Sunday, April 29, 2007

Let this Nightmare be Over!!!

If a starting pitcher can't last more than 1/3rd of an inning vs. the KC Royals, that pitcher is done as a major-league starting pitcher.

Felix Hernandez is due back in 5 days. Cha Baek pitched decently today. Bump him up a day and let Felix take the 5th. Even if Felix isn't able to come back right away, there are still better options within this organization. A roster move needs to be made. Let Weaver be the casualty, not Baek.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Okay, Time to Change the Lineup...

Going into the season, it was pretty much common knowledge on the blogs that the M's offense was the strength of the team. And we all figured that this offense would be average at best. Surely, the question marks were larger in the rotation, and the lack of faith in the rotation has proven to come true. Yes, I'm saying this even in spite of Washburn's shutout tonight. I'm definitely a fan of Washburn, and he's having a very decent start to 2007, but he's more of a 'luck' pitcher than most. He's a safe bet to succomb to Hendu's law of averages.

A quick glance at the team stats on THT shows that the M's are currently are second-to-last in the AL in OBP, edging out only Texas, whose .302 team OPB is only .003 points lower than the M's. But in spite of that, they're still in the middle of the pack for runs scored per game -- a skosh below average, but still good enough for second in the division (with Texas, ironically, at the top of the list -- hmmm, and they also have a Bloomquist-esque sub-400 SLG). Perhaps some of that came from the M's double-digit runs scored in the last home game vs. Texas.

One thing we all talked about as being very vital to this team's success was the start that both Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre got off to. Both of them have had at least one or two awesome games, but it's very, very clear that both of them have yet to get things going. Sexson's got a few Funk Blasts, sure, but he's still off to a horrible start, as is somewhat typical. Ibanez' decline is clear. Beltre's been predicatbly inconsistent. Just because there's been some serious scheduling issues doesn't mean that a lineup shakeup isn't in order. While Vidro's been hitting OK, he's also either been on the front end or the back end of a lot of GIDP's. The only comparison to Edgar I see is that he's still able to get his hits decently, but he's a liability on the base paths. A move down in the batting order could both spark the offense and minimize some of those GIDPs.

With these thoughts, and several others, in mind, here's what I'd do with the current M's hack-o-matic lineup:

1) Ichiro, CF, duh. He's been Ichiro, with a slightly lower average, and a slightly higher SLG.
2) Adrian Beltre, 3B. Well, I'm not sure there's a better option here.
3) Kenji Johjima, C. Hot bat even after a two-day injury absence. Leading the regulars with OPB.
4) Jose Lopez, 2B. Thought about swapping him and Joh, but I want the OPS batting third. Unlike Sexson, he doesn't strike out, and he does get on base -- relative to his teammates, of course. Might also help Jose rediscover his power stroke.
5) Jose Vidro, DH. Move him down in the lineup. Need a 'lefty' to break things up a little. Provide a little more OBP to the MOTO.
6) Richie Sexson, 1B. Yeah, he probably wouldn't like this 'demotion' but for now, that's where I'd put him. Either that, or I'd bench him for Broussard (and bat Broussard 4th or 5th)
7) Raul Ibanez, LF. Slump, slump, slump. Having the three slowest runners down further in the lineup harms them probably a little less than further up in the lineup.
8) Jose Guillen, RF. He needs to get his bat in gear. Quickly. Tell him that Mike Scoscia called, and he is now to report to the 8th slot in the lineup. Yeah, that'll make him angry.
9) Yuni Betancourt, SS. Well, if he does get on, he's got the speed to not get in Ichiro's way.

I realize Hargrove will never change things THAT drastically. There are too many egos involved, and too much money to bench. Still, Broussard needs to play much, much more than he is. Heck, give Burke some time at DH on occasion. I just want some more offense. The horrendous pitching is seriously going to need a boost.

Go ahead, Hargrove, shake things up...

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Rainiers Report #4 - Roster Chaos

So, the rumor about Brandon Morrow making his first start vs. Kevin Millwood down in Arlington? And that Jake Woods is down in favor of Sean Green? Well, I don't know if it was the slew of 'WTF?' comments over there or a sober look at the innings the bullpen's been racking up, but the M's brass seemed to have changed their mind about a few things.
Cha Seung Baek, last night's probable starter, wasn't in uniform, which led to a spot start by Jason Mackintosh. Sean Green, who was supposed to be in Seattle to be a long reliever behind Morrow, was in Tacoma, catching the ceremonial first pitch and then pitching one rather lackluster inning in relief. So: while both Woods and Baek are still listed on the Tacoma roster, keep an eye on the M's website (bastion of internet rumors!) and let's see if Baek doesn't come up if/when Felix is DL'ed.

Last night's game was notable in large part for Mackintosh's sterling first AAA start. He's soon to be 27, with a fastball at 85-87 MPH, so he's not exactly on a lot of prospect lists, but he exhibited great command and hid his change-up well. He induced some very ugly swings from some good hitters, like Justin Knoedler, whom he got swinging on 3 straight changeups. The News Tribune got a nice photo of Mac that's on the front page of the sports secton this morning, and the accompanying story has the details of Jason's journey to Tacoma from the bustling metropolis of Jackson, Tennessee. The new guy pitched 5 innings, giving up 2 hits (one a roped double, and the other a comebacker that died about 80 feet from home plate), giving up no runs, and striking out 4 to 1 walk.
Ryan Rowland-Smith came on in the 6th and gave up 4 runs on 3BBs and 3H in only 2/3 of an inning. Jon Huber finally had a nice outing, going 2 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball, before Sean Green allowed 1 run in his one inning.
As the Rainiers only mustered 1 run, there really wasn't much offense to speak of. Wladimir Balentien continued his hot start, going 2-3 with a walk. Wlad's out was a smashed one hopper that the Fresno SS made a great play on to get Wlad by a step. Adam Jones got a hit in the 9th, and Jeremy Reed and Brant Ust both slammed doubles to right.
We'll see if Salt Lake City helps the M's bats come to life, as Ryan Feierabend goes for the R's tonight in Utah. The R's return on April 30th versus Colorado Springs.

Cheney Game Report 4/19/07 -- With Photos

So, I've discovered that there are just not enough hours in the day. I took this afternoon off to come home and catch up on stuff, but left work at 2 p.m. instead of 12:30, as I'd intended. Ugh. Someone just needs to hire me to be a full-time photographer, and that way the other stuff would be less-likely to get in the way. Heh.

Anyway, I wanted to jot down a few quick notes from the game I attended on Thursday at Cheney. It was good to see Dan Rohn back in Cheney, and, for good measure, it only took him one Rainiers batter to get tossed from the game. See, Adam Jones lead off the bottom of the first by popping up towards Justin Leone, who, not so atypically dropped the ball. By that time, Adam Jones was rounding second, and headed towards third. Hard to tell by this angle, whether or not he was safe:

Much to Dan Rohn's chagrin, the umpire called him safe. Neither the Grizzly covering third on the play...

...nor Dan Rohn liked the call. But Adam Jones seemed to enjoy the umpire ejecting Rohn:

Later in the game, Justin Leone still was holding a grudge, even after hitting a home run. I don't think he was saying nice things about the umpire's mom:

He even showed the ump his "O" face:

Jim Morris Parque actually held his own in the game. He's got a funky delivery:

And he surrendered a HR to Justin Leone. But, other than that, he pitched decently, and seemed to get better as the game went on. It happened to be $1 hot dog/beer/pop/coffee/popsicle night, and I had my 5-year-old, so I don't know how crowded the beer garden was. I suspect that the other half of the crowd that didn't show up for that was probably in some way connected to Parque -- a Puyallup resident. Several of the kids he's coached were there, including the nice kid sitting next to us that put up with Joey throughout a good part of the game. I was glad to see him pitch effectively for the Rainiers, and get his first win in a long, long time. He had some control issues, but overall it wasn't a bad performance at all.

Prentice Redman, serving DH duties for the night, hit his first HR of the season:

But Wlad lead the club with two hits. It was the first time I've seen him in person. Looks like a good one.

Byron Embry came in to close the game out.

He reminded me in so many ways of a good Emiliano Fruto:

Similar in physique, similar in delivery (though Embry uses his legs a whole lot more than Fruto) -- had I not remembered that Fruto was pitching in the Nationals organization, I would've thought he was pitching last night.

It was a great game, and Joey had fun meeting Jason Churchill. Especially since Joey's a bit of a charmer and wound up schmoozing Jason out of the three baseballs he'd collected from the Cheney Stadium roof by the press box. Actually, it was the first time I'd met him in person, too. After the game was over, we went down by the R's dugout. Robby Johnson happened to come by to say hello to some friends, I suspect. Snapped this portrait of him:

Can't wait to get to more games up there. The full photo album is on my photography web site. There's even a bonus link to a Byron Embry pitching motion Flash file...
I'll try to get to Parque's tomorrow.Er, later today, when I wake up.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Big 3-0!!!

Well, Deanna likes to remind people whose birthday it is frequently, but so far it looks like I've beat her to saying "Happy Birthday George!" Even better, it's George's 30th today. Heh, welcome to the 30's! So far, they don't suck too horribly.

Make the best out of today, even if you have to come in and get the likes of Mauer, Morneau, and, well, Tyner out tonight.

And gosh darnit! Happy belated birthday to elsid, George's older brother. I knew I forgot to do something this weekend...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Rainiers Report #2: Timmay!

The Rainiers beat the Fresno Grizzlies tonight 2-1 on a 9th inning 2-run 2b by Jeff Clement. Despite the walk-off heroics, the final score can be somewhat difficult to remember after a performance like the one from Tim Lincecum tonight - so I wanted to get it out there early.

Lincecum - and the game itself - was similar to the way Jered Weaver carved up the Rainiers last April before the bullpen blew it for him. Unlike Weaver's game for Salt Lake, the Rainiers couldn't muster an extra-base hit (no Scott Youngbauer this year), and unlike Weaver, Lincecum didn't surrender a walk. Three gb singles was all the R's could do.

With a fastball touching 99MPH in the first (according to the Grizzlies gun, which seemed, if anything, rather slow) and a slider/curve at 86, Lincecum didn't need pin-point command. He was a little off with his mechanics, which led a lot of his breaking stuff to miss high (out of the zone, fortunately for him). He got around this with what the Grizzlies pitchers swore was a change up (around 84 MPH). I asked multiple times, because it looked to me like it broke more than a Cruceta fork/split. Suffice it it to say, if this is a change, it's unlike anything we've seen since vintage Pedro Martinez; there's changing speeds, and then there's changing physics. Lincecum and Martinez seem to do the latter.

The guy in front of me kept asking for radar gun readings from the Grizz, and seemed somewhat nervous. But he seemed to know a hell of a lot about pitching mechanics....wait a minute... yep, it was Tim's dad. This is the guy that built Tim's unorthodox delivery, and the guy who many many professional scouts said was off his rocker. I asked him if he felt vindicated now that Lincecum (still not icing after the game; he was on the top step cheering on his relief corps) is slicing and dicing the PCL. Basically, he said he didn't pay his critics any attention at all, but you could tell this subject was near and dear to his heart. If he's right, he's on to the holy grail of baseball; the team that halves or eliminates pitcher attrition wins, period. Unlike Mike Marshall, another pitching guru that's had thousands of naysayers, Chris Lincecum actually has a star pupil that'll be in the bigs in a few weeks. Lincecum can *demonstrate* that he's built a better mousetrap - the question is, will anybody notice? It's tough, without detailed medical records, to really separate out Tim's other-worldly physical gifts (no ice? I'm sorry, i can't get over this... really? Does he have first generation nanobots in his shoulder?) from what his dad claims is his stress-free delivery. But given the potential value of Chris's insights, I can't believe people aren't beating down a path to his door.
It's been said many times that baseball is a sport that venerates tradition- or even more than that, a sport that loves to see echos of the past in new players. That's great; it's cool when a young CF reminds people of Mays, or when a big SS reminds people of Ripken/Rodriguez/Tejada. The downside, of course, is that people who don't have clear antecedents are often maligned (unfairly). Tim's answered his critics- it's no longer about Lincecum. It's about a way of thinking that sees only risk, and misses an opportunity to do things better.

Rainiers notes:
Campillo's change (76 MPH) was impressive tonight, and he rode it to 6 innings of 1 run baseball. He got 5 ks to only 1 BB - 3ks in his final inning, winning some lucky fan $5,000. His FB was in the 86 range. He was trying to work in a curve that had decent break, but it obviously needed some work. Chris Lincecum thought he looked like an injury waiting to happen, esp. on the curves. I had to tell him that Campillo was fresh off a year lost to TJ surgery.

Adam Jones made a great running catch in the first, but as we've seen, the simple plays often elude him. The grizz got their one run when Scott McClain singled to center after Justin Leone doubled. It was a sharp grounder to CF and everyone was waiting for the play at the plate; a good throw beats Leone easily (He's not exactly Jose Reyes out there)... Jones let the ball under his glove. Not an error in the scorebook, but it's things like that that keep Jones from being an elite defender.

I'm still really impressed with Wlad Balentien, who went 1-3 with a walk in very difficult conditions. He still K'd once, but his K:BB ratio is about 2-1, and he's K'd in just less than 1/4 of his PAs. So far, so good for the kid from Curacao.

Brad Thomas pitched three scoreless for the win. It marked his first successful appearance for the Rainiers, and hopefully the mechanical issues/whatever that plagued him his first few times out are gone for good. He looked nasty at times with a good breaking ball that moved almost as much (though not quite) as Eric O'Flaherty's slider.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rainiers Report #1

You've seen the box score, or the recap in various places... and you know J will keep you up to date with boxes and stats. So I'll try to refrain from a play-by-play approach here.
The first in a series of rambling observations from venerable Cheney stadium:

1: Justin Lehr knows how to pitch. His pure stuff wasn't all that impressive, really - he used a high-80s fastball and a cutter to get downward movement on the ball and induce a flurry of ground balls. But it's sort of hard to believe that this guy was known for above average K-rates throughout his career. It was one day, and he was facing a pretty good line-up, and let's face it - he pitched quite well: 6IP 1R 3H 1BB 1K. He just wasn't what I'd expected. He's now had back to back impressive outings after his disastrous first relief appearance, so hopefully he's righted the ship and he can continue his poor man's Chien Ming Wang routine.

2: Long-time Morsels favorite Wladimir Balentien had a great home opener, with a sharply hit single to center his first time up, and then a majestic, towering solo home run leading off the 6th. I was sitting behind home plate, and thought the ball was hit too high to leave the park... the RiverCats outfielders knew immediately: neither the CF or LF took a step. I think the height threw me (and many others around me); I don't think I've ever seen a HR hit so high.
I remember Ryan Christianson hitting a wind-aided fly ball that came close, but that was more of an actual pop-up that got pushed over the RF fence. This was an absolute bomb, just to the left of the big scoreboard in left-center... I've used majestic, maybe I'll say it was Stargellian? Wlad also picked up a stolen base, and made a nice running catch of Hiram Bocachica's 10th innng drive up against the wall in right (at least someone could catch a baseball in the 10th).

3: Adam Jones looked good at the plate - the ability he learned late last year to fight off tough pitches (located FBs or good breaking stuff) was on display, as he had a number of good ABs, resulting in 2 hits and two walks. Scouts wondered about his defense last year, and he proved he could give you decent CF defense after just learning the position. Then, scouts wanted to see him control the strike zone more and even up his K:BB ratio a bit. So far, so good: he's got 6BBs and only 9Ks so far. We'll see if there's anything else the nay-sayers can point to in a few months. Nothing to report about his defense, as the GB-fest rendered him sort of superfluous. Jones too picked up a stolen base, his first of the year.

4: Eric O'Flaherty was straight dealing... he only had 1 K (he got Daric Barton on a sick slider, causing Barton to slam his helmet in disgust), but could've had more - his slider simply broke too much and fooled both the batter and umpire. JJ Furmaniak was doing that Jason Varitek thing - flinching away, then watching as the pitch broke right over the inner half of the plate (yes, I know Felix was doing that as a righty, and with a mid 90s FB, to a LH hitter. Felix is not fair.), but O'Flaherty couldn't get a call. That led to 2BBs in his 2 innings. He'll definitely be someone to watch; a LH reliever with a bit more stuff than Jake Woods (to say the least), but whose back probably won't allow him to pitch in long relief.

5: I miss Asdrubal Cabrera. Osvaldo Navarro was 0-4 with two shocking errors in the decisive 10th. I know, I know - it's one game, and the scouts love his D. But I miss the days of a slick fielding SS who could also take a walk (Navarro has 1 in 8 games, Cabrera has 3 in 5 so far for AA Akron).

6: Byron Embry is a large human. He looked a bit like ex-Rainier 1B/mountain Juan Thomas. That's gotta be somewhat intimidating. His delivery was somewhat reminiscent of Emiliano Fruto's, in that he almost short arms the ball. That might give him some deception, so we'll have to see if he gets more Ks than his pure stuff/velocity would suggest. He's been a little shaky with his command so far (hey, just like Fruto), but then that comment could be made about basically anyone in the Rainiers' pen.

7: Jon Huber isn't exactly proving the M's wrong for sending him to AAA this spring. It's kind of tough to pin the loss on him, as the Rainiers team-wide defensive collapse ruined all of his best pitches (turning routine GBs into ugly, ugly errors). But he's still a far cry from where he was with the M's last year. The lead-off single was a legit line-drive, and then he walked Charles Thomas to bring his OPS *up* to .367. As mentioned above, Hiram Bocachica hit a screaming line drive to the wall for the first out, and Huber also uncorked a WP. Coming on the heels of his meltdown vs. Fresno on April 10th, it's becoming something of a pattern. Perhaps it's just the cold; he started last year in the Texas league (and was noticeably better in the second half last year too...hmm).

8: Have teams picked up a 'tell' in Rainiers pitchers' moves to first/home? Everyone's running wild on Rob Johnson, which is just weird. The RiverCats went 3-3 off RJ last night, and that's been going on a lot. Not sure what the problem is, but coupled with his 3-base error, he's in a real funk on the defensive end (maybe his first?). I wonder if the pressure of competing with Jeff Clement is getting to him, or if the stolen base thing is the product of the Rainiers coaches telling their staff to not worry about holding guys on. It's just such a turnaround from the beginning of last year when Johnson was throwing guys out left and right.

9: The Schlegel group made some changes to the stadium and the experience this year, and... so far, I'm not exactly thrilled about it. The bleachers on the 3b side were removed, along with the patio deck. Replacing them is a three-tiered concrete monstrosity known as 'party decks.' I have been to all manner of parties, dear reader, but I simply cannot think of a less festive atmosphere than an unmarked slab of concrete. Perhaps it's edgy to combine the experience of minor league baseball with a dash of 'prison recreation area.' Inspired by the Rainiers' creative branding, I've renamed my driveway the Party Zone, and the patch of overgrown ivy between my house and my neighbor shall now be known as Area FiftyFun.
Also, they've cut back a bit on the draft beer selection, turned the nice little bar under the 3b side reserved stands into a private area for 'Gold Club' members only, and the wait-staff who would go get beer and food for fans in box seats are gone. Hmm.
Hey, if the 'Gold Club' and the 'Party Decks' keep baseball in Tacoma, I'm down with it. I'm trying to think about these...changes strategically, and I acknowledge that Tacoma's park makes turning a profit a little tough. When PCL teams from Memphis to Sacramento are in larger towns to begin with, and then build MLB-stadia-in-miniature, you can bet that the Rainiers and their owners have to come up with new ways to get more revenue. But it needs to be mentioned that the ballpark experience fell a bit short last night, and that had nothing to do with the weater.

That's all I've got. Anyone notice anything else about yesterday's game that was particularly intriguing?

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Turn to Apologize

Taking a page from Dave Cameron, who apologized a couple of days ago for dissin' Matt Tuiasosopo, I'm following his lead, and apologizing to King Felix. I sorta did that after his Opening Day performance, but I still feel like I need to appease Dave and others to whom I've been very anti-Felix. Nevermind Felix himself...


To Mr. Hernandez,

I’d like to make a formal apology. Even as recently as November, I commented on the all the blogs that you had a LOT to prove before I'd call you King. It’s no surprise that I’ve been pretty skeptical of your pitching abilities over the last year or so, and I didn’t think you’d pitch very well this year, either.

Now that you've stolen the spotlight from Daisuke Matsusaka by one-hitting the difficult Red Sox lineup -- in Fenway Park, no less -- and with your Opening Day domination of the A's, I’m ready to admit I was wrong. It took all of two performances for you to convince me that it may have just been growing pains and an organization that wasn't letting you be yourself, and not a lack of talent, that caused you to struggle so badly last year.

So, Felix, I’m sorry for doubting you. Please don’t stop dominating. And, all those DNA samples we've taken in attempt to clone you at least 4 times over, I'm sorry if they were annoying or painful.



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Dave Sims, SHUT UP already. Please?

It's an unwritten rule in baseball fandom everywhere that when a pitcher is in the midst of throwing a no-hitter, you're not supposed to mention it lest you jinx him. Sure enough, when I got home and turned on the TV broadcast of the game, around the 5th inning, it seems as if Dave Sims couldn't talk about Boston's lack of hits off of Felix enough! It kept going, and going, and I scared my son when I finally got so fed up that I yelled at my TV: "SHUT UUUUUUUP!!!!" (I explained to him that I was yelling at the TV, and not at him).

Now, I can't find anything on the origin of this custom, or when it came about. It seems to me, too, that the opposing team's broadcasters always mention it on purpose to try and jinx the pitcher on the other team throwing the no-hitter.

Whether or not there's any scientific/tangible proof of no-hitters being jinxed by people mentioning it, it's still a tradition that needs to be respected. I don't care how many Emmy awards Mr. Sims has won. Ya don't break that tradition.

(Dave Sims brags about Dave Niehaus at Mariners FanFest 2007)

Dare I break out the "Free Dave Henderson!" campaign? Don't make me do it.


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Wednesday, April 11, 2007


That, ladies and gentleman, is how you grab a national audience's attention.
With all the talk recently about Ichiro's leadership role, people seem to have forgotten the fiery personality of El Cartelua/El Rey. You know, the guy that eviscerated one of the most fearsome line-ups in the AL. The guy who made Richie Sexson feel about 1 foot tall after Richie dropped that double play relay. The guy who willed his defense into playing above their collective head. The guy whose 111th pitch elicited the single silliest swing I think I'll see all year.


All credit to and gomez for the inspiration for this image.

I'd meant to give y'all a minor league update, but I'm a little bit jacked up after today's game...

Anyway, Adam Jones continued his hot start with a 2b and a 3b in 6 ABs, and Rob Johnson doubled in the decisive 11th inning as Tacoma topped Fresno today 6-5. The Grizzlies' starter? None other than ex-Rainier and M's 'spect favorite, Travis Blackley. Travis went only 2IP in his second Fresno start (he was quite effective in his first start, and picked up his first pro hit as well). No word yet on why this outing was so short; he wasn't terribly effective, but he also wasn't so awful that he deserved the hook. Whatever, Rainiers win.
Sean Green went 5 solid innings for the win. His K/BB will always look suspect (as will Chien Ming Wang's), but the guy's a very good AAA pitcher/passable MLB reliever. His 5 innings for a bullpen that's been hemorrhaging runs was critical today. Hopefully the rest of the 'pen follows his example.
Jeff Clement was 0-4 with a BB, Wlad Balentien was 1-6, and Jeremy Reed was 1-5 with an RBI. Jorge Campillo versus Tim Lincecum tomorrow in a classic battle of opposing styles. Will Campillo's drunk monkey prevail against Lincecum's tiger claw?

West Tennessee was shut out, 7-0. To be fair, the Diamond Jaxx (god that sounds pornographic) have faced two exceptional teams in Montgomery and Jacksonville, but still - you'd like to see more of a fight here. This time, it was William Juarez' turn to make the DJ's look foolish - he went 7IP and gave up 5H and 1BB versus 6Ks. The Nicaraguan did not allow an extra base hit. Here's hoping the M's Nicaraguan 'spect, Juan Carlos Ramirez, is as effective in AA. Sebastian Boucher maintained his hitting streak, going 0-4 from the lead-off spot to keep his average at a cool .000. Matt Tuiasosopo went 1-4 with a single and a CS. Andy Baldwin pitched quite well - 5 IP 1R, 2BB, 4K. The bullpen made things decidedly less interesting.

High Desert is presently tied with Visalia 4-4 in the 10th inning. The Mavericks haven't allowed any earned runs, as 4 errors have combined to gift Visalia their four runs. Even the great Austin Bibens-Dirkx was effected, as errors and two wild pitches lead to 2 unearned runs scoring on him (the first two of the year). The Mavs also have zero extra base hits thus far, but Ron Garth has 3 singles to his name. Aaron Jensen started and allowed 2 unearned runs in 6IP, with 5H, 1BB, 3Ks on his line. Always a gambler, Jensen ran a 4-11 GB-FB ratio in High Desert, but he got away with it. Roman Martinez did well out of the pen - 1 2/3 IP, 2H, 1BB, 2K with no runs scored.

Wisconsin was snowed out.

[Edit to add High Desert final]
Visalia pushed 5 across in the 11th to win vs. High Desert 9-4. You can thank John Sullivan for his 1 IP 6H 5R 1K performance to pick up the well-earned L. But hey, Josh Womack got a 2B, so that bit above about the Mavs not getting any XBH? Forget about it.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Free Austin Bibens-Dirkx!!! Quick Update...

So, Churchill's got a nice scouting report on Austin Bibens-Dirkx up on Prospect Insider. Check out that awesome photo, too. I wonder where that came from. Hmmm... Heh.

Bigger news today, though, is that my e-mails and prodding likely helped push Dave Cameron to add him to his Future Forty. Okay, well, I doubt I had anything to do with it, seriously, since Dave's standards are so incredibly high (and rightfully so) that my opinion is probably 99,999th on the list of folks he's likely discussed things with to put together his list. Still, it's nice to see him come around on Austin at least a little bit, and recognize him at least a little more as I do -- maybe not a potential superstar like Felix or Jones or whatnot, but rather a guy who likely will help a major-league club greatly by filling a smaller role -- and doing it very well, if not at a star level for that role.

I'm OK with thinking that relief pitchers are dime-a-dozen interchangable parts. I also believe in the concept of "relief aces" that can consistently stop the bleeding or slam the door in tight contests. Whether or not the door-slamming happens in the 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th inning, it's a pretty important role either way, and a team likely needs at least two of these types of players in the bullpen, and one of them is most likely the closer. These types of players are more expensive and less dime-a-dozen. Rafael Soriano was one of these types, and trading him for a border-line league-average starting pitcher was a horrible decision that could have some serious long-term consequences on the Mariners pitching staff.

But what about those guys in between? While I'm a HUGE George Sherrill fan, even I recognize that he's not quite the relief ace that Soriano and Putz were in 2006. When I argued last year that he should inherit the closer title, it was because he's less of a relief ace than those other two, and with Hargrove being a bit of an old-schooler, he'd be better served having the weakest of the three top relievers in the "Hey, we have a 3-run lead here in the 7th -- let's get another guy out there and save our closer for the 9th..." role. He's shown some struggles vs. righties in the majors (despite not having too much of a problem vs. righties in the minors), and I believe he's been pretty much pigeonholed into the "LOOGY" class of pitchers. I still think he could develop into a relief ace, given more of an opportunity. But while that opportunity is waning, his opportunity to have a decent MLB career is improving. Even if he remains as a "LOOGY" I'm quite confident he'll be one of the best in the league in that role. If that's the only opportunity that he gets to have a job in the majors, and never makes it into the closer's role (hence the "Free George Sherrill" campaign still going alive and well...), I'm quite certain he'll take that 8 days a week and twice on Sundays.

So, while the "Free George Sherrill" campaign is still alive, I'm also laying the grassroots for the next MarinersMorsels campaign: "Free Austin Bibens-Dirkx!" When I saw him pitch in Tacoma, and talked to folks like Dave Cameron and several others right after that, I discovered that Austin was probably a guy that would fly under the radar a bit, and would, like George, have to work a little harder than guys like Morrow, Butler, Tillman (all drafted higher in the 2006 draft) to earn the spotlight and have a little more blue-collar route to the big leagues. If he had a chance to even make it to the bigs at all...

It seems Austin's performance in the pros thus far has already caught several eyes. Hey. I let the player do all the work, and I take all the credit :-)

I kid, I kid...

Still, here's to hoping that Austin's K rates stay steady. He'll need 'em in the matchbox that is High Desert. In his two outings so far, he's got 3Ks in 3 IPs. I'm awaiting some reports on his scouted velocity, and some more time to see his splits vs. lefties (although, somewhat strangely, it seems like he's had more issues vs. same-handed hitters, according to Churchill's report). Those are two evidence points that will really convince the folks in the suits what to do with him. His 2006 numbers suggest that he's very much a pitcher -- and as Jason captured what Austin said himself:
“I know how to pitch,” he said. “Not just throw. I had to learn how to pitch first, because I didn’t throw very hard until my sophomore year in college.”
Indeed, he's shown to me that he's moreso a 'pitcher' than a 'thrower' -- being a side-armer, too, that's important. But if he's got his velocity up in the mid-90's consistently, and can show he's got excellent command of his pitches, then watch out. He'll soar quickly through the system.

I'm a little nervous that I may have seen his only appearance in a Tacoma uniform. If he has a decent year this year, he could very well do most of his development in AA, and then jump right up to Seattle in September, and stick around for good in 2008.

Free Austin Bibens-Dirkx!

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Database Updates

A couple of quick things. Not only am I a photographer, but I'm also a web programmer (actually, that's my day job). So, it's natural that I'd blend all these interests together and build some stuff that incorporates all three of my big hobbies. Now all I need to do is figure out some way to incorporate music into them...

Anyway, since I've added my Opening Day photo gallery now (even though I still haven't really tweaked the files like I want to), I needed to update the database where I keep track of players whose pictures I've taken. So, I've updated it this afternoon. Looks like I took the most pictures of Felix (or at least uploaded them to the web). It was also the first time I took pictures of the A's. I added Jason Kendall, Bobby Crosby, Eric Chavez, Nick Swisher, Mike Piazza, and even one or two of Travis Buck.

The second thing I've added is the "Mike Hargrove Decision Tracker" web database. I joked about it on LookoutLanding, but decided it might actually come in handy. So, here it is. It's still a bit buggy, which I hope to fix soon. Initially, I had thoughts of only keeping track of his bad decisions, but I thought that was a little mean, and wanted to see if he could earn SOME credit for making good decisions, too.

Yesterday's actions to get the game cancelled with 1 strike left in the top of the 5th inning in a snow storm earned him a lot of credit in my book. It's sort of ironic that the umpires were so crazy stupid not to call the game a whole lot earlier than they did, that Mike Hargrove, in his general placidity, actually came in to stand up for his team for a change.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Bald is Buhnerful, Unless You're Bloomquist

So, thanks to PDB pointing out today that my Jay Buhner picture had made its way to Deadspin, I ran a quick Google search to see where all it has ended up. That's pretty fun!

I so need a copy signed by Buhner. And Bloomquist. And Raul. Hmmm...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

That's Two!

Nice to start the '07 campaign by equalling the win total vs. the A's for all of '06. While I'm not expecting a sweep, since, well, Harden's on the mound tonight, they still have to play the game. A few thoughts on the goings-on so far...

1) I still dislike the Morrow decision. I want to see him develop into a starter. But since I got to watch him in Seattle (on TV), his motion is smooth as butter and while he was missing the plate in his debut, he mostly missed low rather than high. I'm curious to see his next appearance -- I suspect it'll be a bit better.

2) Washburn still looks like Washburn -- struggles to get the third out, but somehow manages to throw a lot of pitches and get out of it. Surrenders a few runs, struggles a bit, but somehow seems to keep the M's in it.

3) I've forgotten what it's like to see the M's hit in the clutch. It's made for some good baseball that they've started out the season coming through in the clutch. I hope it continues.

4) My Opening Day photos have been published on my photog site. I filtered through the collection and posted some to my sports photoblog. I've seen the Buhner goosing Bloomquist picture a few other places now, too. Heh.

It's really nice seeing the M's off to a good start and beating the A's. Let's not forget, though, that the A's typically start out slow and catch fire around the All Star Break. It's a loooooong season, but, it's nice to have some baseball that counts. And, it's exciting baseball, too.

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Monday, April 02, 2007



I've been a critic of Felix's for a bit now. I hadn't bought into the hype, really. Just couldn't do it -- I've been burned by the hype of guys like Pineiro, Meche, Nageotte, Anderson, etc. That started to change, however, when the stories of Felix arriving at Seattle for FanFest, and January media day, in shape and hungry.

Today, though, I'm sold. I took a metric giga-ton of pictures today (even skipping an inning or to to give George my congrats), and they've finally uploaded. It's not my favorite picture, but it does tell the story in one picture -- look in the top-left, next to the foul pole:

Congrats, King Felix. You've earned your crown. You deserve the kudos. You've just taken over top spot in my favorite-pitched game that I've attended. Move over Randy Johnson's 19K/McGwire mammoth HR in the Kingdome.

There's a new King in town!