A Useful MLB Pitcher After All?
Pitcher A threw 7 shutout innings tonight, allowing only 1 hit and striking out 6. He got 10 GB outs to 4 flies (and 1 line drive). In his last game, he also went 7, giving up 2R on 6H against 7Ks. The time before that? 7 1/3IP, 1R, 4ks. Sounds intriguing, doesn't he? Yeah, it's not exactly Jimenez's sparkling 1R in 38IP, but it's nothing to scoff at.
As you probably know, 'Pitcher A' is none other than Cha Seung Baek, who's quietly having a great season in Tacoma. M's fans have been wary of him, because his stuff isn't all that great, because he gives up HRs, and because his shot in the MLB rotation in the disastrous 2004 campaign didn't go all that well (except for one game vs. Texas). That and his disastrous 2005 (8-8, 6.41 ERA, 147 hits in 113 2/3 IP) made him look eerily like a Korean Craig Anderson: someone who got by in the lower minors on control and guile, but who's simply too hittable for quality opposition.
Baek's doing what he can to dispel that idea - but is anyone watching anymore? Many in the M's blogosphere (incl. me, and basically everyone else) have written him off as an org pitcher - not a prospect at all. I was at his 7inning one-hitter early in the year, and probably made all sorts of excuses for it: it was early, the hitters aren't ready yet. It was against Colorado Springs, who suck. It was an afternoon start and the shadows were weird, etc. etc.
So the question is this: How many times does he have to repeat performances like this before we consider that he might have figured something out or that he actually WAS hurt in '05? He's never going to be a big K guy, so is he the Jeff Harris of 2006 (and that has value), or is he something different - someone with the potential to be more? I don't know, but as a guy who's been loving watching Cesar mess with PCL hitters' timing, it's kinda tough to argue that Baek's success is all BABIP-driven. Obviously, Jimenez is much younger, which makes what he's doing all the more impressive. But the question remains: given that Baek isn't going to put up Cruceta's K rates, what does he have to do to get noticed? Maybe the lack of attention and pressure is all he really needed...
Adam Jones' maturation continues apace, as he hit his 14th home run to cap off a sublime AB in the Rainiers' 4 run 2nd. He fell behind early on a couple of foul balls, got it to 1-2, and then was utterly fooled by a John Hudgins fastball. Clearly sitting on something offspeed, Jones basically put a tennis swing on the ball, fouling it up the 1b line. It doesn't sound like much, but these are the kind of ABs that ended in Ks in April/May. Every time. Now, he can fight off pitchers' pitches and wait for better offerings. He took a few more balls, fouled off another pitch, and then absolutely crushed a ball to the left field power alley. Classic. He also had a bloop double and a stolen base, so he was clearly the offensive star of the night.
Chris Snelling went 1-3 with a walk, Rob Johnson went 1-4 with an RBI, Jeff Clement had two singles, and newcomer Erick Monzon made his AAA debut a good one, with an RBI single in his first AB and good defense at second.
He'll be up for a while, as Rainiers' second basemen Michael Garciaparra (who was already out of the line-up due to injury) broke his nose today in batting practice. He'd just returned from the hospital at about 6-6:20pm.
The other 'highlight' of the game came from the stands. I decided to go late, and thus couldn't get my customary seats. I was still behind the plate, but I picked up my ticket and my heart just sank: I was going to be seated right next to Cranky Yankee. She was in rare form tonight, and managed to get four people thrown out (for abusive language). As irrascible as ever, she was even insulting some of the security guards who didn't throw out the offending individuals fast enough. Apparently, everyone knows that nickname, as spectators, security staff and even the Fun Squad referred to her as Cranky Yankee. I'll remember to be more specific about where I sit next time. (To be fair, the people next to her were drunk and generally trashy, but when CY's blood is up, her targeting skills aren't all that great. She had basically divided the entire section into 'OK' and 'Scum' by the fourth inning. First time security called by CY: end of 2nd inning, which is a record, I'd think).