Thursday, July 31, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: July 31, 2014

This is it. July has come to a close and another month of the season is in the books. There are two more to go and some of it will be determined by last minute deals that happen today. As always, some fan bases will be happy and some will be disappointed.
Speaking of disappointing, the picking day ended under .500 yesterday. The Game of the Day worked out okay, but little else did. The Kluber / Hernandez match-up could have gone either way, so that's okay. But sometimes teams lose to teams they shouldn't lose to and it's the old saw about on any given day, any one team can beat another. There were a lot of given days yesterday.
Thursday's picks:
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: I hesitate to pick the White Sox because starter, John Danks, might be traded before the game starts. While that leaves The Emoticon, Drew Smyly as the alternative, I'll still pick the Tigers.
  • The Cubs over the Rockies: The Rockies are starting Pedro Hernandez, a 25-year-old lefty from Venezuela who has logged 60+ innings in the Majors and has given up thirteen homers and only struck out 4.6 batters per nine. Yeah. I'll go with Jake Arrieta gentille Arrieta.
  • The Padres over the Cardinals: I don't know which fan base is more restless these days, the Cardinals' or the Yankees'. It's probably a tie. There has been a lot of talk about Shelby Miller and his disappointing season. But despite a bump in his last start, the reason for this pick is Odrisamer Despaigne.
  • The Orioles over the Angels: It's silly to pick against the Orioles these days. They just keep on winning and winning and winning. Remember all that Buster Olney talk about their tough schedule after the All Star Break? Forget that. Bud Norris over Tyler Skaggs.
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: The Phillies are sort of like the big car manufacturers of the 1980s. They just keep on doing what they are doing despite the world passing them by. If Cliff Lee makes his start tonight for them, it's a complete fail for the Phillies and their front office. Gio Gonzalez for the win.
  • The Indians over the MarinersZach McAllister's peripherals are better than his results. It looks like a command issue more than anything. If he throws strikes, he can win. Chris Young has to be perfect not to get clobbered. That is a tightrope.
  • The Reds over the Marlins: I saw that Tom Koehler was pitching for the Marlins and said, "Oh, I should pick them." But then I saw that Johnny Cueto was pitching for the Reds and say, "Maybe not."
  • The Royals over the Twins: How is Kevin Correia still in the rotation for the Twins? Sorry for the disrespect, but the guy has become a batting practice pitcher. Yordano Ventura should be better. If he isn't, I hate you Royals.
  • The Blue Jays over the Astros: The Blue Jays are fresh off of pounding the Red Sox into submission after doing the same to the Yankees. The Astros should be next. Drew Hutchison needs to be better, but if he is, he should best Jarred Cosart.
  • The Pirates over the Diamondbacks: Both Josh Collmenter and Jeff Locke gave up more than ten hits in their last starts. Ugh. Locke is much better at home than on the road. But the Pirates have the better team if the pitchers are considered equal.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Dodgers over the Braves: Any time you have Clayton Kershaw on the mound and he as at home when doing so, you have to pick him. Julio Teheran is a talented pitcher who has been all over the place for some reason lately.
Yesterday: 7-8, July: 206-194, Games of the Day: 63-49, Season: 889-739

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: July 30, 2014

Considering the picks yesterday started with a 6-0 run, I'm not very proud to have ended up the day with a 9-6 record. Even the Game of the Day did not make me proud even though it was correct. After all, the usually vaunted Yankee bullpen gave up seven runs in three innings to nearly blow the game. But when David Robertson gave up a well-struck fly ball in the ninth with the bases loaded to win it to record a save (after giving up two runs) he couldn't have been proud and I wasn't proud the feature was correct. Sheesh.
Oh, about the Marlins. They are surging. Now there is talk they are in the Jon Lester race. I was given this well-deserved message by a fellow Twitter writer:

Wednesday's picks:
  • The Rays over the Brewers: Can you pick against the Rays right now? Can you pick against David Price right now? I don't think so on either count. Oh, Yovani Gallardo might pitch well, but the Rays seem invincible at the moment.
  • The Mets over the PhilliesZack Wheeler and Kyle Kendrick both only have five wins in their 21 starts (each). That's about as equal as they get. Wheeler has really pitched well for two months. Kendrick has maybe a good game here or there.
  • The Reds over the DiamondbacksAlfredo Simon has struggled after the All Star Break and has lost two straight. Can he put it back together or again? Wade Miley was pitching much better until his last start. Tough call here. I am going with the Reds at home.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: Hey, Real American...I truly am a slow learner. Tanner Roark has been like a metronome his last three starts: Seven innings, one run, five or six strikeouts. He's my guy. Brad Hand pitched well his last time out. Is he as good as Roark. I don't think so. But can he be for this start? Real American is all over me.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: This isn't so much a pick for Jason Hammel. I am never truly comfortable picking him. The fact is that Dallas Keuchel (rhymes with Michael) might be traded before this game starts.
  • The Pirates over the Giants: I hate this pick and this game. Charlie Morton is one reason. I never like picking him. Tim Lincecum is about as consistent as the direction of a Barry Sanders run. Who the heck knows.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: The Orioles are on a magical run. No doubt this pick is flying in the face of fortune. But it is based on the pitching line. When Garrett Richards gave up seven hits in his seven innings last time out, it was the first time since May 15 that he allowed more hits than innings pitched. He is a super talent. Kevin Gausman is talented too. He needs more command.
  • The Mariners over the Indians: Man, is this a tough pick. Corey Kluber is great. Felix Hernandez is great in spades. One of them is going to win 1-0 or 2-1 or something.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue JaysMark Buehrle might be the weak link of this pitching staff now after carrying them earlier in the season. He has lost his last six decisions covering nine games. Though in full disclosure, the Jays did win three of those no decision games. He also has a career WHIP against the Red Sox of nearly 1.5. Brandon Workman has a workman-like effort and wins.
  • The Rockies over the Cubs: Two terrible teams. Two pitchers not having pretty seasons. But Brett Anderson does have the benefit of two good starts in a row. Travis Wood only has one in a row. Gosh, why did I start doing this?
  • The Yankees over the RangersColby Lewis pitched a good game against the Yankees the last time out. But Mark Teixeira wasn't in the lineup and Brett Gardner wasn't unconscious. It all depends on Hiroki Kuroda who has been hit or miss this season.
  • The Royals over the Twins: You need to be Elijah to figure out the Royals. I know I can't and I have given up trying. Danny Duffy has been very good his last three starts. But that doesn't mean anything with the Royals. Phil Hughes sounds like a bad fit against the Royals' offense, but he could throw a complete game victory too. I don't know.
  • The Dodgers over the BravesAlex Wood has had a decent season for being an afterthought in the rotation. Zack Greinke should win this game, however.
  • The Padres over the CardinalsJesse Hahn chaka hahn is my guy. So I have to pick him. It helps that he faces Joe Kelly who Cardinal fans are starting to see is not the rotation stud they thought he was.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: I correctly picked the White Sox yesterday as jumping all over Sanchez. But they won't do the same against Max Scherzer. Can you imagine the frenzy when he is a free agent this winter? Hector Noesi can only dream about those untold millions.
Yesterday: 9-6, July: 199-156, Games of the Day: 62-49, Season: 882-731

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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 DiamondbacksMike Leake has not pitched particularly well. But even Leake at his worst is better than Trevor Cahill these days.
  • The Rays over the BrewersMatt 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 MetsCole 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 TwinsRon 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 AstrosScott 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 PadresLance 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 PiratesFrancisco 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

Monday, July 28, 2014

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 MLB.com, 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.

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 DiamondbacksChase 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 MetsA.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 JaysR.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 RockiesYohan 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 YankeesYu 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 PiratesMadison 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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

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 JaysJ.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 IndiansBruce 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 MarlinsTom 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 AngelsHector 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 MarinersRoenis 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 CubsKyle 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.