Sunday, April 30, 2006

Photos from Cheney 4-30-06

I'm quite confident that marc w is preparing his wrap up of the action in today's doubleheader. Heh. Wouldn't ya know it -- we were simul-blogging! So, rather than tread on his territory (and since he stayed for both games, while I was only able to stay for the completion of Saturday's wrap-up), I'll post a few pictures with, well, appropriate titles.

I will say this, though. Jered Weaver is a freakin' monster! He dominated today, and yet the Rainiers were able to overcome it. Why the parent club can't imitate their children, I'll never know. Anyway, here's PositivePaul's photoblogging of the first game of the doubleheader...

Cesar Jimenez throws a screwball? That's an interesting arm angle there. He did it again, too...

Curtis Pride, looking at the time fly past him...

"Hey Robby -- I think that Youngbauer dude forgot to button his fly..."

Jered Wever, Contortionist Extraordinaire...

Dallas McPherson, making sure he put on extra deodorant for the doubleheader...

Hey! Kendry Morales floated an air biscuit!

Good thing, too. He needed the extra room so he could slide on his @ss...

Very good, Rhubarb! You DO have three points on your antlers!

The replacement ump getting a head start on the Mother's Day Diamond Dig.

(Problem is -- Mike Napoli buried it in FRONT of the plate!)

Jered Weaver, Strikeout MONSTER!

(He just forgot to tell Scott Youngbauer...

...And Centerfielder Tommy Murphy)

Adam Jones got the message, though.

Asdrubal Cabrera SCORES!!!

Uh, yeah. He said "FORK!"

It's generally a good idea to hold onto the ball when you've got a guy in a rundown.

Yeah, I pwnn'd Weaver!!!1!!i1!!!eins!one!!!!

Still lookin' for that diamond...

"Uh, it's Free GS52..." But I suppose "Free Fruto" has a distinct ring to it, too. He's probably the only one that could fill out GS52's jersey down there, though...

With that arm angle, Fruto needs all the help he can to stay healthy. Even Mrs. PositivePaul saw that Fruto needs to use his legs more when he pitches. That can't be good on the arms...

Tag, you're it... Uh... I mean.. You're OUT!

And so ends another episode of "Hi 5-in' White Guys!" (well, sorta).

If you've made it this far with out your computer chokin' -- good for you! The full album can be found here. There's some bonus clips, too, so keep an eye out for those!

Mini-Meet-up/Rainiers Double Header

Sunday was a day of stark contrasts - between great pitching and stomach-turning defense. Between the two-true-outcomes of Dallas McPherson and the smoke and mirrors act of Cha Seung Baek. Between the perverse pleasure in stealing a game you've got no business winning and the adrenal punch of a game winning HR (by the bad guys). Between the thrill of meeting up with my colleague here and a fellow M's blogger, and the... OK, there's no counterpoint to that at all. That was pretty sweet.

The first game was a continuation of Saturday's rain-out - yesterday's starter Clint Nageotte was charged a run today, despite sitting in the stands charting pitches. Picking up in the second for a sort of 'start' was recent call-up Cesar Jimenez, who, while lacking pinpoint control, put up a nice line of 5IP, 3H, 1R, 3BB, 6K. He was utterly outshone by Angels/Salt Lake phenom Jered Weaver, who, in 6IP struck out *12*. He struck out the first 5 hitters he faced, and had the Rainiers guessing every at-bat. He finished with a line of 6IP, 4H, 2R 1ER, 1BB, 12K which is almost Hamelsian. He threw a moving FB at 92, a slider in the 80s and a big breaking 'slurve' at around 74.

The Rainiers looked utterly lost late in the game - trailing 2-0, and unable to touch, let alone damage, Weaver. But then the factor that helped put the Rainiers in this bind ended up bailing them out. Weaver, Jimenez and Rainiers reliever Rich Dorman had benefitted from an extremely, um, generous strike zone. The umpire seemed to think the strikes needed a bit of lebensraum, and ceded a large portion of unincorporated territory to the pitcher in a sort of umpiring anschluss. This state of affairs left many hitters speechless - Rob Johnson and Shin-Soo Choo were particularly non-plussed - but it had rather the opposite effect on Salt Lake 3b Dallas McPherson. If you clicked on that link, you'd see that he's well-acquianted with the K, and I'd have thought that in generating the staggering K totals he has, he'd be familiar with the odd bad call. But a Rich Dorman FB on the outside corner (of the batter's box) had him seeing red. After swinging through a curve, McPherson barked at the ump from the dugout until he earned himself an early exit. This turned out to be quite important...
After Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to deep right-center, Weaver was pulled out in favor of Jonathon Rouwenhorst, who promptly induced a GB to McPherson's replacement, Casey Smith. Smith dropped the ball, then threw it past Kendry Morales for a two-base error. Suddenly, the tying run was on second with nobody out, Weaver was gone and the Bees were both angry and jittery. After Shin-Soo Choo failed to get a run in, Adam Jones knocked an RBI single, Greg Dobbs singled, and the Rainiers got a bit of insurance with a Mike Morse sac fly.
Emiliano Fruto closed things out despite looking a bit shaky - he walked the first batter, then threw a pitch up in the eyes of Bees catcher Mike Napoli. Fruto finished off the at bat by hitting Napoli on the back. From there, as one might expect, things got a bit better - a K, an FC and GB out and that was that.

I met up with Positive Paul and Deanna between games to pick up the 8x10 shot of Clint Nageotte I ordered (order YOURS today! They make great gifts!). Paul actually had a couple of copies in lovely black and white, and Deanna and I were lucky enough to get them autographed early in game 2, as Nageotte was charting pitches just across the aisle from us. Again, Mariner Morsels gets *results*.

Game two
was less interesting, despite a nice performance from Cha Seung Baek, the Rainiers couldn't get any separation. With a new umpire at the plate, Ks were much harder to come by - unless your Dallas McPherson, who must strike out shaving, dressing himself and eating.
The Bees took a one-run lead into the final inning, and though the rainiers had runners at the corners with two outs, Hunter Brown grounded a pitch right back to Salt Lake pitcher Jason Bulger. All the Bees needed to do was complete the tricky 1-3 putout to win, but that proved too much - McPherson, who had just moved to 1B for the inning, missed the throw, allowing TJ Bohn to score the tying run. It was a ludicrous play, the perfect cap for a night in which McPherson had struck out 5 times, gotten thrown out, and gone 0-7. Fittingly, McPherson got one final at-bat in the top of the 8th and while I was teasing him for attempting to don the unheard-of Diamond Sombrero (6ks in one day), he took Aaron Looper deep to left-center. Ballgame.

Still, I got to watch an amazing pitching performance by Jered Weaver, a Rainiers win, an impressive display of wind-power from McPherson, a tying run score with 2 outs in the last inning on a come-backer... and do it all while chatting to Deanna and admiring my newly signed Nags 8x10. Nearly flawless (thank you Aaron 'nepotism' Looper).

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sunday Morsels at Cheney...

Looks like I'm bringing the fam tomorrow. Rumor has it that Deanna the Marinerd will be there, too. Not sure if marc w will be there, but, hey, if so, we could make a gathering out of it.

Looks like today's game was suspended, so, heck, if you haven't been to Cheney yet, tomorrow should be a good day -- a two-for-one deal, even! The weather's supposed to be a little better.

With help from a few contributions to the Lens Fund, I bought a new lens at a camera show this morning that I'll be trying out tomorrow. I shot a few pix of Joey's t-ball game, and I can already tell a huge difference. I've still got a few lenses on my wish list, though, so if ya feel the need... Decorate your sports room; get that kid an Ichiro print (I did!); surprise the Bloomquist fan in your family with a poster-sized print of their hero! Remember - a $15 contribution gets you an 8x10! And that's even cheaper than the papers' reprints. The prints are even better than what you see on screen. Mother's Day is coming up, and Father's Day isn't that far behind...

I don't think the ushers would be too happy squeezing 3-4 people into Oly Rainiers Fan's seat, so we'll probably sit up in Section C (third base side). Drop us a line if you'll be there!

Friday, April 28, 2006

One month check-up

OK, so we're a little short of a month gone in both the MLB and AAA seasons... what stands out?
This isn't an add-on to our 'Diagnostic' series, though some of the people involved there may put in a cameo...

1: Sean Green is dealing down in Tacoma, with a 3-0 record, a 1.50 ERA and a 25/9 GB/FB ratio (2.8; that's Hudsonesque!). He's got his issues with control, but he's still an intriguing option out of the pen. It's clear Brundage is now using him in the highest leverage situations...he's moved from set-up guy to closer and all-around late-inning, crunch-time guy for the Rainiers. Tonight was a case in point, as he pitched the 9th in a scoreless tie, and emerged with the win as the Rainiers won it on a walk-off Shin-Soo Choo single.

2: Speaking of tonight's hero, there's an interesting exchange at DOV on Choo's ceiling in the majors. I put Choo with Andre Ethier in the category of guys who will almost certainly have long MLB careers, but may never develop 30-40 HR power. DOV makes the case for Choo as a legit, top 10 in baseball sort of prospect here. Any thoughts, dear readers?

3: GS52 continues to impress. He's getting a lot of appearances, and they're in reasonably important spots. Hargrove is apparently willing to trust George in key situations, despite a semi-rough start to the year. My question is: how much of that is due to Raffy Chaves? Is he going to bat for a guy he coached in Tacoma? I'll admit I don't much care the answer as long as this continues... it's great for the team, and it's obviously great for George. He's going to make himself a lot of money if this keeps up.

4: Jeremy Reed is starting to get really, really concerning. I can brush off a crappy season as easy as the next guy. I have a forgiving nature. But man, is he really a .250 hitter? He's young, but he's turning 25 in a month and change.
The plus side: despite that nasty error today, he's played pretty good CF. About 1/3 of his hits are going for extra bases, which may indicate he's just unlucky on balls in play. This is basically what happend to Pat Burrell in 2003. Of course, Burrell had 1/2 of his hits go for extra bases that year, and had 21 HRs.
The minus side: that OBP he was famous for in the minors? It never made it to Seattle. His OBP in the majors, esp. this year, is way too low. Paging Mr. Pentland... His speed has never translated into acceptable SB totals or SB/CS rates. It's a facet of his game that simply isn't major league ready, and while it's small potatoes, comparitively, it's still real, and still an issue. His OPS is under 600, and has been below 700 for way, way too long. At what point do we consider his freakish stats in the White Sox system the fluke, as opposed to his MLB performance?
I still think there's a good chance that Reed develops into a good player, but he's making it awfully hard on all those who believe in him. Meanwhile, Willie Ballgame bides his time, 'ready' to take over the starting CF job.

5: Matt Tuiasosopo hit his first HR tonight. Undoubtedly tired of the teasing he was subjected to by his Inland Empire teammates following Mariners Morsels public questioning of his ability to hit for power and average, he's gone on an a semi-tear, following a 4-4 (all singles) with a 2-4 night that, perhaps more shocking than the HR, included ZERO K's. I would absolutely love to be proven wrong about Tui. As his backers argue, he's still young for the league. True enough, but Asdrubal Cabrera is the same age and is starting in AAA.

6: Tonight was night for hyped pitching prospects to erase some doubts. may have been a bit premature in awarding Cole Hamels it's 'Star of the Day' following the young Phillies' farmhand's AAA debut - 7IP, 3h, 0R, 0BB, 14K. Why? Dodgers prospect Chad Billingsley carried a no-hitter into the 8th against Colorado Springs, finishing with a line of 8IP, 0R, 1H, 1BB, 6K. Ok, yeah, Hamels still has the better line, but Billingsley made it interesting. Dodgers relief prospect Jonathan Broxton pitched the 9th to run his line to 10 2/3 IP, 6H, 0R, 3BB, 16Ks; that's worth a mention as well.

7: That Delmon Young If you haven't seen it (it's been on the Today show, MiLB's website, ESPN, everywhere), you can go to the video tape here. Should be a 1 month suspension, and Young can forget about seeing the majors this September.

8: Cool scouting report on Tacoma's Emiliano Fruto over at Prospect Insider.

9: Friday Fun Link 1: Photo A is of an MLB hall of famer. Photo B is of a clown/mascot of a fast food chain. If you can tell them apart, you've got keener eyes than this correspondant...

10: Via deadspin (about 3 weeks ago), here's a mystifying-and-yet-utterly-compelling list of photoshopped family portraits featuring NBA players. This must take a long time, and I'm not sure what you've got at the end of it, but I found this hilarious. Your results will undoubtedly vary, as many are not as immature as I. Or as tolerant of the pointlessly absurd.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I Do, Citizen K: Niehaus Bugs Me, Too...

Citizen K tried to hide this in the previous post, but I'm overriding his thoughts and escalating it here. Of course, he's got the red edit pen (and whatever color the "delete" pen is), too, but still:
Dear Dave Niehaus:
Dude, here are five words for you: Say Richie Sexson's Entire Name!

I've heard Niehaus repeatedly refer to Sexson as "Sexy." As if a man old enough to be Sexson's father calling him carnally appealing isn't bad enough... Last night in the 8th inning Dave shortened that moniker to "Sex." OK. When a 70-year-old man looks at a 6'7" man half his age and the first word to come out of his mouth is "sex," there's a problem. Dave--did you know that "sex" means something else in most other contexts? Think you might be willing to put forth the extra effort to say Sexson's entire name in the future? I beg you.

Citizen K

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Welcome to the bigs, Bobby

As you undoubtedly know by now, Bobby Livingston's major league debut did not go, er, swimmingly. After striking out th first batter he faced (Jim Thome!), Livingston had problems putting people away. He gave up a HR to Jermaine Dye, and a crushed GR 2b to Paul Konerko. Thome also got back at Livingston with a line drive hit to right.
Doc had problems with righties, and appeared hesitant to go to his curve against them. Instead, he tried to sneak some 77-79MPH change-ups by hitters, and while a few worked well (he had Konerko way out in front of one), it didn't work enough times in an AB to put righties away consistently. Indeed, if he missed, Sox hitters crushed the ball. He finished with a line of 1 2/3 IP, 5h 4R 4ER 3BB 1K. The walks are too high, and while he was getting squeezed by HP umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, he just didn't trust his curve enough to really get K's. In the minors, he occasionally had better control of that pitch than his change - the M's may want to consider calling for the curve more often, especially to righties.
Frankly, it's not exactly a shock that he struggled - JAC said that he's struggled in his initial call-up in each level he's pitched. And despite the struggles, there were some positives. His FB hit 89 on the safeco gun with some regularity, sitting between 87-89 all night. He threw a cut FB/2 seamer at 83-84, a change at 77-79 and a curve at 71-73. He showed flashes of his potential here and there, but he also showed that his margin for error will be extremely small.

In happier news, the Rainiers beat Fresno 5-4 in a game featuring two blown saves. The other Tacoma pitcher I've talked up here and elsewhere, Sean Green, got the win after giving up a run on three hits in the 9th (yes - add in the hyping of Stephen Kahn, and I'm really on a roll. Let's just try this - Albert Pujols may have a future in baseball; LeBron James is a good basketball player). But Asdrubal Cabrera, making his first start in 13 days, saved the day with a walk-off double (edit: wrong! Cabrera scored the winning run on a walk-off hit by the legend that is Scott Youngbauer). Cabrera had been holding his own in AAA, as evidenced by his 5/3 BB/K ratio - but his power was waylaid in Wisconsin, of all places, as all 5 of his Tacoma hits this year had been singles. Well, maybe the time off helped - he went 3/4 with *3 doubles* and 3 RBIs. Shin-Soo Choo hit another HR, his 5th, underlining the fact that whatever adjustment period, slump, or park effects caused that big drop in power last year is no longer an issue. The combination of an increasing K rate and decreasing ISO power has led many, including me at the beginning of the year, to write off Choo as a fourth-OF at best. He's proving such hedging premature, and reminding everyone why he was such a talked-about prospect to begin with.
Rob Johnson's in a bit of a slump, but he did throw out another runner trying to steal.
Wlad Balentien hit a 2b and HR in yet another San Antonio loss to midland.
Mark Lowe is still dominant; he gave up 1H and struck out 6 in 3 1/3rd, but he gave up the go-ahead run in the tenth on a Matt Tuiasosopo error. Tui, by the way, now has a K/BB ratio of 23/2, but redeemed himself with a hit to tie the game in the bottom of the 10th. The Sixers eventually prevailed in 12, with Stephen Kahn getting the W - despite striking out zero in 2 innings. I feel like I jinxed him; after telling a scout he had nothing left to learn in the Cal League, he's looked a bit more hittable.
Eric O'Flaherty continues to look good coming back from injury, as the Walla Walla product struck out 3 in 1 2/3 scoreless IP for Inland Empire.
Marwin Vega got hammered in the Midwest league.

To close on a happier note, the Reading Phillies (AA, eastern league) feature a number of promotional give-away days - standard stuff. But look again: they give out pint glasses with some regularity, including a Jimmy Rollins glass and a Bob Boone glass. Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm not one to bash my beloved home town, but some of the jibes about Tacoma being a haven of alcoholics have, well, more than a hint of accuracy. HOW does Tacoma not give out pint glasses, when some two-bit Philadelphia hamlet whose sole claim to fame is being a monopoly RR property has multiple pint-glass giveaways? I understand Tacoma's rebranding as a wired city has been successful, and that attendance may not support higher-cost promotions, but if we have to make do with magnetic schedules and clapping for local honor students, have we properly accounted for the *costs* of progress?
I would pay dearly for a Lance 'You Sunk My' Blankenship pint glass...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Yesterday Eddie

It's never fun to see a popular, productive player lose it. We've all seen it - from Gorman Thomas to Bret Boone, hitters who once instilled fear in opposing pitchers suddenly become out machines. Pitchers who put together a couple of solid-to-dominant years suddenly lose the ability to function in critical sitations (*Ben Stein voice* Schooler? Schooler?).
As many have noted, we're probably looking at this situation now with Eddie Guardado. He's been good, and may yet have some value to the team, but he's clearly not able to be a day in, day out closer. He can't get righties out anymore, and I don't know if you've looked around recently, but there are an awful lot of righties out there. Some have questioned Putz or Sherrill's ability to close, but I'd submit that both have answered those questions; Putz by pitching critical innings late in games (including tonight's 10th inning), and Sherrill by, you know, actually closing. With Soriano continuing his dominance and, according to JAC, getting the last few MPH on his FB back, the M's are blessed with 3-4 decent options here. This is great news for everyone but roto players - the M's should consider using Putz, Sherrill and Soriano in the 9th as the situation demands. The best, so far this year, may be Putz, who's shown an admirable lack of favoritism to lefties OR righties ("I don't see a lefty or a righty - I just see a person. They are all equally helpless."), but Soriano, as he continues to gain strength, may be the better long-term option.
None of this is exactly 'edgy,' but it's worth noting that the M's will continue to lose wins by keeping Guardado in a situation that he's not exactly suited for. The M's have an option in AAA, despite the call-up of Livingston. Sean Green, despite some mechanical/control issues, is still a great option (I'd much rather see a GB single with 2 outs in the ninth than a tying HR to left) due to his extreme GB tendencies and the concomitant skill of keeping the ball in the stadium.

I missed the Rainiers game today, but it looks like Cesar Jimenez is finding the PCL about as tricky as he did last year (read: considerably tricky). Fresno SS Tomas De La Rosa hit another HR tonight - a grand slam. This constitutes a real power surge for De La Rosa, who hit all of 6 HRs in the thin air of Colorado Springs (elev. 6035 feet) in 2005. Juan Zapata did not find his second AAA appearance as tranquil as his first, giving up 3R (1 ER) on 3H and 2BB in 2 1/3 IP. We'll see what we've got in this guy, but he looked to be another soft tosser (unless he had an unusual prediliction for changeups when I saw him).
Other notes: Shin-Soo Choo (3/5, HR) is still really good. Do not run on ANYONE in the Tacoma OF; TJ Bohn and Adam Jones both threw out runners at the plate tonight. There are a lot fewer runners challenging Choo, which is too bad - seeing hitters stunned to be thrown out by 5 feet on balls off the LF wall was a fairly regular occurence last year. Don't run on Rob Johnson either. His release is solid, but his arm strength and *accuracy* really put the breaks on the opponent's running game. Of course, it was Quiroz tonight who threw out a baserunner, so maybe it's all just park effects.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

'Doc' Livingston on the Move?

After running his k:bb to 12:2 recently, and after dropping his ERA to 2.12, Bobby Livingston may have forced the M's hand. On a day in which Rich Dorman filled in for Clint Nageotte (who gave up a big 3R HR in today's M's game), rumors are swirling about B-Liv's future with the Rainiers.
Juan Zapata was called up from extended spring training today and pitched a scoreless inning in the Rainiers' 7-2 loss to the Fresno Grizzlies, but watch the wire for more transactions.
At the very least, the M's could conceivably swap Nageotte and Livingston depending on the big club's needs. It seems somewhat unlikely that the team would need yet another lefty in the bullpen, but we'll see.
Joe Borchard was DFA'd to make room for Nageotte (and restore the 12 man staff so beloved of Mike Hargrove) - your guess is as good as mine for what kind of moves they'd make to get Livingston north.
It's been an interesting time for the M's the past 48 hours, with Meche pitching well, Felix pitching pretty well too (9ks, 1BB in 7 IP - 1 ER) and Nageotte getting recalled. We'll see if the M's stand pat for a while or take a chance on the hot hand in Tacoma: Bobby Livingston.

The Rainiers lost thanks to an awful 3 inning stint from Aaron Looper, who gave up 5 ER, 9 hits and 2HRs to the Grizzlies, turning a 2-1 Tacoma lead into a 6-2 deficit. Jeff Harris gave up the 7th run on a solo shot by Fresno SS Tomas De la Rosa. On offense, nothing much of note happened, save Mike Morse donning the Golden Sombrero with his 4ks (2 looking, 2 swinging - he did it all).
So who's this Zapata guy? Well, we should all go ask J or JAC, but here's his baseball cube page. Looks like he's been kicking around for a while (assuming this isn't a misprint, which happens a bit on bbcube). As you can tell, this isn't a guy who misses bats or gets K's, and as a scout told me, the Rainiers just needed an arm. Why they didn't bring up Stephen Kahn is a good question, but it sounds like they want Kahn to work on a few things in the Cal league for a little while longer.

UPDATE - the promotion of Livingston is now official. Sort of. The official team site only has 24 men on the roster, but I trust Churchill on this one. Our first scoop - kinda. Rain Delay reports that the chatter was on sportspot as well. Also, on Zapata's stat page? Ignore everything but that 2005 AZL mariners line - this is another case of baseball cube confusing two guys with the same name. Thanks to J in comments for the help; that makes a *lot* more sense.
UPDATE 2- The move is now officially official.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Appier v. Fresno, Time

At some point in the 2006 season, you may hear banal cliches about Kevin Appier turning back the clock, or feeling young again between the lines in the PCL. Don't believe it.
Everything Appier did tonight, from his max-effort delivery, his breaking-ball heavy reportoire, to his lackluster velocity, evidenced a pitcher who knew exactly what he was capable of - a pitcher who knew exactly how old he was. Appier gave up three runs in the first inning on three hits and a walk - Fresno hitters battered his 'fast'ball, and when Appier had trouble locating his offspeed pitches, he was helpless.
Appier must know what he is at this point - a junkballer who's holding on for dear life. He must know that each shaky inning reduces his chances of ever pitching in the majors again by a non-negligible percentage. And, wonder of wonders, he showed in his last three innings that it's not completely hopeless. After giving up 4 runs (3 ER) in his first two innings, Appier pitched 123 innings in the 3rd, 4th and 5th. He retired his last 10 hitters: 8 GB, 1 FB and 1K. Of course, it's not generally considered OK to start pitching well only after 2 wasted innings.
Due largely to Appier's shaky start, the Rainiers were behind virtually the entire game: 4-0, 5-2, 8-4. But thankfully, they found that Fresno's bullpen is neither particularly talented nor desperate enough to have a stockpile of 'grit' and 'guile.'
Offensive stars included new catcher Guillermo Quiroz (4-4, 2b), Shin-Soo Choo (3-4, 2bb), Hunter Brown (3-4) and Adam Jones (1-5, HR - into the teeth of a strong wind to left - one of the hardest hit balls I've seen). A 6 run 7th turned that 8-4 deficit into a 10-8 lead. Sean Green was the only pitcher who emerged unscathed and picked up a well-earned win with 2 1/3 innings of 2 H ball. He was actually hit harder than I've seen in a while, and his 4-3 GB/FB ratio shows that something wasn't quite right.
Still, with the Mariners getting blanked by Nate Robertson (but a nice outing from GS52 - albeit in a LOOGY appearance), this was a great night to take in a PCL slugfest. Clint Nageotte gets the start tomorrow versus Matt Kinney of Fresno.

Friday, April 21, 2006

More Lens Fund Fodder

After back-to-back 2 a.m. late nights, I finally have the Felix Day Foto Album up.

Here are a few more photos:



This Ichiro picture is currently my desktop wallpaper at work:


The "Not Quite Killer" B's (Beltre, Betancourt, Bloomquist):

Oh, and BTW... I think Willie Bloomquist might've heard me on Tuesday. Okay, no. That's not what I said, per se. I try not to have a potty mouth in front of my son in public.

But I did teach Joey to yell "Pinch Hitter!!!" when Wee Willie came to the plate. Sure enough, he stole an RBI away from Adrian Beltre...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Quick Teaser...

Thanks to Picasa's integration with Blogger, here's a quick photo for ya.

One of the first pix I took of Felix. First inning. Not sure what the count was or who was up (I'd have to do some deducing).

Yeah, he had some rough results. But look at that position. Damn near perfectly parallel.

That's a pretty darn good pitcher there, folks...

Okay. One more before I go to bed. No preview, though, just a link. I'm certain it will probably be on a few folks' computers' desktop wallpapers. And remember, it's all OK, of course. Open Source, royalty-free photography at its finest. Or, well, at least as fine as I can get with an old, slow manual-focus lens...

(edit 1:33 a.m.)
I'm so not going to bed yet. I'm barely through the first inning, and I found a couple more shots.
This one.
This one.
This one.
All not bad, really.

Except this one of Felix, after having surrendered the second 2-run HR in two innings, and trying to regain his composure:

It was sure empty, though.

Okay, now that you've made it THIS far, I've got the first draft of the album uploaded. Enjoy!

Blogging while Uploading...

The pictures just finished copying to my computer, all 1,809 of them. Just a few words before I get busy sifting photos.

If you're into collecting baseballs, make sure you take a cute kid with you. I dunno how many MLB baseball games I've been to, but I do know that I'd never scored a baseball. Joey got a hat-trick tonight. After arriving at Safeco, we went over to the LF foul line. I'm not sure which Texas player it was, I think it was one of the pitchers, but immediately after spotting Joey, he tossed him the ball he had in his hand. Heh. At least it isn't a Willie Boom-Boom Dynamite "Game-Used" Practice Ball like Deanna got. After the game was over, another kid tossed Joey the game-used baseball he'd just gotten while the Texas players were going up the tunnel (right by our seats). Finally, on our way out of the stadium, a dude about my age handed Joey a freshly-signed Brad Wilkerson baseball.

Although we lost, the game itself was interesting enough to keep him engaged. Well, at least when he wasn't flirting with a lady named "Michelle" sitting behind us. I wasn't very successful, though, trying to explain where Jeremy Reed was. I was wondering that same thing myself. Good ol' Hargrove started Boom-Boom in CF, instead of Joey's second-favorite outfielder (Ichiro, of course, being his favorite).

Elsid called around the 6th inning. Just about the time Jake Woods was doing his best Matt Thornton impression. When we saw George go from leaning over the CF wall in the bullpen to warming up, I grabbed my camera gear and asked Joey if he wanted to go see George. With elsid still on the phone, we quickly ran over there as George was starting to throw his warmup tosses. We made it just in time for me to have Joey screaming "Hi GEORGE!!!!" while shaking the screen practically right in front of George's face. Of course, being in the midst of getting ready to put his game face on (and relieve a shaky Woods), he, I'm quite confident, was totally oblivious to the screaming both Joey and I were doing. And, when I put the phone to the screen for elsid to yell something, I'm fairly certain that whatever elsid said pretty much went unheard. Still, as he trotted into the game from the bullpen, Joey and I yelled "Go get 'em, George! Kick some butt!" Okay, well, I was the only one saying that. Joey tried to copy me, but since he doesn't quite have the potty-mouth his father does, he just said "GO GEOOOOORRRRGGGEE!!!!"

And, of course, George did go out and kick some ass. Whatever sibling connection was present at that moment in the bullpen, worked. I'll take 2 K's in 1 and 1/3 inning 8 days a week, and twice on Sundays.

Joey had a blast, it was well worth the money I shelled out, and I got tons of photos. A quick glance at the first hundred or so shows some pretty good ones.

It's 1:04 right now. I need to get to bed. I'll try and get some posted in the morning.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Quick MiLB notes

I don't want you to miss Paul's photography post here - you should click the links and poke around. Remember, 8x10s for $15... perfect for getting signed at Cheney. That's what I'm doing...

Apparently, the secret to beating the RiverCats is playing them in Sacramento. Clint Nageotte had a nice bounce-back game, limiting the potent RiverCats line-up to 1ER in 5 1/3IP. The rest of his line (5H, 3BB, 2K) isn't exactly overwhelming, and the whole extreme GB thing didn't quite work out on the day (7:6 GB:FB ratio), but hey, it's a solid win against a good team.
The game featured a head-to-head match-up of two big-time prospects that just happened to get an in-depth feature over at JAC's Prospect Insider today: Sacto's Daric Barton (1b, L) and the Rainiers' Adam Jones (CF, R). Today's game showed why both have moved up the MiLB ladder so quickly.
Barton, as Churchill notes, has exceptional plate discipline, and he grabbed another 2BBs today. That pushes his season K:BB to 12:5. The only question with this guy (currently sporting a .324/.500/.529 line on the young season) is his HR power.
Jones hit another HR today (after hitting his first two yesterday), and though it was a solo shot in the 9th, he got it off star reliever Santiago Casilla (the artist formerly known as Jairo Garcia), who is just filthy - he's got career MiLB averages of 7.3H/9 and 11.6K/9. First, this corroborates the scouting report that he's got a quick bat. Second, I hope it shows that Jones is learning and making adjustments. He faced Casilla on 4/12, and grounded out. I wasn't there, so I don't know if he hit a mistake pitch or what. Still, it's obviously a positive.
Churchill's got the scouting scores for these guys, and he's obviously seen them a lot more, but I keep thinking that Adam has a decent shot to be a Torii Hunter-level MLB player. He'll never have great plate discipline, but I think his batspeed will push him up to 30HRs at his absolute peak. That's a lofty goal, but Jones is way, way ahead of Hunter for his age.
Barton could be either the next Jason Giambi (whose minor league numbers look somewhat similar, but remember: Barton played each level three years younger) or an allergic-to-leather doppleganger for John Olerud.

It'll be interesting to see how this year plays out for these two uberprospects... I'll keep checking in on them, as will JAC, Baseball America and the rest of the usual suspects.
Detectovision has a little 'POTD' feature on Steven Kahn, so check that out...
Much more minors, as always, here and here.

Monday, April 17, 2006

More Photos, More Photos!

Okay, not quite yet. What, you think I found some professional baseball in town? But I will in the next day or so.

See, I'm taking my son to his first "real" baseball game (at Safeco) tomorrow. It just happens to coincide with Felix's next outing. My wife is going to be away for a late-night work meeting, so I figured I'd take the kid to see Ichiro, Jeremy Reed, Rauuuuul, and "Norm Norm" (if he's there -- like, right, Norm Charlton's going to be there -- try explaining age-related performance decline, let alone 'retirement' to a 4-year-old). Oh, yes -- and George. I've completely brainwashed him into loving George (after all, he's spoken with elsid on the phone a couple times...). We might try and make it over to the 'pen to give George a quick "Hey!" It won't be as easy for us to do as it was in Cheney, of course, and really, I don't envision us leaving our seats for anything other than potty breaks (which I completely hope to minimize).

But when you're sitting 14 rows away from the action, you probably don't want to leave those seats, either. I know it's "Two-fer-Tuesday" but I had to splurge. Once. Felix is pitching, and it's my son's first MLB game. Heck, we're not too far away from where my sister normally takes her kids (ages 6 and 1.5). If they can watch 16 games in those seats every year, I can watch one in my lifetime. Since we normally have similar seats in Cheney, my son's going to think that that's the "norm". It definitely won't be. It's actually somewhat of a splurge for me to go to Safeco, even if I sit in the "cheap" seats. Gas, food, tickets (but no beer for me tomorrow!)...

So, if you haven't put two-and-two together yet, then, well, heck. You're really not paying attention. I'm sitting just to the left of home plate. For Felix. With my new camera. And, alas, yes, my old crappy telephoto lens. About 5 sections towards Adrian Beltre from my Opening Day seats. Oh, and about 300 feet closer. The closest I've ever sat at a MLB game.

So, I've charged up my batteries, and re-formatted my memory cards. I may not need my 2x tele-converter, so that'll help with the quality. Or maybe not. I've had practice at Cheney, keeping one eye spotting the action, the other eye through the lens, and the other eye watching my 4-year-old. He loves baseball, though, and as long as I shove his mouth full of Cracker Jacks, Peanuts, and the occasional sip of pop (in moderation, of course, so as to minimize the potty breaks), he'll be fine. So long as no baseballs come flying at us at 100 mph, which, camera or not, I wouldn't have much chance at stopping...

I'll try and get the pix up as soon as I can after the game. Driving home to Olympia after waiting through the parking garage traffic will definitely put me home late. Getting the kid settled down after seeing "the real" Ichiro, etc... will be another monumental task all together. I'll be lucky to have the pictures uploaded to my computer before I'm too wiped out to function. I'll do my darndest to have the photo album up by Wednesday night.

In the meanwhile, enjoy some other non-baseball pictures I've taken. You've probably already seen the Opening Day pix, so I won't continue to throw those at you. And, if you haven't noticed it already, I have the "Lens Fund" PayPal button up. I'd be more than happy to mail signed 8x10 prints to anyone making a suggested donation of $15 or more (I'm not sure how the whole PayPal donation thing works, so if you do send me money and want prints, make sure I know about it). Like I said earlier, I'm really not finding time to set up something more formal for selling prints. I'd be scared to death of glass shards trying to mail framed prints, too. But, I'd be happy to hand deliver something, if you really, really want me to frame/mat it, and we can find a time to hook up.

I've printed Moyer's first 2006 pitch, Clint Nageotte on Opening Day, (a nice 12x18 blow-up, too!) and my wife let me hang a 12x18 of this print in our bedroom (though I've got 4 copies of another version that I cropped differently that I think looks much better). But, I'd be happy to print anything you find of merit. I'm not talkin' ink-jet prints here, either. I have stuff printed on archival-quality paper from a photo lab.

I'll have time between now and then, though, to take suggestions for photos. Since I don't have the Opening Day festivities to contend with, I should have a bit more "film," as well as time to actually shoot stuff around the stadium. Hopefully traffic going north will be OK. With the kid, I'll get to count as a "carpool." That'll help. I should get there early enough, though, to run him through the stadium real quick.

I'm so psyched! Sure, my ulterior motive is to take hundreds of pictures. But, still, there's another huge part of me that's just excited to take my son to his first MLB game. I can't wait to see the look on his face when he gets to see Ichiro at bat. In those seats.

I'm sure it'll be a Kodak (Lexar?) moment.

Ejection Day

Yesterday, Daren Brown and Henry Cotto of San Antonio were ejected arguing balls and strikes, and today it was the PCL's turn to learn what happens..... when REPLACEMENT UMPS ATTACK. Jesse Foppert got tossed 3 2/3rds innings into his outing. The home plate umpire, drunk with power, then ejected Tacoma SS Jose Morban, before turning on the home side, ejecting Fresno 1B Chad Santos. I imagine he then looked upon the depopulated field, then looked down in wide-eyed amazement at his ejecting thumb and wondered to himself, 'What have I done?' I ask you, dear reader, would Iron Chef, the most scrupulously well-arbitered contest in, er, not America, submit to the eternal shame of having local barflys umpire *professional* contests? Not bloody likely.
To be fair, Foppert did hit three Grizzlies, paired with three walks. Symmetry is nice and all, but the guy has got to stop putting people on base for free. He had *5* Ks in his abbreviated start; shows you what he could be without all of the guys trotting down to first base without swinging.
Foppert and the Ump's Day of Rage only served to shift attention, ever so slightly, from Tacoma's outfield prospects Shin-Soo Choo and Adam Jones. The former hit another HR, running his season line to .417/.528/.667, which is, and your 'ProspectWatch' standards may vary, pretty good. He also swiped his 6th base. But he was shown up by young CF prospect Adam Jones, who hit his first *two PCL HRs*. That brought his line way up to .257/.257/.514. Yes, that's right, Adam's yet to take his first PCL walk. To point that out, however, feels downright petulant on a night in which he had 9 total bases, and managed to walk the gauntlet...WHEN REPLACEMENT UMPS ATTACK.
The 9-5 Rainiers win brought the Rainiers out of a 1st place tie - they're now .5 games ahead of the Salt Lake Something-to-do-with-bees. But where will they be, and what will be left of them.... WHEN REPLACEMENT UMPS ATTACK?

In other news, Travis Blackley was mauled by the Frisco RoughRiders - who really should be a CFL franchise - and, in all probability, by those attack-minded REPLACEMENT UMPS. He didn't get ejected until Daren Brown had seen enough, but he did put up a 4 2/3IP, 10H, 7R, 1HBP, 2K, 2HR line, which is *not what we wanted to see.* I've got no idea what he was throwing, so we should all go ask Churchill.
The big thing in the Inland Empire loss (in 12 innings) was Steven Kahn putting up a line of 1 2/3IP 1H, 0R, 4K to run his season K/BB to 17:1. It's that kind of thing that can get you sent up to AA ball to face advanced hitters and more aggressive REPLACEMENT UMPS. He got a blown save for allowing one of Aaron Trolia's runs to score, but seriously people, 17:1. Speaking of which, Matt Tuiasosopo now has a positively KAAAAHHHNNian K/BB ratio of 16:1. That said, he's hitting .333. But he's got an ISO of only .120. There are some good and bad things in that line, and what you see pretty much depends on your evaluation of Tui before he swung a bat this year. I'm fairly pessimistic on the guy, so go to Dr. D or, hell, Baseball America for your dose of optimism. Again, he's hitting .333 and I, a guy with a computer, am not impressed. Thanks for coming, folks!

The M's lost in the 9th on a walk-off HR by Mark Loretta, but you knew that. George Sherrill didn't pitch, which is fair enough. Games like this *will* happen, people. The problem is that they may happen fairly frequently if Everyday Eddie is more like Everyman Eddie, throwing up a solid, blue-collar, middle-America, beer-league 85 MPH fastball.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Q and A time

Q: The Rainiers are down in Fresno - what are you up to?
A: Eh, you know - having some good wine, listening to an old Joy Division album.

Q: Cool. Are you also wearing a black cape? Are you performing the Gothic Dance?
A: Hey! No! Crap, I let my guard down for a minute and all I get is abuse. I don't need this. I put on Band of Horses, m'Kay?

Q: Thanks. But if there's a word about Bauhaus, I'm sooo out of here.
A: Deal.

Q: So your boy George Sherrill has a WHIP of like 3. Does he suck now?
A: No. No he does not. Before today's game, I sort of wondered if George hadn't entered his first transitional phase an an MLB player. In the minors (and the majors to this point), George has had the luxury of striking people out on balls. His slider has real movement, and it's delivered with a pretty good approximation of his FB delivery. Hitters had to swing, or risk getting K'd looking on the FB. But this year, hitters have been fouling off the FB and just taking the breaking ball - no matter how tempting it looks out of the hand. This plan has proven successful so far, with hitters drawing more walks than you'd expect from GS52's minor- and major-league K/BB ratios.
Now, I'd like to see some measure of his quality of hitters faced; facing the likes of Hafner, Ortiz and even Garret Anderson isn't exactly the norm, though given his role, it's one he'll have to get accustomed to. The point, though, is that George has to make an adjustment given that MLB hitters have made an adjustment to him. Today's game showed that he's still absolute death to lefties. Positive Paul and I think he's good enough to get righties out, too. And now that teams understand who the heck he is, he's going to see more righties (he's gotten to the point where teams will pinch-hit against him). We'll know things are going well when he can get GB outs and the occasional backwards K using his slider to righties. I have the utmost confidence that this will occur, but that's not really a surprise given the focus of this blog.

Q: The Rainiers started sucking there. What's up with that?
A: The A's system is extremely well-run. Check out what their AA club is doing to our beloved San Antonio. Seriously, they've got a team of MLB and AAA vets, and they're doing what they're supposed to. When you've got Santiago Casilla/Jairo Garcia/whatver he's calling himself these days in the pen, and you've got MLB vets like Keisler, Gaudin and Meyer in your rotation, you're going to do OK in the PCL. Remember, Kevin Jarvis had an awesome year last year in the PCL; MLB experience does wonders. Why? Because you're facing guys like Adam Jones, who has all the talent in the world, but doesn't have the experience to know how he's being set up, and hasn't seen as many quality breaking balls.
The Rainiers are going to be fine. A fair number of their guys have MLB experience too, though that's more of a function of the M's being a AAAA team the past two years. They've got a great defense... I'd love to see some defensive efficiency stats for this league.
And hey, they won today, 5-1. Shin-Soo Choo is showing signs that last year really was just a fluke, and Cruceta's proving to be a great, under-the-radar sort of pick-up.

Q: So the M's might dump Petagine. What do you think about that?
A: Um, it sounds pretty dumb to me. I'm not exactly an M's blog trail blazer here, but that strikes me as a lame idea. If you've got a guy who's not producing, but who signed a relatively large contract, and another guy who can (probably) give you a lot more, for less money, teams have to make a choice. They can demonstrate an understanding of sunk costs and understand that Carl, I mean this hypothetical player, is going to get his money, no matter what. The only question is how many runs you're going to forfeit by running him out there day after day waiting for things to change. What's that line about insanity being defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
There's still an argument to trade Petagine... if the M's, for whatever reason, have some sort of mental block to getting the guy some ABs (whether because he doesn't have a natural position, or whether because he's blocked by Everett - and those two statements are the same thing), or because Hargrove doesn't like his face, then the M's should get something in return. The TNT story may be a part of a plan to stir up some interest amongst the other MLB teams. It would be great to point to Everett's production as a reason that Petagine isn't needed, but again, this decision to dump Roberto doesn't have to be rational to want the M's to get something shiny in return. The problem, as evidenced by the Carvajal trade, is that the M's often demonstrate an itchy trigger-finger: they'll dump a guy they don't want to the first team that offers some beads, a Showtime Rotisserie grill (trade him and FORGET IT!) and a Pocket Fisherman. Even if Petagine has some trade value, and it's kind of impossible to imagine that he doesn't - how would he look in Oakland right now - don't hope for anything approaching 'market' value in return. Everyone knows Bavasi's in a bind, and they're not interested in making him more comfortable.

Q: Okay, so who's the first guy up from Tacoma? Nageotte into the vaunted Earl Weaver-style swing starter/reliever - or maybe Sean Green as the freakish GB-guy out of the bullpen?
A: Good question. The M's don't seem to have a real plan with their bullpen. It takes a guy like Raffy Soriano or Sherrill to sort of force their hands by performing well... otherwise, they'll cycle through plenty of Atchisons and Loopers and Kidas, not because they're the answer to some sort of problem, or because they fill a need, but because they're there. I'm sort of shocked that Andrew Lorraine didn't make an appearance last year. All this is by way of saying that the first guy back will probably be Jeff Harris, just because he's a known commodity and will give them some solid innings in long relief. If their starters don't start putting some longer outings together, then expect Harris back to bail out an overworked bullpen.
This doesn't bother me. Harris is a fungible MLB reliever (meaning he's not better - but not worse - than a number of 11-12th pitchers in the AL), and the M's really don't care about burning his options. Green and Nageotte both have some work to do. That's doubly true of Foppert. All of them need to work out the kinks in their mechanics and work on refining their control. It'll happen, esp. with Green and Nageotte - they've got a much greater margin for error just given their GB/FB ratios. Look at Green: he'll walk someone, or plunk 'em, and then get a GB double-play. No harm done. Still, the Mariners would be wise to see if he can't, y'know, stop hitting people before bringing him up.

Q: Hey, one more...
A: No, I'm going to bed.

Friday, April 14, 2006

5-5 Diagnostics

Now that the Mariners have faced three teams, three GOOD teams, it's time to take another sample from the Diagnostics pool.

1) George Sherrill > 50 IP?
Well, he's certainly on pace for that, in spite of his role being still somewhat undefined. While I missed yesterday's performance, I hear he did pretty well (bookended a Victor Martinez double with two strikeouts). He's always been a slow starter, and like I keep saying, wait until he gets his confidence up. Lookin' good so far -- he's certainly getting on track, and he's not being limited to LOOGY use. Good thing for the M's, bad thing for their opponents. The "Free George Sherrill" campaign continues to be successful.

2) Where does Lopez start the season (a.k.a. how much playing time does Willie Bloomquist get)?
Well, the wheel is starting to squeak, folks. Yep. Willie Bloomquist is getting antsy. Lopez seems to be getting back on track after Hargrove made the idiotic move of replacing Lopez with Bloomquist in the starting lineup. I don't hate Willie Bloomquist, in spite of what my sister and several of my coworkers believe. I hate him in the starting lineup. If he needs the occasional start, fine. Especially if someone gets hurt and it takes awhile to get the spare part from Tacoma. But you just don't replace one of your hottest hitters with a hitter that cannot blackmail someone to get on base. It's not coincidence that the M's are 0-2 when Bloomquist replaces one of the M's hottest hitters in the starting lineup.

3) Kenji Johjima and Rafael Chaves -- any noticable impact on the pitchers?
I'm still somewhat unsure about this one. There seems to be some discussion about Kenji's catching style adversely affecting the pitching staff's ability to get the strike calls from umpires. Chavvy's rapport with Felix didn't seem to help him make the adjustment between his first somewhat shaky start, and yesterday's performance which was even worse. I'll let y'all comment on this one. I see a little bit of impact, but not a whole lot.

4) How will the "Hinge Players" bounce back?
  • Ichiro: His home run yesterday, and 3-4 the game before helps him steer away from the Mendoza line. Off to a slow start, but he's had a decent couple of games recently.
  • Beltre: Yuck. Yuck. YUUUUCK!!! Okay, his defense hasn't flown south. Unfortunately his bat has. Teh stinkage! Nowhere near bouncing back. He and KJ need to swap spots in the lineup NOW!
  • Reed: It's a very, very good thing his wrist wasn't broken. An 8-game hitting streak certainly helps, and a .286 average is about what I expected. He's doing fine. Didn't seem to be affected by Hargrove's idiotic decision to bench him in favor of Bloomquist the other day.
  • Pineiro: Not impressed so far. His K:BB ratio is good, but he's getting hit. A lot. At least he's able to eat some innings. I wouldn't give him credit, though, for bouncing back quite yet.
  • Meche: Yuck. Yuck. YUUUUUCK! "Sully" points out this morning the debate between Meche and Beltre as "Most Hated Mariner." Maybe I'm being unfair for seeing a huge gap between the two, in favor of Beltre, and maybe I should loathe Beltre more. Especially since, in spite of his pitching, the M's are 2-0 in Meche's starts, and we only have to see Meche every 5th day. But still -- he's lucky if he can pitch 5 innings. Harris, the M's best option at long relief, was just sent down. There is some hope, though. Strangely enough, Meche seems to do fine pitching against Boston. Looking at his splits, though, he sucks in Fenway.
5) Will PositivePaul miss Ryan Franklin?
The answer is still no. But if Meche continues to pitch poorly through 4 innings, I'd rather have a pitcher that pitches poorly for 1-2 innings, and pitches OK for 4-5. Even if he's a whiner.

So there you go. Any other observations? I probably should add a Diagnostic that relates to Hargrove, since I find myself complaining about him. A lot.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Hard Luck Livingston

Okay, so we get a plug from the inimitable J at MarinerMinors, and I take a night off and miss yesterday's game. Great timing! To the three of you that checked back again today, thanks, and here you go:

Man, I'm really going to be glad to see the back of the A's/A's affiliates.
The Rainiers lost 5-1 tonight to the Sacramento Rivercats - that's three straight for Sacramento, after the Rainiers swept the Colorado SkySox in four.
The hard-luck loser tonight was Bobby Livingston, who went 6 innings and gave up only *one hit*. Sadly, that hit was a long HR to left by Bobby Kielty. Worse, the Rainiers had only an infield single to their credit at that point.
This game, to me, shows what promise Livingston has. In all, his pure stuff probably wasn't what it was in his last start (a win over Colorado Springs); his change just didn't have much life, and he struggled to keep it in the zone. His fastball will never really carry him (he was throwing 87), and tonight he was having a bit of trouble locating it. But his huge overhand curve, along with some guile, meant he was able to really work for a line of 6IP, 1H, 1R, 2BB, 4K. He induced 11 GB outs to 3 flyball outs - including hits, errors, etc., he gave up 12 grounders to 4 flies, one of which was an infield popup. In short, it was a great performance, but it was negated by the Rainiers inability to get to the Rivercats starter, Juan Dominguez (or the 'cats bullpen).
Dominguez walked the first two he faced, and I thought we were ready for a blowout (in his first start, Dominguez yielded 6ER in 2 2/3IP). Not quite; he got 12 of the next 14 that faced him. He had a great fastball, and was able to overpower a number of hitters. Just like last night, the Rainiers simply couldn't get an extra base hit: they had 6 hits on the night, all of them singles. TJ Bohn led the way with a 2/3 night (he also drew a walk), while Adam Jones and Shin-Soo Choo crushed pitches that were turned into deep fly outs. Since most of the Rainiers hits were little texas-leaguers off the fists or IF singles, I'm down to noting who made the loudest outs, ladies and gentlemen.
Renee Cortez put the game out of reach with two innings of 4R, 1ER, 5H, 1K baseball. This line is precisely the reason statheads complain about ERA. According to the scorer, he gave up one earned in 2 innings. In reality, he was getting tagged, and just plain couldn't locate any of his pitches. The big play was a deep fly off the bat of Matt Watson that Adam Jones dropped... Following an IF pop up, Cortez was almost out of it. Then he gave up three straight hits, and the game was basically over.
Jones made up for his gaffe with a truly impressive running catch in the next inning to deny Jeremy 'Moneyball' Brown. Playing at normal/shallow depth and shaded towards left, Brown hit a drive that would've caromed off the right-center wall around 380 feet out. Jones got a great jump, and made the catch right at the wall on a dead run. His reads have been excellent, especially for someone so new to the position. He still has lapses in concentration (see his error), but you can tell he *can* be a solid defensive CF. I still have visions of Jeremy Reed's, er, circuitous routes out in the Cheney OF, wondering how this guy was going to fare in Safeco. Well, Jones looks quite a bit better to this point, though there are major sample size issues with that...
Speaking of defenders who've looked suspect at Cheney, Mike Morse continued his epic tour around the diamond and played at SS for the first time in quite a while today. Asdrubal Cabrera's injury means we'll be seeing more of Jose Morban and Scott Youngbauer (whoo hoo!) at 2b/SS, and Morse will probably get more time on the left side of the IF as well. He looked pretty good - he had 4 assists, and while he missed one ball that a good SS probably gets to, he made a pretty nice relay on a tricky 3-6-1 double play. All in all, solid work out there.
Sean Green had a so-so 9th, yielding a walk to the first batter and then hitting another guy (on an 0-2 pitch!). Green *still* has a problem when he overthrows and misses WAAAY in to a left handed hitter (occasionally, less glaringly, he'll hit this same spot when a righty's up) - he's hit two guys, both on pitcher's counts. He's not trying to send a message, he's not trying to establish anything, he's just missing his spot by a good 1/2 a yard. He's still a great pitcher - he quickly erased the walk with a double play, and got another GB out to end it - but he's got to fix this little issue with overthrowing. It shouldn't be a big deal, because he's generally around the plate.

So even in the face of a third straight defeat, there are some real positives from tonight's game. I'd like someone else to find the good in defeat tomorrow... it sounds like Rich Dorman will go for the Rainiers against Shane 'Hawaiian Punchout' Komine.

Two More Days 'Til Felix...

With Washburn coming back down to earth, and Meche on the mound tonight, we can take consolation in the fact that we've got Felix pitching tomorrow. If the M's can scratch together a few runs, then there's actually hope the current slide will cease. It's been a few years since we've been able to say that -- I haven't had the confidence in a Mariner pitcher's ability to be a losing-streak-stopper since the days of RJ. Sure he had a 'rough' outing in his 2006 debut (by golly the freakin' A's scored on him!! OMGWTFKELLYCLARK+SON!!!!!1!!!1eins!one!!?!!?1), but seriously, is there anyone who doesn't think the M's have a pretty decent chance of winning tomorrow's game? Or, if you don't think they do, then it's likely not because of Felix...

"King" Felix, the Mariners' "messiah," or whatever deity image you want to use. He's just a 20-year-old kid who happens to be a pretty darn good pitcher in my book. A special pitcher, sure, and one that will help this Mariners team. Provided their born-again middle-of-the-order team leader steps up to the plate and starts producing some runs.

Kinda reminds me of a story my 4-year-old told the lady we pay to watch him during the day. See, for those of you who pay attention to things religious, it's Holy Week -- arguably the most important time of year for Christian faithful around the world (except, perhaps, for Eastern Orthodox Christians who celebrate Easter a week later than the rest of us). My son just so happens to have an extra affinity for Jesus, and he watches a lot of Veggie Tales and stuff like that. The Veggie Tales has this featurette called "Where's God when I'm Scared" which centers around the song "God is Bigger than the Boogie Man." The chorus goes something like this: "God is bigger than the Boogie Man. He's bigger than Godzilla, or the monsters on TV! Well, God is bigger than the Boogie Man, and He's watching out for you and meeeeee!" (that's pretty much verbatim, since, as you could probably imagine, I've heard it once or twice).

So, anyway, that was probably the inspiration for the conversation he had with our daycare lady. He was in the back seat of the car talking about how God is so big, that he can beat up Godzilla; He can heal people, and help them get better when they're sick. That's all cute and all, and pretty much theologically spot on, but the last part of the conversation really had me a bit concerned:

"Me and my daddy like baseball. We like the Mariners a lot! God can't help the Mariners, though. They're bad!"

Well, folks. I know a lot of you don't pay much attention to things religious, and it probably bothers me much less than it should. But, no matter what your background, if ever there's a time to dip your toes into the pond of faith, it's right now. If that doesn't inspire you, well, it probably should.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Opening Day Pix -- Cheney vs. Safeco...

I definitely don't want to bump Marc's recaps of the first few games at Cheney down below the fold, so you should read them first. After all, this post is almost a week late...

While JFro, G_Moneyball (Mariners Minors), and Jason Churchill (Prospect Insider, Inside the Park) probably have the M's blog-o-sphere market on the Rainiers and minor-league baseball cornered, considering his proximity to Cheney Stadium, I'm really, really hoping Marc continues to find the time to write up the games he attends on a consistent basis. It'll be nice to have another perspective from someone who was actually there. As you very well know, seeing a game in person is much, much different than watching it on TV or reliving the play-by-play on GameCast/GameDay.

I'm quite certain I'll get up there again for games throughout the year -- and it's quite possible with Corco attending UPS and all, that we could have 3 of the 4 Mariners Morsels authors in attendance at a game (provided we can't complete the sweep and convince Citizen K to head westward and come out of baseball semi-retirement for a cheap game at Cheney). The first-annual MarinersMorsels baseball get-together? Hmmm. That'd be sweet.

This was the first time I've attended Opening Day at Safeco and Opening Day at Cheney Stadium. Considering it was only my second Opening Day at Safeco, and my first Opening Day at Cheney, it's not surprising that this was the first time those universes collided.

Here's a few things I saw:

Adam Jones getting hit.

Kenji Johjima, too.

Tacoma Players lining up:

Seattle Players lining up:

Home Run Swings:




(Here's Choo again, but it isn't a Home Run as I'd previously thought)

And, finally, we come to Atch:

That just looks like it hurts! Ouch, Atch - Watch That Pitch!

If you haven't already seen them, here's the photo albums (with over 200 pictures each) for each of the Opening Days. Mind you, I've only published about 1/7 th of the pictures in each photo album, so I do have more. I shot a lot of sequences (5 fps, give or take, because of a slow shutter speed negatively-affected by a crappy, old lens) that I didn't publish. Here's what I did publish:
With my new camera, and because a picture indeed says 1,000 words, I'm going to try and make myself more useful by contributing to the M's baseball blogosphere with my photos, moreso than my words. I enjoy writing, and I enjoy taking pictures -- I'm probably a better photographer than a writer, so hopefully the quality of material you see 'round these parts will increase. I'm also in the midst of reading a new book that I'll talk about later (I've promised the publisher I'd write a review), that's totally changing the way I watch a baseball game. I'm going to attempt to take pictures that capture what I'm watching, and explain what I'm seeing in them. This first post is kind of lame that way, but I promise I'll put more effort into it.

I probably should care more than I do, but for now, I'm OK with people pilfering the photos around here, provided you don't say that you took the picture. If you're makin' money on my pictures, though, I'll likely find out, and be quite upset. That wouldn't be cool...

Rather than set up royalty payments, or go through the hassle of setting up something super formal, I'm going to start a lens fund, so I can take even better pictures. I will probably set something up soon, and even give people the option of ordering prints in exchange for a lens-fund donation. For example, I printed and framed an 8x10 of this Clint Nageotte photo, and it will look totally awesome in my cubicle at work. This will be cool, and better than a Cafe Press t-shirt. Heck, if you want, I'm sure I could get a photo uploaded there so you could buy a t-shirt if that's what you really, really want.

Fortunately I've cut down the price of taking pictures since I don't have to blow through dozens of rolls of film to take the hundreds of pictures I like to take at one time. I've got a fair amount of hard drive space, and well over 50 gigs of web hosting that's relatively cheap. But I'd really, really like to get a professional lens, since the pictures I'd be able to take through it would be noticably better. And, since I'm paying for the web hosting, hard drive space, ballpark tickets and contributing the countless hours of time it takes to sift through thousands of pictures and upload those that I believe you might find useful (and even build some cool Flash animations showing pitcher motions, batting swings, etc...), I don't feel guilty asking you to help me reach my goal.

I'm being realistic, too. While I'd certainly love to have one of those lenses you see the professionals use on the field, those things cost more than what my wife & I pay for day care annually. I'm not THAT vain. While I'd love to get into the photography business (it was one of the options I was exploring after high school, and even into college), I have a pretty decent salary now that I couldn't realistically touch by charging people for my photography. So, I'm stuck with a very limited photography budget, and a huge desire to improve my photography skills. People have told me I've got a decent eye for it, too.

If you don't feel like contributing financially, of course, that's totally fine. Most importantly -- your feedback is truly beneficial. That would help me darn near as much as a new lens would. Certainly a pat-on-the-back "nice photo!" keeps me motivated, but I really like constructive criticism. Compositionally, if there's something you wish I would've done, I probably need to hear about it. What appeals to me most certainly may not appeal to you -- and vice versa. If you see a photo that captures something you've tried to explain, by all means link to it, and talk about what you're seeing. That'll certainly help me (and hopefully others) enhance my ability to keep an eye out for those things in the future, as well as watch a game I truly love in a different way.

And, if you'd like for me to shoot something specific, I'll try my darndest to do so. I'm definitely more likely to make it up to Tacoma than to Seattle, but I'm definitely going to do my darndest to get good seats for a Felix outing. I've got other pictures that have nothing to do with baseball, too. I try to keep my Photo Blog updated, but it's been awhile.

If you're interested in purchasing a print of something I've shot, let me know (my e-mail's on my profile). The samples I've published have been tweaked and compressed, so they're not really suitable for printing in and of themselves. I do have the "negatives" that are much better suited for printing. With some Photoshop work, too, I can get some rather large prints, in spite of my dSLR only being 2.7 megapixels. Remember that Clint Nageotte picture -- it blows up just fine as a 12x18. My wife won't let me put it in our bedroom, so it's going out in the music studio/baseball room.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Jesse Foppert

It wasn't supposed to be like this.
As you all know, the M's traded Randy Winn for former grade A pitching prospect Jesse Foppert and C Yorvit Torrealba in late July, 2005. Torrealba was quite clearly just keeping the catcher job warm until Bavasi could find someone better (which he did). Foppert was still coming off Tommy John surgery, and was working his way back into game shape. He went under the knife in 2003; 2004 was spent rehabbing, and while it wasn't exactly *thrilling* that he was basically pitching one-inning per start in mid- to late-2005, it could still be blamed on recovery from his elbow surgery.
By the end of 2005, some were beginning to wonder where his velocity was. Before the surgery, he threw in the mid- to upper-90s. Now, he was in the upper 80s to very low-90s. Again, given that he was coming off major surgery, it was still plausible that he was still regaining velocity.
At this point, it's about time we get used to the idea that Jesse Foppert is a guy with a high-80s FB and some control issues. That sounds...well, that sounds like Damian Moss, so let me rephrase: Foppert is a work-in-progress who gets by with a lot of movement on his breaking ball and a good idea of how to set up hitters. He's not going to blow it by anyone, and he's not exactly Carlos Silva. Is that enough? I'm not sure. I really, really hope so.
Tonight, Foppert went 4 innings in which he gave up 1 run on 3 hits, 4 BB and 1 WP (he had 4 Ks). There are some positives (3 hits, 4 Ks), and some real question marks (wildness - lotsa pitches). The biggest disappointment, perhaps, came from the radar gun: Foppert topped out around 88MPH. It's nearing 3 years since his surgery. I'm not a doctor, but I don't think there's a whole lot of hope that he gets back to the mid 90s at this point. He can still make it, but he's going to have to really reinvent himself. Teammate Clint Nageotte may offer something of a template in that regard - a dominating strikeout guy with the best slider in the minors and big-time velocity turned low 90s, sinking 2 seamer + moderately soiled slider (it really can't be called 'nasty' anymore). If Nageotte doesn't have a chance to be Randy Johnson anymore (if he ever did), he could still be Derek Lowe. And apparently a Derek Lowe is worth $36 million over 4 years. It would help if Foppert threw a lot more GB outs...
I know, I know - sample size. Well, I hope he proves me wrong and eliminates the walks and inverts his GB/FB ratio. I just have to say that maybe, just maybe, the Giants knew something we didn't.
Foppert - 68 pitches, 4IP, 3H, 1R, 4BB, 4K
Tom Oldham - 1.33 IP, 6R, 2ER, 4H, 2 BB, 2K (ouch)
Aaron Looper - 1.67 IP, 3H (first 3 batters faced), 0R, 0BB, 0K
Mike Morse (playing third tonight) - 2/5, 2b
TJ Bohn - 1/2, 2b, 2BB, 1HBP

Catcher Watch '06
Rob Johnson - nailed Charles Thomas trying to steal (by about 4 feet), but made an error on Adam Jones' throw to the plate. He was also charged with a rather suspect passed ball.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Rainiers Update

As long as the Mariners keep losing to the A's, I'll keep talking about the Rainiers abusing the Colorado Springs SkySox.
The Rainiers took two from the SkySox today following yesterday's rainout. And if the first two games hadn't illustrated that the Rainiers are simply in another class, this sweep-completing twin bill erased any doubt. First up, Cha Seung Baek and Tom Oldham combined to one-hit the SkySox. Baek struck out 5 and walked 2 in 5 innings. Thomas Oldham came on to make his AAA debut and looked quite good. He struck out 3 in his two innings, walking only one and giving up one hit. It's one game, and it's against a team that made everyone in Tacoma look amazing, but it's a good sign. Oldham's seen his K/9 drop severely and his H/9 well over 10, he really needs to show that he's more than a potential MLB long reliever/org filler. So far, so good.
The offense continued to punish the SkySox staff with 5 HRs in the first game *alone*. The SkySox have skillfully managed to create a sense of home on long AAA road trips, right down to the park effects. Colorado-level park effects at Cheney? How else do you explain the fact that Greg Dobbs hit three homers today?
The second game was more of the same: another shut-out, and more power from the Rainiers line-up. Francisco Cruceta made his 2006 debut with four shutout innings. He overmatched many of the SkySox, including the unfortunate JD Closser, who swung at a ball low and two feet outside for a K in the second, then did the same in the 4th. Cruceta was effectively wild, though that may just have been a function of the opposition. His 72 pitch, 4H, 2BB, 4K performance wasn't eye-popping, but it's worth noting that he, like the rest of this staff, succeeded in keeping the ball down. He gave up, unofficially, 9 GB (including hits) to one solitary fly ball - a lazy can of corn to left by the 9th hitter. Sean Green was next, and he kept it going with 2 grounders (both double plays - it really helps to have AsCab behind you) and 2 Ks in his 2 innings. Rich Dorman finished it off with a scoreless 9th (but hey, 2 fly balls!).
Mike Morse hit a disputed triple (the throw beat him by about five minutes, but he managed to step over the tag), Greg Dobbs hit another HR (that was foul, but hey, they're trying their best out there), and Todd Sears had the big 3R HR in the first that got things going.

Catcher watch '06:
Game 1 - Rivera catching, 2 for 3, 2b
Miller DH - 2 for 2, BB.
Game 2 - Johnson catching, 1 for 3 - one runner caught stealing

The Rainiers are good, people. (And the SkySox are terrible).

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Thanks, Kid! Yes, I Used the Green Scissors...

Friends and readers of this blog will be happy to read elsid's comment. I know I am:
He got the ball. A 10 year old kid caught it. George signed a ball for him, and gave him a glove. The kid tried to hand back the glove since it was left-handed. He wanted a right-handed one.
Now that, my friends, is good news.

Hey kid. I've got a righty glove I'll trade ya, if you really want one of those!

Doctor, Jones!

I wasn't able to watch the M's game, and GS52's third appearance, last night... what's this nonsense about Felix getting the loss? Joe Blanton, 8 scoreless? I'm with Lookout Landing - the less said the better.

I'd like to talk about the Rainiers game. I was pretty excited to see big-time prospects Asdrubal Cabrera and Adam Jones, though I was certainly more confident in the Rainiers' pitching. Starting was Bobby "Doc" Livingston, whom I'd seen last year. Opposing him was Juan Acevedo, the guy who put up one of least likely 164 OPS+ seasons ever for the Cardinals back in 1998.

The game started out according to plan: Livingston's curve was breaking like young girls hearts, his fastball kept people honest because of when and where he threw it, but it was his changeup that really mystified the SkySox. Knees were buckled like belts made of rich, corinthian leather. Their swings looked moderately ridiculous; since the stride had come and gone long before, it was up to the hitters to supply all the necessary power with their wrists. These were the swings you might employ if you had to bat while seated on the rear bench of an old car.

My point is that Livingston looked much better than his line. The pitch-to-infield-contact thing is great, and will serve him well, but we all know he's not a consistent strikeout guy. It might mean you give up a lot of ground ball base hits, but it's just so difficult to get solid contact on the guy. So: don't look at Doc's H/9. The thing to look for should be his SLG-against. Last night, no Colorado player had an extra base hit. Combine that with his excellent control (no walks), and you've got yourself a quality pitching prospect no matter what the H/9 or K/9 totals tell you.

Adam Jones first game in AAA did not go so well, with a couple of K's, no hits and a HBP for good measure. J at MarinerMinors said he looked overmatched. Things change. Jones looked fantastic at the plate - a line drive one hopper that was snared by Omar Quintanilla in his first trip, and then a huge two-run double his next trip to the dish. The big AB, for me, was his third. He fell behind in the count 1-2, after being mystified by a Jon Asahina breaking ball. Jones drove the next pitch to center... not just a 'straight ahead' at-least-I-didn't-whiff single, but off the CF wall 425 feet out. That was about as hard as I've seen a line drive hit. And he did it all with a short, compact, pretty swing. I was wondering if he'd shortened it up because he had two strikes; if so, someone needs to tell him to do that all the time. It generates enough power - that thing would've been long gone in Safeco.

This will be a really fun year in Tacoma. The starting five we knew was going to be good - there were legitimate questions about the hitting that look like they're on the way towards getting answered. The defense should be fine (Mike Morse at 1b? Who cares with Asdrubal's freakishly accurate arm). The bullpen is George Sherrill-less (yay!), so that's a question mark. But so far, so good: the pen allowed 3 singles and no walks in four innings last night. More importantly, the M's look solid enough that this team won't be raided in late July. Players like Cabrera, Jones, Livingston will have a full year to develop their games, and guys like Greg Dobbs, Todd Sears and Morse have been rendered somewhat superfluous by Roberto Petagine and Matt Lawton.

Go Rainiers!