to stay bad, did you? John Lackey over Chris Tillman.
  • The Royals over the Twins:  I keep rubbing my eyes and when they clear, the Twins keep winning and I keep picking against them. We all have our weaknesses. Jason Vargas over Ricky Nolasco.
  • The Phillies over the Rockies: You just know that the score of this one will be like 10-9 or something, right? Jonathan Pettibone versus Tyler Chatwood means a wild night at Coors.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: You know that Sonny Gray is my guy, right? I never pick against him. He is like that Strat-O-Matic baseball pitcher that you pitch every night and he wins 30 games in a season. Jerred Cosart has his good moments.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Tyson Ross was very good in his last start and so was Matt Cain. So this is a tough call. I'm going with the Giants.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: The Dbacks haven't beat the Dodgers all year and are 4-14. They face Zack Greinke. They pitch Wade Miley. None of this is looking good.
Yesterday: 4-8 Oof, Games of the Day: 7-7 Come on now! Season: 135-96

Thursday, April 17, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: April 17, 2014

Yesterday wasn't a bad day but the Game of the Day feature is struggling so far this season. Since that feature endeavors to pick the one game that seems like a lock, that's pretty bad. I should have used either of the Yankee games it seems. And gosh, do the Diamondbacks stink or what? And my guy, Jose Fernandez, had a 3-0 lead and was cruising along at home. What happened!?

There are twelve games on the schedule including a double-header in Minnesota since winter still held sway there yesterday. Thursday's picks:
  • The Braves over the Phillies: Alex Wood has been pitching well and A.J. Burnett is about as reliable this year as spring temperatures have been on the East Coast this spring.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: The Indians did well to take yesterday's game, a big improvement over last season when they could not beat the Tigers. But Justin Verlander at home should beat Danny Salazar who has had command issues thus far.
  • The Twins over the Blue Jays: Kyle Gibson has not been as good as his record, but he's been a good luck charm for his team thus far. R.A. Dickey has not been effective except for that Yankees start.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: The Rangers got a big win yesterday after eight innings of doing nothing against Felix Hernandez. Today should be high scoring with Tanner Scheppers facing Erasmo Ramirez.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: This is a great pitching match-up on paper with Madison Bumgarner against Hyun-jin Ryu. These games always depend on with ace brings their ace-game. I am going with Bumgarner at home.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Franklin Morales has not been very good so far this year but might fare better in San Diego. Ian Kennedy needs to pitch better for this pick to come home.
  • The Brewers over the Pirates: I like picking Yovani Gallardo better at home, but he has been consistently good wherever this season. Give Pittsburgh credit, they have done a good job of rebuilding Edinson Volquez.
  • The Cardinals over the Nationals: Both teams are hot and some of the key Cardinal batters are coming alive. But I simply like Adam Wainwright more than Taylor Jordan in this one.
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: Dustin McGowan was great his last time out. But this is a scary pick. It is made less so by Mike Pelfrey pitching for the Twins.
  • The White Sox over the Red Sox: Jon Lester versus Chris Sale is a great match-up on paper. Sale is dominant while Lester must be fine. The Red Sox benefit from finding out that Jammy Pants Pedroia is okay. Tough call this.
  • The Astros over the Royals: Scott Feldman sure has been good thus far. That makes it hard to pick against him. James Shields is not doing much to add to his free agency paycheck.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Bay Rays over the Yankees: Tropicana is where the Yankees go to die. And who wouldn't in that awful place. Besides, David Price will be better than CC Sabathia.
Yesterday: 9-5, Games of the Day: 7-6, Season: 131-88  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Enjoying Casey McGehee...for now

If you have read my stuff for a while, you know that I am a sucker for the comeback story. I love the improbable when a guy falls out of baseball only to come back a year or more later and have some success. There has been Vogelsong in the past and this year the Sizemore story in Boston. Another one that might not be as much in the news is what Casey McGehee is doing down in Miami. After two terrible seasons left him out in the cold and forced him to Japan, McGehee is back and looking great for the Marlins.

The question, of course, is how long it will last. After all, two years of history are hard to erase. In 2011 and 2012, McGehee came to the plate 952 times and compiled an fWAR for the two seasons of -0.3 to go along with wOBAs of .275 and .283. Those are pretty ugly seasons. After two such seasons, nobody wanted him and he went to Japan for a year.

And he did really well in Japan. He put up a .891 OPS in Japan in 144 games and had a season very reminiscent of his 2010 season for the Brewers. But it is easy to dismiss such success as we all wink and say the competition and the pitching is not as consistently strong in Japan as it is here in the Major Leagues.

But perhaps he found something. Perhaps he got his stroke or confidence back or both. I noticed that he got an invite to the Marlins this season and did not think much of it. He had a decent spring for that club but nothing special. But here he is fifteen games into the season, and yes, it is a small sample size, but he is hitting .309 with a very healthy .381 on-base percentage. He has not hit a homer yet, but he has five doubles and a triple and currently has a wOBA of .358. Good on him!

The question, of course, is if it will last. The odds seem to be against it. For one thing, his current BABIP is .395 which is way high and speaks to a bit of good fortune so far. Are there any indications that his success can continue? There are a couple.

First, his plate discipline thus far is much improved over any time in his previous MLB incarnation. He has a career 7.8% walk rate and thus far is walking at an 11.1% clip. And the PitchF/X data seems to indicate that is not a fluke.

While McGehee always was pretty good at laying off the pitch out of the strike zone (25.5% for his career), he is very good in that area this year at 21.4%. Therefore he is being more selective at the plate than at any time in his career. Confidence in his ability has a lot to do with that and these numbers are encouraging.

The second encouraging thing is that he seems to be a different hitter if you look at his batted balls. In his two terrible seasons, his line drive percentages were pretty awful at 16.2% and 15.5% respectively. And his career line drive percentage is only 17.5%. But this year (so far), line drives are whistling off his bat.

His current 2014 line drive percentage is 23.3%. If you hit a lot of line drives, good things are going to happen and a healthy BABIP should occur. Perhaps not as healthy as .395, but healthy nonetheless. The drawback to the line drives is that he has the lowest fly ball percentage of his career, which will cut into his normal power numbers some.

But with a big home park like the Marlins play in Miami, hitting a lot of fly balls would probably not be a really good thing and line drives would be more suitable. I still think he will hit double-digit homers. He always has, even in his two terrible seasons he hit 22 of them.

Casey McGehee has been a nice story thus far and has tickled my comeback radar nicely. I don't believe he will do quite as well as he is doing now. But if he hits .270 with a .340 on-base percentage or higher, it will be a resurrection of sorts for a career that seemed to have ended with a thud after the 2012 season.

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: April 16, 2014

After Mother Nature smothered the East Coast and wiped out four games, the rest of the games that actually played left me with a struggle just to finish with a 6-6 record yesterday. Giancarlo Stanton bombed Stephen Strasburg, the latter of whom I can never seem to rely on these days. Shelby Miller regained his form and I did not expect that. The Red Sox lost again. It was a tough day.

And it is snowing here this morning! Ugh! Only the Yankees will make up their game today with a double-header, so there are sixteen games on the schedule. The picks:
  • The Pirates over the Reds: This one is played real early and features two good pitchers in Francisco Liriano and Johnny Cueto. I am leaning to Liriano. But it can go either way.
  • The Yankees over the Cubs: Also yesterday's pitching line and although Jasan Hammel has a good history against the Yankees, I am going with Masahiro Tanaka.
  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: The Cards have shut down the Brewers and their hot start and today could go either way. I am going with Wily Peralta over Joe Kelly. Both are pitching well though.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Mets: How bad has been the Diamondbacks' start? Sheesh. Things have to be grim over there. Dillon Gee is not someone I usually pick against, but I'm going with Brandon McCarthy in this one.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: The rain out helped the Braves as they will now skip their weakest rotation link and can pitch Julio Teheran. That switches the pick for me away from Cliff Lee.
  • The Yankees over the Cubs: I like Travis Wood a lot. But he pitches for the Cubs. I like Michael Pineda in this one for the sweep.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: Same pitching line as was supposed to be yesterday. I still think Anibal Sanchez will be better than Zach McAllister.
  • The Marlins over the Nationals: Jose Fernandez at home? Check. Tanner Roark against the Marlins' lineup? Not so much.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Ace versus Ace in this one. Yu Darvish has been amazing so far. Felix Hernandez has struggled in Texas in the past. The edge has to go to Darvish.
  • The Red Sox over the White Sox: If Clay Buchholz is the good version, he should be much better than John Danks, who does not have a good version.
  • The Royals over the Astros: I don't exactly know how the Royals have kept Jeremy Guthrie on the up and up, but I have learned not to question it anymore. I'll take him over Dallas Keuchel.
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: This game is a black hole for me. I have come not to depend on either R.A. Dickey or Mike Pelfrey. One of the teams has to win though, so flip a coin.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: I like me some Tyler Skaggs. I don't like me some Tommy Milone. But the only thing sticking me with this pick is the way the Angels blew it yesterday.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Andrew Cashner is starting to look big time. And Jorge De La Rosa still has too many names.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: Ugh! What lousy choices here! Ryan Vogelsong hasn't pitched well in forever and Paul Maholm is not exactly a great choice either. Going with the Giants as the home team.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Rays over the Orioles: The same pitching line as was supposed to go yesterday. I still think Jake Odorizzi will best Miguel Gonzalez.
Yesterday: 6-6, Games of the Day: 7-5, Season: 122-83

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Complaints about replay are stupid

I will give John Farrell some slack here as he was frustrated about losing three of four to the Yankees. But his complaints about the new instant replay system fall flat on my ears. By my count, there have been two calls that the replay system has gotten incorrect. The one happened in the Red Sox - Yankees series where Dean Anna did lift his foot off the base and should have been called out. MLB stated the call should have been reversed. That was one of the two. Big deal.

On MLB Network's Intentional Talk program, it was mentioned that thus far 32 calls have been reversed with the replay system and 34 had been upheld. The time factor has not been that big of a deal and the only irritant is when the manager hangs around to wait to see if his people give him the thumbs up or not on whether to challenge the play. How is this slowing the game down when most of those plays would have been arguments between the manager and umpires anyway? The arguments take longer.

So the time is not a problem. Then what is? Yes, two have been botched. You would think with the system they have set up there would be no missed calls. But okay, two calls have been missed. But 32 have been overturned. That is 32 incorrect calls that would have stood if the replay system was not in place.

Two incorrect versus 32? Wouldn't that be a success under any kind of accounting? The bottom line here is that 32 calls would have been umpire goofs without the system. Is that preferable to Mr. Farrell or anyone else? I would not think so.

The entire idea of instant replay is to get the calls correct on the field. We are closer than ever before of making that happen with a margin of error of two calls. The instant replay is a big hit for me because the correct calls in games are what I want. I do not want games decided by a bad umpire decision. Now all we need is robot balls and strikes and I will be a complete happy camper. Good job, MLB. Keep it up.

MLB Game Picks - Tuesday: April 15, 2014

I almost had a perfect night. I was 7-0 with one game suspended and the Angels, which I picked over the A's had a one run lead heading into the last inning. A one-out pinch hit homer by Jaso off of Frieri later, and the pick went bye-bye. I was that close.

Oh well. Even so, the picks are 27-10 over the last three days, so that is a pretty good run.

There are sixteen games to pick today. They have to finish the Reds - Pirates game, which was suspended. Here are the picks:
  • The Pirates over the Reds: The Pirates have the better bullpen, so I will lean towards them in a short game.
  • The Phillies over the Braves: It seemed like the Phillies just handed the game ot the Braves last night. Weird. Tonight might be different. Cliff Lee usually pitches well against the Braves and young David Hale is having command issues.
  • The Yankees over the Cubs: Masahiro Tanaka should have no issues with the Cubs' lineup and the only issue is whether the Yankees can solve Jason Hammel, something they have struggled with in the past.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: I like Jake Odorizzi in this one much more than I like Miguel Gonzalez.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: The Indians never seem to beat the Tigers. So that is the way I am leaning here. Anibal Sanchez goes for the Tigers and Zach McAllister goes for the Indians.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: Gerrit Cole has been pitching really well and Mike Leake is always a puzzle to me. Will Leake win? Depends. Ha!
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: I keep picking Stephen Strasburg like he is infallible. But I usually get disappointed. Still, if he does his thing and strikes out ten or more, he should win over Tom Koehler.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: When did it go from Robbie Ross to Robert Ross, Jr.? Anyway, the only reason I am picking Ross is because the Mariners are pitching Blake Beavan.
  • The Red Sox over the White Sox: Jake Peavy goes back to Chicago and should pitch well there. He faces Erik Johnson, the kind of young pitcher the Red Sox usually munch up to mulch.
  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: I don't know what ails Shelby Miller, but he has not been the same guy as he was early last year. I expect the Brewers to strike here and have a good performance at home by Marco Estrada.
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: Good old Phil Hughes has brought his homer-prone ways with him to the Twins. That is not a good thing against the Blue Jays. Brandon Morrow's last start was encouraging.
  • The Mets over the Diamondbacks: If the Dbacks lose a second straight to the lowly Mets, then stuff is going to start hitting the fan. Jenrry Mejia has the kind of stuff to win and should be better than Bronson Arroyo.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: Let's try this again, shall we? Garrett Richards has become really good and Dan Straily is just okay. If those two things hold true, the Angels should win.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: I like Robbie Erlin quite a bit and so I am going with him over Juan Nicasio. This might be a mistake because Nicasio is usually pretty solid.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: I just don't believe in Josh Beckett. Then again, it is hard to believe in Tim Lincecum these days either. So who knows. The Giants are the home team.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Royals over the Astros: If Yordano Ventura becomes as good as he looks, can we call him Ace Ventura? Please? The Royals have just not gelled yet but should be able to beat Lucas Harrell.
Yesterday: 7-1, Games of the Day: 6-5, Season: 116-77

Monday, April 14, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Monday: April 14, 2014

Yesterday was a very good day when almost everything went right except the Game of the Day. The Tigers are a very confusing team. Then again, they always have been. They never seem to win as many games as their talent level and that has been true for years. But then just when you expect them to lose, they win. But anyway, it was a good day. There are nine games on the schedule. They should go thusly:
  • The Braves over the Phillies: This game features two fairly warm teams and two pitchers I have never been comfortable picking in Roberto Hernandez and Ervin Santana. I will go with the Braves based on Santana's first performance of the season.
  • The Orioles and the Rays: I have no idea which team will win this one. Wei-Yin Chen has been so so and Chris Archer can be great at times. But the O's are at home so I will go with them.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Wandy Rodriguez looks really flat this season and I don't know if he will offer the Pirates anything this year. Homer Bailey is much better than he has pitched thus far.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: Boy has Jordan Zimmermann been disappointing thus far this season. What is up with him? I have to pick him over the Marlins and Brad Hand should only be good for five innings if that.
  • The Mariners over the Rangers: I would love for Colby Lewis to have a very good comeback. But am I going to risk a pick that will happen? No. Instead I will go with Roenis Elias to keep the Rangers' bats cold. Robinson Cano will hit his first homer in this series.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: I am picking way too many visiting teams to win today. I hate that. Among all the great things happening so far for the Brewers, Matt Garza has been the hard luck guy. He has pitched well and has nothing to show for it. Today, Lance Lynn will out pitch him and end the Brewers win streak.
  • The Mets over the Diamondbacks: Here I go again with the visiting team. Josh Collmenter has never been reliable as a starter. And Zack Wheeler is going to put it all together one of these days.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: The Angels are starting to kill the ball and Hector Santiago is a lot better than he has shown thus far. Jesse Chavez has pitched really well though and has not had any run support.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Jordan Lyles is 2-0. That is surprising. Will he win today? Maybe. But I am going with Eric Stults to pitch better than he has so far this year with a little home cooking.
Yesterday: 11-4, Games of the Day: 6-5, Season: 109-76

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The walkless nine

Every year at the start of the season, a couple of batters pique the interest as to when they will record their first base on balls of the season. This season, we have nine candidates we will be watching to see who goes the longest this season without getting a walk. Some of the names are surprising due to their histories. And others might be explainable due to how hot they are hitting. After all, who wants to walk when hits are screaming off the bat.

So who will be the last man standing of the following nine (minimum of 30 PAs)?
  • Melky Cabrera: The Melkman is off to a good start with the bat. He is batting .327 and already has four homers. Who wouldn't want to swing the bat with that kind of hitting going on? 55 PAs
  • Dustin Pedroia: This one is a complete surprise as Pedroia has traditionally walked over 9% of the time in his career and was over 10% last year. He is only batting .237 though. The Red Sox moved him up to the lead-off position yesterday to get his mind into taking more pitches. It did not work.  55 PAs.
  • Juan Uribe - The Dodgers' third baseman has never liked to walk much, but the last two years he was over 7%. He is off to a real hot start with the bat and is batting .367. Swing batta batta. 49 plate appearances.
  • Aramis Ramirez: A-Ram is another who is off to a hot start with a .383 batting average. Walks need not apply. Plus the team is on an eight game winning streak. So why mess it up? Ramirez has already driven in ten runs. 47 plate appearances.
  • Khris Davis: Davis is having an odd season so far. But again, he plays with Ramirez on the Brewers and they are hot. So why worry? Davis is only hitting .269, so his lack of walks makes his on-base percentage look pretty bad. He is striking out at a 32.6% clip without walks. That's an ugly combo. 43 PAs.
  • Jonathan Schoop: Schoop made the Orioles team heading north because Machado was not ready to play. He is a top prospect and has looked good at times and bad at times. Having no walks is not a great thing, but is something that happens quite a bit to first year players. He has a .243 BA and a .243 OBP. 37 PAs.
  • Steve Lombardozzi: This is the new Orioles' second baseman's regular MO as he only has a 3.2% career walk rate. Having two guys in the lineup with him and Schoop not walking is a problem. Lombardozzi does have a .306 batting average and has been hit once with a pitch. 37 PAs.
  • Mitch Moreland: Moreland is the Rangers' DH this season and as such is going up there swinging and hacking. He has no walks and a 30.6% strikeout rate. The Rangers won't put up with that for long.  36 PAs.
  • Mike Zunino: The Mariners' young catcher has a wOBA over .360, so his lack of walks have not been a problem yet. Again, it is typical for a young player getting his first shot to swing at everything. And that is what Zunino is doing. 32 PAs.
There are your nine walkless wonders. Of the nine, only Zunino, Schoop and Ramirez are in the top ten at swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. So they are the best candidates we watch as the last MLB batter without a walk.

MLB Game Picks - Sunday: April 13, 2014

Saturday was a much better day than the previous three! Ten out of fifteen correct is a much better showing. The Orioles - Blue Jays game could have gone either way. I did not expect the Astros to win. But pretty much everything else went according to plan.

Now comes Sunday, the best baseball day of the week with all the day games. The picks:
  • The Reds over the Rays: This has been a low scoring series with great pitching. One team will bust out today and I think it will be the Reds. Cesar Ramos gets the start for the Rays and if he is good for five innings, it will be a surprise. Tony Cingrani, on the other hand, should have a good day.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: This might be a high scoring game. I don't have a whole lot of faith in either Henderson Alvarez or Kyle Kendrick, but give the nod to Kendrick at home.
  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: Ubaldo Jimenez gets his first win as an Oriole and Mark Buehrle yields enough runs for the Orioles to get the W.
  • The Nationals over the Braves: Gio Gonzalez has added yet another plus pitch to his amazing arsenal and he has been nearly perfect so far this season. That should continue against the strikeout-prone Braves. Plus, Aaron Harang cannot stay as good as he's been.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Jose Quintana has been quite good for the White Sox. Corey Kluber is up and down so you never know what you will get. Going with the White Sox at home.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Once again, Royals fans are getting restless. The team is much better than they have been playing. I think it is a manager problem, but that's just me. Anyway, I like Jason Vargas over Kevin Correia.
  • The Brewers over the Pirates: I like Kyle Lohse at home. McCutchen is not 100% and Charlie Morton is fringy in my book.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Edwin Jackson is still Edwin Jackson. Michael Wacha is faring better than the Cardinals' other young starters so far. I like Wacha and the Cards at home.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: Martin Perez is the Rangers' best pitcher right now after Darvish and should have a good day against the Astros. Brett Oberholtzer is pretty good though and could hold the scoring down.
  • The Angels over the Mets: I like C.J. Wilson at home. And while Bartolo Colon is capable at any time of shutting a team down, a couple of fat fastballs will disappear in a hurry too.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Tyler Chatwood makes his first start of the season and that never fills me with confidence. On the other hand, Tim Hudson is off to a great start with the Giants.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Whatever happened to Trevor Cahill? Didn't he used to be good at one time? He hasn't been good in a long time. Dan Haren is not the greatest comfort either.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Interesting game here. Chris Young is like 6'10" tall and you would think that would be a nice downward plane to pitch. But he has had injury trouble forever. The Mariners scooped him in waivers, so let's see what they got. Scott Kazmir, meanwhile, continues to nicely rebuild his career.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: This game could go either way. Both Felix Doubront an Ivan Nova are immensely talented pitchers who make you scratch your head at times. The Yankees are better equipped to handle left-handed pitchers this year.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Tigers over the Padres: If you had to pick Max Scherzer over Tyson Ross, you'd do it a hundred times out of a hundred, right? Yeah. I would...at least until Ross can discover some command.
Yesterday: 10-5, Games of the Day: 6-4, Season: 98-72

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Red Sox' bullpen is a weapon

When I was doing my preseason predictions, one of the things I stated was that it seemed impossible that the Boston Red Sox bullpen could be as good as it was last season when it was one of the reasons the team went all the way to the World Series title. While we are still in small sample size territory, it looks like I was dead wrong. It appears the bullpen for the Red Sox is every bit as good as it was last season.

The bullpen starts and ends with closer, Koji Uehara. What Uehara is doing is historical. We have never seen anything like this before. Uehara last blew a save on July 6, 2013. He has not blown another one since. But the save thing is not the statistic to focus on. Everything else is mind blowing.

Since July 5 of last year, he has walked one batter. One! Since the start of the second half of 2013, Uehara has pitched 34 times covering 37 innings and has given up twelve hits. Twelve! That works out to a .098 batting average. He has given up one run. One! That works out to an ERA of 0.24. He has struck out 48 batters in those 37 innings for a strikeout to walk ratio of 48 to 1. Good golly!

I am not sure the baseball world has really gotten a hold of how incredible this run has been for Koji Uehara. Like I said, we have never seen anything like this before. I will give you Kimbrel of the Braves. But which closer would you take right now? I would take Uehara.

I have always said that a great bullpen needs three really good relievers at the back end. The Red Sox have had that and more. Junichi Tazawa is not in the same league with Uehara, but if you throw out his bad September last year, a month in which his BABIP against was .360 and he has been very good as well.

So far this year, Tazawa has not given up a run and has an 8.7 strikeout to walk ratio. He has only walked one batter.

The American League got a bit of a break when the Red Sox activated Craig Breslow and sent Brandon Workman to the minors. Workman was doing an incredible job for the Red Sox bullpen. He had an 0.78 WHIP and a 7.00 strikeout to walk ratio. It's not like Breslow is not any good. The lefty did finish with a 1.80 ERA last year despite not striking out batters as often as the rest of the bullpen. He is just good at what he does and gets batters out. And the Red Sox have added another just like him in Chris Capuano.

Capuano had rebuilt his career as a starter the last couple of seasons after years of injury troubles. But the Red Sox have had him in the bullpen and he has really responded well out there. He has not walked a batter and has an impressive WHIP of 0.60. Capuano, Breslow, Uehara and Tazawa have not allowed an inherited runner to score this season. The bullpen has also not allowed a homer.

Edward Mujica had an early struggle, but picked up a save last night against the Yankees giving Uehara a rest. Andrew Miller can be erratic, but is hard to hit most of the time. The weakest link seems to be Burke Badenhop. Badenhop will not blow hitters away and relies on a high ground ball percentage, which means he is a bit open to the foibles of BABIP. Workman is clearly a better option than Badenhop, but the Red Sox understandably do not want to give up on Workman as a starter and thus the demotion to get reps.

The real key to understanding what makes Uehara, Tazawa and even Workman so good is their ability to get batters to swing at pitches outside the strike zone. Workman had an O-swing rate of 45.2%, which is pretty incredible. Uehara is at 39.4% and Tazawa at 42.9%. Capuano and Mujica are both over 30%. Uehara also gets a first pitch strike 68% of the time, which means that batters are pretty much at his mercy the rest of the plate appearance.

I did not think the Red Sox bullpen could be as good as last year. So far, I couldn't be more wrong. If the bullpen stays this good all season, the Red Sox are going to be mighty tough to beat.

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: April 12, 2014

The last three days of picking have been a struggle and Friday was no different. It was up and down all night and the picks just finished a game over .500. I should have picked Ryu as he was terrific. The same could be said for Andrew Cashner. The NL Central has me all out of whack and I did not get any of those games right as the Cards and Pirates both lost. I also did not expect Dustin McGowan to be as good as he was.

I just saw my first robin of the spring as I was looking out the window, so perhaps that was a sign of hope. Here are Saturday's picks:
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Hiroki Kuroda is pretty money in day games. Of course, it will all depend on if the Yankees can score any runs off of John Lackey, who has been good so far this season.
  • The Rays over the Reds: I like Alex Cobb in this game. I think he can keep the Reds off balance with his change-up. Alfredo Simon won his first start of the season, but that does not seem like a good way to go here.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: Felipe Paulino has been terrible with a 2.28 WHIP. Justin Masterson has not been good so far. But which one has a better chance of being better? Yes, Justin Masterson.
  • The Royals over the Twins: The Twins got the better of the Royals last night. I do not see that happening two days in a row. James Shields over Ricky Nolasco.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: In Adam Wainwright do I trust. In Carlos Villanueva, I don't. When is Allen Craig going to start hitting?
  • The Rockies over the Giants: Matt Cain just is not Matt Cain anymore. What has he lost? I must go and study this. Brett Anderson has not won a game for the Rockies yet. This could be the one.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Jonathan Pettibone makes his first Major League start. He is from Placentia, California, so is this the birth of a big league career? Ugh. Sorry for that. Anyway, Nathan Eovaldi goes for the Marlins and he makes this pick tough, because he has gotten much better.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Drew Hutchison probably learned a bit after his loss to the Yankees. He will bounce back. The Orioles' defense is compromised without Hardy and Machado. Bud Norris will never be as good as people thought he would be.
  • The Brewers of the Pirates: If I have learned anything over the years of doing this, it's that Yovani Gallardo rarely loses at home. So he is the pick over Edinson Volquez, who is doing better this year.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: Two young arms in this one with Alex Wood facing Taylor Jordan. Both have pitched well. I simply like a lefty like Wood against the Nationals' lineup.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: Yesterday, Matt Domiguez had two hits. The rest of the Astros went 0-35. Only two starters in the Astros' lineup is batting over .200. It's sad. So even if Tanner Scheppers is not that good a MLB starter, he has a chance here. Jarred Cosart goes for the Astros.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: I think Zack Greinke is going to be better than Wade Miley in this game. But Greinke doesn't last long in the game, so the bullpen has to come up big.
  • The Padres over the Tigers: I have a feeling Ian Kennedy is going to come up big in this game and that Justin Verlander will continue being sort of ordinary.
  • The Angels over the Mets: With Jered Weaver's low fastball velocity, so much is predicated on how he does with his command. When he is off, the balls go flying out of the yard. Which will it be tonight? I have little faith right now in Jonathon Niese.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: You know by now that I always pick Sonny Gray, right? If not, then file that tidbit away. Erasmo Ramirez is hit or miss. He is either great or terrible.
Yesterday: 8-7, Games of the Day: 5-4, Season: 88-67