Great Series Ends Tonight

October 28, 2011

How was that game?

Game Six of the World Series was one of the most amazing games I’ve ever seen. Note that I did not say World Series game – let’s include all of those regular season games, too.

The Cardinals were down to their last strike and needed heroics in both the ninth and tenth innings, and they got them. And then they won it on a homer in the 11th.

Hopefully you were watching this game; I’m incapable of writing any sort of quality ode to it here.

But one thought kept crossing my mind in the late innings: I was totally jealous of Joe Buck – and this is not a thought that I’ve had often. Buck got to broadcast one of the greatest World Series games, ever – it would have been so much fun to call.

Furthermore, one would presume that Buck is a Cardinals fan at heart. It was his team pulling off all of those miracles!

That must have been the greatest day of his career. Unless he likes football better than baseball; he’s called several Super Bowls.

A few items:

  • Larry Stone says that last night’s game is why we love baseball. He also says Texas will probably not recover from that one.
  • Joe Buck honored his father Jack with his call of the game-winning home run.

Game Seven tonight. This is as good as it gets in baseball – I can’t wait for 5:00. I always keep score of Game 7 (yup, I’m a total baseball geek, I know). My favorite Game 7s are: the 1-0 ten inning Jack Morris masterpiece of 1991, and the Edgar Renteria game-winner for Florida in the 11th inning in 1997.


Mariners Coaching Staff Stable – Rainiers, Too?

October 27, 2011

Yesterday the Seattle Mariners announced that the major league coaching staff will remain intact for 2012. This is quite rare – as you probably know, the team has had a revolving door of managers and coaches for roughly ten years now.

A little stability is a good thing.

While I don’t know for certain, I suspect we will see a similar announcement regarding the Tacoma coaching staff soon. I haven’t heard anything to lead me to believe that we won’t have the troika of Daren Brown, Alonzo Powell, and Dwight Bernard back next year.

Our dreaded division rivals, the Reno Aces, have their own blog now. I’ve been informed that “no one reads it,” which is unsurprising.*

It’s good to know your competition, so I checked it out – and you know what? It’s not half bad. You can decide for yourself right here.

* Ha ha ha on you, Aces blogger person! I hope you can take a joke, since there are going to be a lot of them!


Midweek Round-Up

October 26, 2011

A few tidbits for Wednesday, while we wait and see if the conditions will be playable for World Series Game Six tonight in St. Louis.

  • Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times continues his series on Mariners prospects in the Arizona Fall League with a feature on Rainiers pitcher Forrest Snow.
  • Larry LaRue takes a look at a few other Mariners in Winter Ball – it looks like Carlos Peguero is off to a hot start in Venezuela.
  • Former Mariners and Rainiers catcher and all-around good guy Rob Johnson was let go by the San Diego Padres. He’ll sign a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training with somebody – now, he has to choose the team that gives him the best opportunity to win the major league back-up job.
  • Rainiers reliever Scott Patterson and the rest of Team USA had to settle for the silver medal in the Pan-Am Games. After a dramatic win against Cuba to reach the finals, Team USA lost a squeaker to Canada, 2-1.
  • Baseball Prospectus has a terrific column up, in which 13 of their writers tell who their favorite “bad” player was. This was a ton of fun to read, and it got me thinking about a future post…
  • Just checked in with Cheney Stadium Head Groundskeeper and Stadium Operations guru Ryan Schutt – turns out that he’s spending his day inspecting the bullpen phones. Can’t have faulty bullpen phones – just ask Tony LaRussa!

In our immediate future here at the blog: I’m working on the stats for the big Cheney Stadium shorter fences post, which is finally close to seeing the light of day. Later I’m going to fix the PCL schedule. Then I might write about one of my favorite not-so-great Rainiers.


Notes & Napoli

October 25, 2011

The Hot Stove League is preheating - we’re starting to get some notes of interest. Here is a quick round-up:

  • At the Seattle Times, Larry Stone has a thorough preview of the off-season, and how it relates to the Mariners.
  • Larry LaRue caught up with Jamie Moyer, who is 49 years old and dead-set on returning from an elbow injury and pitching in 2012. Dave Cameron at USS Mariner says that signing him should be a no-brainer for the Mariners.
  • At Lookout Landing, Jeff Sullivan checked in on Dustin Ackley’s advanced defensive statistics, and learned that his defense was better than expected.
  • Rainiers reliever Scott Patterson is pitching for Team USA in the Pan-Am Games, and he recorded a very difficult save as USA beat Cuba, 12-10, to advance to the gold medal game tonight. Nice job, Patty!

A quick World Series tidbit: I saw a story out of Salt Lake City referring to Mike Napoli as a former Salt Lake Bees player. This caught me by surprise – I didn’t recall him playing for Salt Lake.

So I looked back, and low and behold, Napoli played in 21 games for Salt Lake in 2006 – including three against Tacoma, at Cheney Stadium.

Why didn’t I remember him? Well, this might be the reason: in the three games he played against the Rainiers, Napoli went 1-for-9 with seven strikeouts.* He only hit .244 for Salt Lake, he struck out all of those times; I probably just thought “this guy is in over his head” and erased him from my memory. Whoops!

* In one of the games – April 27, 2006 – Napoli went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Even more surprising: the Rainiers had Shin-Soo Choo, Adam Jones, Mike Morse, and Asdrubal Cabrera in the starting lineup that day – and they got shut out on two hits, by Joe Saunders. Box score.


Adam Moore On The Rebound

October 21, 2011

Great World Series so far, huh? Two one-run games, with all kinds of strategy, and each game turning on dramatic plays. We’re looking at two very good teams capable of taking advantage of the smallest mistake made by the opponent. This has been a very compelling series so far.

Closer to home, we have good news on the Mariners depleted catching ranks.

Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times continued his series from the Arizona Fall League with an excellent story on catcher Adam Moore and his recovery from knee surgery. All systems are “go” with the knee – what this story really is about is the shortage of catching in the major leagues, and Moore’s chance to begin a long career. Some great quotes from Ted Simmons in here.

Even with a healthy Moore, the Mariners will sign an experienced back-up catcher to play in AAA this season. They don’t want to run into the depth problems of 2011 again.


Hultzen Deals In Peoria

October 20, 2011

Mariners pitching prospect Danny Hultzen tossed four no-hit innings in the Arizona Fall League yesterday, his best outing as a pro to date.

He has had very few outings, of course. Hultzen was the second player chosen in the 2011 draft and he signed his contract with the Mariners in mid-August. These are his first professional games.

The reason we make note of his progress here is that the general consensus is that Hultzen, a lefty out of the University of Virginia, is very advanced and will start his first full pro season (next year) at a high level.

I know some Mariners fans who think he could jump straight to the majors, but this seems unneccessary to me. If after six weeks of spring training it’s obvious he belongs in the majors, then so be it. But I expect the Mariners to start Hultzen in the minors – and not in Tacoma, either. If I had to speculate, I’d guess that Hultzen will open 2012 at Double-A Jackson.

Jackson is away from the spotlight, closer to his home, and most importantly a better pitching environment then either Class-A High Desert or Triple-A Tacoma (although the Rainiers don’t play at any PCL launching pads until an April 26 trip to Las Vegas).

Seattle Times beat writer Geoff Baker was on-hand for Hultzen’s start in Arizona yesterday Here is a brief blog post (with pictures!) and a feature-style story that ran in the paper.


Some Pre-Game Reading

October 19, 2011

The World Series is about to start, and we have some good links:

  • John McGrath and Larry Stone agree: this is going to be a World Series full of pitching changes. Texas has the great bullpen, and St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa invented the pitching change while daydreaming during boring classes in law school. Here is Stone’s story, and here is McGrath’s column.
  • Seattle Times Mariners beat writer Geoff Baker is down in Arizona, checking out the Fall League. He caught up with top M’s shortstop prospect Nick Franklin and filed this report. Apparently he is seeing #1 pick Danny Hultzen pitch today so we should have another interesting story coming up this week.
  • If you subscribe to Baseball America, you can check out their Seattle Mariners draft report card.

Rangers in six!


World Series Starts Tomorrow

October 18, 2011

The World Series opens on Wednesday night, with the St. Louis Cardinals getting home field advantage and hosting the Texas Rangers in Game One at 5:00.

This match-up is pretty unexpected. Many thought the Rangers could repeat as AL champions, but St. Louis is a surprise team that keeps pulling off upsets. Do they have one more left in the tank?

I think the Rangers are the stronger team, with a deeper rotation and a stronger lineup, although St. Louis has the best player in the series (Albert Pujols of course).

This is a Rangers team that reached the series last year, only to lose to San Francisco. They have many returning players.

I think it’s the Rangers year. Texas, in six games, for the franchise’s first-ever World Series championship.

Links:

  • Tony LaRussa has been a focal point of the NL playoffs, and Larry Stone has an appreciation of his career.
  • John Shea writes that the 2011 Cardinals are on a very similar path as the 2010 Giants. It’s kind of eerie and might not bode well for the Rangers – I made my pick (above) before reading this story; now I want to change it!
  • Team USA went home without a medal in the Baseball World Cup, when the Bronze Medal Game was rained out and Canada was awarded the medal based on a tiebreaker formula. Rainiers reliever Scott Patterson pitched in six games in the tournament, allowing one run in 5.1 innings for a 1.69 ERA.
  • The success of the Mexican Baseball Fiesta in Tucson has generated talk that someday, down the road, Tucson might have a team in the Mexican Pacific League.
  • Over at USS Mariner, marc w delves into the advanced pitching metrics in this story about Rainiers pitcher Forrest Snow.
  • For those wondering about Matt Mangini, Greg Johns answers that question at the bottom of this Q&A.

No baseball tonight, no football tonight… might have to read a, whaddayacallit, a book?


Runs Trending Up In PCL

October 12, 2011

Scoring was up in the Pacific Coast League in 2011, reaching levels that had not been seen since before the Triple-A merger in 1998.

PCL teams averaged 798 runs scored, or 5.54 runs per game. This represented a 6.5% increase from 2010.

This was the highest total since 1997, back when the PCL had just ten teams.

There was a lot of talk about this around the league, as people wondered why scoring was up so much. I decided to look back at the numbers. The chart below lists the runs, home runs, and batting average per team for each season.

  RUNS HR AVG
2011 798 148 .286
2010 749 138 .277
2009 701 124 .272
2008 749 156 .277
2007 736 142 .279
2006 695 128 .271
2005 752 150 .278
2004 761 159 .284
2003 679 118 .273
2002 703 135 .272
2001 715 148 .275
2000 767 139 .277
1999 755 152 .283
1998 749 148 .278
     
1997 817 147 .293
1996 727 116 .279
1995 742 101 .285
1994 812 137 .295

As you can see, the figures fluctuate from season to season. Sometimes, it’s quite clear why.

Prior to 1998, the league had just ten teams and many were in high-elevation locations. In 1998 the league added six teams from the American Association, and most of them play in pitcher’s parks.

You can see that scoring was pretty consistent from 1998 to 2000. Then Albuquerque left the league, moving to Portland, so we traded a launching pad for a more pitcher-friendly park, and scoring dropped noticeably in 2001.

Scoring hit a 18-year low in 2003, even though Albuquerque came back into the league that year. We lost one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball in Calgary, and Fresno moved out of its old bandbox and into a pitcher’s park in Chukchansi Park.

Scoring then went bonkers in 2004-2005, especially home runs, and I cannot tell you why. Maybe the wind blew out in Colorado Springs all summer?

Before I looked at the numbers, I thought we would see that scoring went up in 2009, when Reno joined the league. That ballpark seems like the most extreme hitter’s park in the PCL. But scoring actually decreased in 2009, before making two big jumps to where we are now.

Getting back to the original question, why was scoring up so much this year? There are a couple of theories:

New Ballparks: Tacoma and Omaha opened new stadiums. While park factors indicate Werner Park in Omaha is a neutral stadium, Cheney became much more of a home run park than it was previously. A bigger change was the move from pitcher friendly Portland to the hitter’s park in Tucson.

Quality Of Pitching: This was the popular opinion among scouts, managers, and coaches in the league: the quality of pitching league-wide was not as strong as in year’s past. To my eye, this seemed to be the case until the end of the season, when all of a sudden we started to see a lot of strong arms on opposing teams (especially relief pitchers).

The quality of pitching should bounce back; this is something that can fluctuate from year-to-year.

Heavy Hitters: Others feel that there was an inordinate number of good hitters in the league this year. Here’s a telling stat: on Baseball America’s list of the Top 20 prospects in the PCL, there are 16 hitters and four pitchers.

Juiced Baseballs: OK, nobody is claiming the ball was juiced. I just wanted to write that. Remember when they thought the balls were juiced in MLB in the mid-90s? It turns out something else was juiced.

Seriously, though, Colorado Springs is installing a baseball humidor like the Rockies use. It will be very interesting to see if that helps temper the scores in Sky Sox games.

I wonder if scoring will take a natural downturn next year? Or maybe PCL teams will average over 800 runs for the first time since 1997? We’ll see.

This is the first in a series of posts on offense in the PCL. Up next, sometime around or immediately following the World Series, we’ll have a look at the new Cheney Stadium, and we’ll see how much offense increased with the new fences.


PCL Still Eyeing Escondido

October 11, 2011

Today there is a story in the San Diego Union-Tribune about the continued efforts by San Diego Padres owner Jeff Moorad to relocate his Triple-A team to Escondido, California.

This is the former Portland Beavers franchise, which was booted out of PGE Park by then-owner Merritt Paulson. Paulson sold the team to Moorad, who struck a stadium deal with Escondido and temporarily moved the team to Tucson for two years, while the stadium in Escondido was being built. That stadium project has been delayed indefinitely due to budget problems in the state of California.

On another subject, on Wednesday afternoon I’ll have a substantial post in which we will look at the recent trend of increased scoring in the PCL.


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