Stove Warming Up, Will Be Hot Soon

October 31, 2012

The Hot Stove League (one of my favorite archaic baseball expressions that makes no sense at all) is getting underway, as the major league off-season is upon us.

Can you imagine an entire league of these? Aaaahhhh, the horror!

As soon as the World Series ended, eligible players were allowed to declare free agency. Four Mariners players did right away: Oliver Perez, Kevin Millwood, George Sherrill, and Miguel Olivo. Pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to add his name to the list, and that should be all as far as the Mariners are concerned.

Major League free agent signing season starts six days after the World Series ends – so that will be this coming Saturday. The Mariners front office is already analyzing the free agent pool and I’m sure they will make a few contract offers.

Other off-season dates of note:

  • November 12-15 – major awards announced (MVP, Cy Young, etc.)
  • November 20 – major league 40-man roster must be set prior to Rule 5 Draft
  • December 3-6 – Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, TN

I’ll keep an eye on that hot stove (don’t touch it!) and update the blog accordingly over the next few months. In the meantime, we have a few items in the links today:

  • The Gold Glove Award winners were announced. No Mariners won – Brendan Ryan got hosed, in my opinion – while one former Rainiers player was named: Adam Jones of the Orioles.
  • Larry Stone wrote about how offensive production can determine who wins a defensive award. It makes no sense at all!
  • Rumors, speculation, rumors, speculation. You want Mariners rumors and speculation? Stone has rumors and speculation.
  • Greg Merson won the World Series Of Poker championship (and $8.5 million) while wearing an Adam Jones replica jersey. The Maryland resident actually wore two different jerseys of the ex-Rainiers outfielder, one for each day of the final table. After Merson’s gruelling victory (it took nearly 12 hours last night), Jones sent him a congratulatory tweet.
  • Rainiers mascot Rhubarb The Reindeer is going trick-or-treating with 9-year-old Isabelle Heatherly in Parkland tonight. If you are out in Parkland, look for the antlers.

Happy Halloween!


Giants Sweep Series

October 29, 2012

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants, who swept the Detroit Tigers to claim their second World Series championship in the last three years.

The Giants have done it with a mix of home-grown superstars and deft additions via trade and free agency to round out the roster.

The nucleus of the team was signed and developed within the Giants farm system. Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Sergio Romo (and the 2010 closer Brian Wilson) are all products of the Giants scouting and player development process.

The Giants have been highly successful adding key role players through a variety of means. In particular, the Giants had huge contributions this season from Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias – and both players were signed prior to the season as minor league free agents.

The Giants have also been astute traders. Who knew that picking up Marco Scutaro would be such a season-changing event? Brian Sabean, I guess.

(After Scutaro had the game-winner last night, Dave Cameron posted on Twitter “Today’s youth are going to remember Marco Scutaro the same way I remember Mark Lemke.” Us fans of a certain age know exactly what he is talking about).

As long as that core group of homegrown starting pitchers stays healthy – along with Posey – the Giants appear set up for playoff contention for another few years.

Posey might be the absolute key. The two years he has been healthy, they won it all. The one year he was injured, they did not reach the playoffs.

We are now officially into the off-season – the first thing you will hear about is players declaring free agency. The awards will start to be announced, beginning with the Gold Gloves on Tuesday. We’ll check out the off-season schedule on Wednesday.

Links from the weekend:

  • World Series articles from the San Francisco newspaper: the game story, and Pablo Sandoval was named World Series MVP.
  • Dave Cameron writes that the Giants won with depth, not star power.
  • Mariners infielders Dustin Ackley and Brendan Ryan are Gold Glove Award finalists.
  • Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times speculates that the Mariners may trade pitching prospect James Paxton for offensive help.
  • Baker – who apparently is in Arizona attending the Fall League – also has a piece on hopeful catcher-of-the-future Mike Zunino.
  • Larry LaRue, the former Mariners beat writer for The News Tribune, has a new job with the paper. It’s a non-sports job, but here are the details if you are curious.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the Mariners have hired a new Director of International Scouting.
  • Former Tacoma Tigers shortstop Walt Weiss was interviewed for the Colorado Rockies manager job.
  • Here is the newspaper story on Sacramento manager Darren Bush getting moved up to the big leagues as a bullpen coach. No word yet on who will be the new Sacramento manager.
  • Susan Slusser – the excellent Oakland A’s beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle – became the first woman president of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Only three-and-a-half months until spring training!


Will Luis Jimenez Return To Tacoma Next Year?

October 26, 2012

Prior to World Series Game Two last night, the Seattle Mariners announced that slugging designated hitter Luis Jimenez has been outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma.

What this means is that the Mariners removed Jimenez from their 40-man Major League roster, and he cleared waivers and was assigned to the Tacoma roster. Yes, there is a Tacoma roster, even in the off-season, for organizational purposes (we never get to see it).

This does  not mean, yet, that Luis will return to the Rainiers next season. Because he has over six full seasons of minor league time, Jimenez is allowed to declare himself a minor league free agent after the World Series is complete. He’ll probably do this, to keep his options open.

Then it is up to the Mariners and Luis. The Mariners could offer him a Triple-A contract with a decent salary, plus an invitation to big league spring training, and Luis might go for it. Or, Luis could accept an offer from another team – I’m sure he’ll get a few offers, he has value as a Triple-A slugger for an American League affiliate.

With no “inside” information, I think that if the Mariners offer Luis a decent contract, he’ll come back. Three big reasons why:

  • the Mariners were the first team to ever give him a major league opportunity.
  • the Mariners have strong ties to the Cardinales de Lara, Jimenez’s Venezuelan Winter League team. Luis is the superstar of this team.
  • stability, which could be a key for Jimenez, who prior to signing with Seattle two seasons ago was a true baseball nomad.

On the other side of the coin, why would the Mariners re-sign Luis? Point #2 up above, the relationship with Lara, would be the biggest reason other than simply providing Tacoma with a good DH. We just don’t know if the Mariners are interested in keeping him in the organization.

There’s nothing we can do now except wait and see how it plays out.

The Giants went up on Detroit last night, 2-0 in the series. Coincidentally, they won Game Two by a score of 2-0.

Madison Bumgarner silenced all critics with about as strong of an outing as anyone could have asked for, going seven shutout innings to earn the win.

Former Rainiers pitcher Doug Fister took a tough loss for Detroit, surrendering one run over six innings. Fister also got knocked in the head by a line drive, yet he shook it off and kept on pitching. I couldn’t believe he stayed in the game after that, but he appeared unshaken.

The series moves to Detroit for Game Three on Saturday at 5:07 (Fox), and then Game Four on Sunday also at 5:07 (also on Fox). It’s Ryan Vogelsong vs. Anibal Sanchez in Game Three, and Matt Cain vs. Max Scherzer in Game Four. This brings us to today’s poll:

Links:

  • We start with the AP news story on Game Two, with all of the details revealed in AP Style.
  • Doug Fister took a hit and kept on going.
  • At the back-in-action Mariners blog at The News Tribune, there is a brief post with a quality photo of Luis Jimenez.
  • Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan won a Fielding Bible award, which is awarded to one player at each position in the majors for defensive excellence. Link includes a highlight reel video.
  • Unsurprising fact: after you hit three home runs in one World Series game, it’s easy to convince your favorite restaurant to re-open its kitchen.
  • From Baseball America’s minor league transactions and other sources, two former Rainiers catchers were designated for assignment by MLB teams this week: Jeff Clement and Rob Johnson. You know what’s funny? The Rainiers could use Rob Johnson in 2013 – they need a veteran catcher.
  • In the PCL, the New York Mets front office brass made their first visit to new Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas. If I was Sandy Alderson I would make monthly trips to “evaluate the Triple-A club.”
  • On twitter, Oakland A’s beat writer Susan Slusser reported that Sacramento manager Darren Bush has been promoted to A’s bullpen coach. That is the first time I have ever heard of a Triple-A manager becoming a Major League bullpen coach. A weird one, for sure, but congrats to Bush.

Have a great weekend!


Panda Powers Giants

October 25, 2012

A wild panda chews on the leaves of the verlander tree.

Who saw that one coming? Not me, that’s for sure!

Pablo “Panda” Sandoval became the fourth player in Major League Baseball history to hit three home runs in a single World Series game, and San Francisco won the opener last night, 8-3. He joined Babe Ruth (who did it twice), Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols. That’s three upper-echelon Hall Of Famers (well, Pujols will be one when he retires).

Amazingly, he hit two homers off Tigers ace Justin Verlander. If you were watching, the first one was absolutely mind-blowing – Sandoval took a nearly neck-high fastball at 95+ mph and launched it to center field. It was a pitch he shouldn’t have even swung at, let alone make contact with.

Tonight in Game Two (5:07 PM, Fox), former Rainiers right-hander Doug Fister makes the most important start of his career. The Tigers need a quality outing from Fister to get a win tonight and move the series to Detroit with a 1-1 tie.

With the ace Verlander failing to win his first start, there is added pressure on the other members of the Tigers rotation. Here’s hoping Fister steps up and get it done tonight.*

The Giants will counter with Madison Bumgarner, who was one of their top starters this season – until the stretch run, when he reportedly suffered a loss of velocity leading some to speculate he might be injured. However, the Giants decided to give him this start over Tim Lincecum, who they used out of the bullpen last night. I suspect Giants fans are quite nervous about Bumgarner this evening.

Links:

  • The Game One news story in the Seattle Times includes a box score, and it also describes the star as a “roly-poly happy specimen.”
  • Over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron breaks down exactly how Justin Verlander got lit up.
  • At Grantland, Jonah Keri has a nice rundown of Game One, with numerous insightful notes.
  • The Mariners said goodbye to catcher Miguel Olivo and utility infielder Munenori Kawasaki. Look for the M’s to bring in a veteran catcher with MLB experience on a Triple-A contract.
  • From a website my life’s goal is to never have my name appear on, we find out that Tim McCarver‘s strange Barry Manilow reference wasn’t actually totally off-base.
  • Quick reminder: time is running out if you want to enter the contest to have Rainiers mascot Rhubarb The Reindeer trick-or-treat with your kids. All of the information is right here.

Game Two tonight!

* pro tip for baseball fans with no rooting interest in the World Series: always root for seven games!


Game One Preview Stories

October 24, 2012

Game One of the World Series starts tonight at 5:07 (Fox), with Justin Verlander facing Barry Zito. Here are a few World Series preview articles I enjoyed today while doing my usual tour of baseball websites:

  • At the Seattle Times, Larry Stone writes that the story is all about the team that is rested (Detroit) against the team that had to play all seven in the NLCS (San Francisco). Note: this link includes the complete World Series schedule and pitching match-ups tacked on at the bottom.
  • Stone also has a blog post that is supposedly about ex-Mariners in the World Series, but is really just a vehicle to post the amazing Hunter Pence gif.
  • Here in Tacoma, John McGrath thinks that Detroit will look a little off-kilter due to their long layoff, so he’s picking the Giants to win the whole thing.
  • The series opens in the National League’s ballpark, so the pitchers will hit. This presents a problem for Justin Verlander, who is still looking for his first Major League hit. He’s 0-for-33 in his career.
  • Longtime San Francisco sports columnist Bruce Jenkins recalls the previous four World Series in San Francisco – dating back to 1962.
  • The Tigers have reached the Series more times than the San Francisco Giants, so their World Series history requires a Part One and a Part Two. I enjoyed the US history notes in these reviews.
  • ESPN’s David Schoenfield has dubbed this “The Darrell Evans World Series” in his list of ten reasons to watch. Evans, who I believe is one of the most underrated players in recent history, starred for both teams.
  • One of the biggest questions of the Series is, who will be the Tigers closer? Dave Cameron tried to get to the bottom of it.
  • We actually have some on-field PCL news to report today: former Arizona State University head coach Pat Murphy will manage the Tucson Padres this season, and his pitching coach will be former Tacoma Tigers right-hander Bronswell Patrick. Terry Kennedy, the Tucson manager last year and a former Rainiers hitting coach, was hired by the Cubs to be a pro scout.
  • A Class-A team has publicly offered its radio job to Bob Costas. Good luck with that one.

I can’t wait to watch – is it five o’clock yet? I think the Tigers will win Game One behind Verlander, but I stand behind my pick of the Giants to take the series.


World Series Set

October 23, 2012

It’s the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, starting Wednesday night in San Francisco.

Let’s try something new… a poll!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Earthquake! option, please google “1989 World Series.”

We’ve already covered the ex-Rainiers in the series: two, both with Detroit, in Doug Fister and Ramon Santiago. However, Cheney Stadium regulars have seen many of the key World Series players as visitors over the years.

Because their Triple-A affiliate (Fresno) plays in the PCL, we have seen many more Giants players than Tigers at Cheney Stadium.

San Francisco homegrown superstars Matt Cain, Buster Posey, and Tim Lincecum all played at Cheney Stadium while with Fresno. Posey even hit his first Triple-A home run at Cheney, a massive drive to right-center on August 4, 2009 (serving it up: Justin Thomas).

Unlikely Giants NLCS star Barry Zito pitched several times against Tacoma when he was coming up through the Oakland A’s system.

Other Giants players who played against Tacoma include Xavier Nady, Brandon Belt, Joaquin Arias, Hector Sanchez, Ryan Vogelsong, Javier Lopez, George Kontos, and Santiago Casilla.

There are two homegrown Giants stars who never appeared against the Rainiers: Pablo Sandoval and Madison Bumgarner. The Panda has only played for Fresno on rehabilitation assignments, while Bumgarner never pitched against Tacoma in a weird bit of starting rotation randomness: he was with Fresno when they played Tacoma, but his turn in the rotation missed us.

On the Detroit side, we saw a young Prince Fielder blast a couple of doubles off the old tall walls when he was with Nashville during a series May 19-22, 2005. I vividly recall one drive that would be a homer with the new shorter fences.

Beleaguered Tigers closer Jose Valverde pitched at Cheney during his many stops with Triple-A Tucson while he was working to get established in the majors. I don’t remember him performing any crazy antics on the mound back then.

Other Tigers who played against Tacoma as minor leaguers include Joaquin Benoit, Don Kelly, and Gerald Laird.

What about the greatest Tiger of all, Mr. Triple Crown himself, Miguel Cabrera? He falls into the rare “too good for Triple-A” category: Cabrera has never played in a Triple-A game. In fact, he played just a half-season in Double-A, batting .365 with 42 extra-base hits in 69 games, and went straight to the majors at age 20. Cabrera was a hitting prodigy.

I think this is going to be an excellent, close series. Obviously the Tigers will have the advantage in every game Justin Verlander pitches, but the Giants may end up with the starting pitching edge in all of the other games. There is also a good chance that we will be seeing each league’s MVP award winner in Cabrera and Posey.

I’m picking Giants in six games, based on the experience factor: there is a core group on this team that won it all just two years ago.

Links:

  • The Mariners made their hitting coach hire, and it’s Dave Hansen, who was once one of the top pinch-hitters in the game. Just for fun, here is his Baseball Reference page. Hansen has 35 more major league home runs than all of us, combined!
  • For Baseball America subscribers, here is their Mariners “Draft Report Card.” I put that in quotes because no grades were given. Why is it a report card?
  • We’re going to be hearing a lot about Doug Fister during this World Series. Jason Churchill recently revisited the Fister trade.
  • Yesterday on Grantland, the esteemed Jonah Keri wrote a long piece on Tigers reliever Phil Coke (who never played at Cheney Stadium). Aside from being an excellent piece, this story is link-worthy because it details the hardship that low-round draft picks endure in the minor leagues.
  • Say what you want about Joe Buck, but I certainly believe him when he tells Giants fans he is not biased. He can’t be biased on the air in his current position; he would lose his job.
  • If public stadium debt is your cup of tea, then you might enjoy this long story from the Reno newspaper about the stadium debt issues there. Time for me to come clean: I didn’t make it halfway through the first page.

Enjoy the Series!


Ex-Rainiers In The Minors

October 18, 2012

What ever happened to Matt Tuiasosopo? Ryan Rowland-Smith? Rob Johnson? These are the questions we answer today as we take a look at how former Rainiers with other minor league teams did in 2012.

Let’s dive right into it. We’ll go team-by-team through the International League, and then check the final numbers on the ex-Rainiers of the PCL.

  • Rob Johnson, Buffalo. Hit .207 in 45 games for the Mets affiliate, did spend time in majors as a back-up catcher.
  • Sean Kazmar, Buffalo/Binghampton. Appeared in 11 Triple-A games and 57 Double-A games as a utility infielder in the Mets system.
  • Oswaldo Navarro, Buffalo/Binghampton. Opened season in AA before May promotion to Buffalo, hit .210 in 100 Triple-A at-bats.
  • Matt Tuiasosopo, Buffalo. Hit .242 with 12 HRs and 57 RBI in 131 games in Triple-A. Posted .690 OPS, played many positions.
  • Garrett Olson, Buffalo. Went 4-7, 4.63 in 122 innings swinging between rotation and bullpen, pitched in one MLB game for Mets.
  • Chris Seddon, Columbus. Went 11-5 with a 3.44 ERA in 20 starts before promotion to Cleveland.
  • Matt Mangini, Durham/Mobile. Hit .273 with 5 HR in 83 games for Tampa’s Triple-A team, released in August, signed with Arizona who sent him to Double-A Mobile. Helped Mobile win Southern League championship.
  • Josh Lueke, Durham. Went 2-6, 5.59 in 42 games for Rays affiliate. Had 71 K’s in 67 innings.
  • Josh Wilson, Gwinnett. Infielder hit .241-5-43 in 122 games for Braves Triple-A affiliate. Pitched three times in blowouts with 0.00 ERA.
  • Jose Yepez, Gwinnett. Batted .264-3-30 in 79 games, sharing catcher duties. Solid OPS of .724.
  • Anthony Varvaro, Gwinnett. Reliever had a 2.23 ERA in 44 innings; saw big league time.
  • Jeff Clement, Indianapolis. Hit .276-16-57 in 416 ABs as DH/1B. OPS of .825, September call-up to Pirates.
  • Tug Hulett, Lehigh Valley/Reading. Split season between AA and AAA in Phillies system. Batted .325 in 120 ABs in Triple-A.
  • Ryan Feierabend, Louisville/York. The lefty made seven starts for the Reds Triple-A team (1-4, 6.75), but spent most of the year with the independent York Revolution of the Atlantic League (9-5, 2.70).
  • Brett Tomko, Louisville/Reno/Mobile. Still going at age 39, Tomko was 0-6, 3.78 for Louisville before making a handful of starts in the Diamondbacks system.
  • Joel Pineiro, Norfolk. Made two starts in May for the Orioles affiliate before injuries ended his season.
  • Justin Thomas, Scranton/Pawtucket. Had a 3.45 ERA in 62 innings pitching for both the Red Sox and the Yankees AAA teams, saw brief MLB time with both.
  • Rene Rivera, Rochester. Catcher hit .226 with ten homers for the Twins AAA affiliate.
  • Luke French, Rochester/New Britain. Opened season dominating Double-A, then went 1-5 with a 6.42 ERA in 74 innings in AAA.
  • Manny Delcarmen, Scranton. Was 3-5, 4.42 in 57 innings for Yankees affiliate.
  • Josh Bard, Albuquerque. Had big year as backup catcher, hitting .331-6-32 in just 148 at-bats.
  • Jared Wells, Colorado Springs. Posted 5.96 ERA in 19 games out of Sky Sox bullpen.
  • Yusmeiro Petit, Fresno. Went 7-7, 3.46 in 28 starts for Giants affiliate.
  • Luis Valbuena, Iowa. Hit .303 with .885 OPS, earned promotion to Chicago.
  • Ryan Rowland-Smith, Iowa. Was 3-6, 3.94 in 77 innings for Cubs affiliate. Swung between bullpen and rotation.
  • Chris Woodward, Las Vegas. Hit .285 in over 300 at-bats, announced retirement. Will get minor league coaching/managing offers.
  • Chris Jakubauskas, Reno/Las Vegas. Had a combined line of 2-3, 4.64 in 54 innings pitched.
  • Nate Robertson, Iowa/Las Vegas. Veteran lefty was a combined 0-3, 8.07 in 29 innings.
  • Nick Green, New Orleans. Blasted PCL at a 344/397/599 rate before getting called up by Marlins.
  • Adam Moore, Omaha. Hit .296 in 115 at-bats after being claimed on waivers by Royals, September call-up.
  • David Winfree, Reno. Hit .263 and abruptly retired in late May.
  • Brad Nelson, Round Rock. Posted .279 average with team-leading 24 homers and 81 RBI. OPS was .852.
  • Sean Green, Round Rock/Somerset. Had a 5.60 ERA in 19 games for Rangers affiliate, released in late May. Finished in independent Atlantic League.
  • Fabio Castro, Sacramento/Midland. Was 3-7, 6.92 in 14 games for Sacramento, sent to AA Midland and went 2-7, 4.63.
  • Ryan Langerhans, Salt Lake. Batted .250-11-54 in 96 games for Angels affiliate.
  • Sean White, Salt Lake. Was 0-1, 8.12 in 29 games for the Bees.

Just for fun, a few independent Atlantic Leaguers of note:

  • Prentice Redman, Bridgeport. Hit .282 with 21 home runs and 82 RBI in 503 at-bats.
  • Gaby Hernandez, Mobile/Southern Maryland. Was roughed up in AA in the Diamondbacks system, finished up with the Blue Crabs.
  • Tommy Everidge, Lancaster. Hit .255-9-46 in 404 at-bats.
  • John Halama, Lancaster. Went 13-9, 3.14 in 27 starts and 188 innings pitched. I’m stunned he is still playing, too.
  • Bobby Livingston, Sugar Land. Lefty was 9-2 with a 4.37 ERA in 16 starts.
  • Brandon Haveman, York. Outfielder hit .290 with six homers in 482 at-bats.
  • Johan Limonta, Mexico City/York. After a month crushing the Mexican League with a .384 batting average, Limo returned to the states and hit .277 in 155 at-bats for York.

Well, that was fun. Again, I’m sure I missed a few guys, but I feel like we covered most of the players you may remember from the last ten years. Whoops, make that 11 years – Halama and Tomko pitched for Tacoma in 2001!

Links:

  • I missed it on Tuesday, when ESPN.com’s Jim Caple looked at the “Ex-Mariners Factor” in the MLB playoffs.
  • The Mariners Insider blog is back and gaining steam at The News Tribune’s website – it’s been updating a few times a week lately, add it to your regular stops.
  • St. Louis took a 2-1 lead over San Francisco last night in a rain-delayed game, and now the Giants turn to UW product Tim Lincecum for a crucial Game Four start. The two-time Cy Young Award winner had a difficult regular season, but he was terrific in the division series. This will be fun to watch tonight (5:07 PM).
  • Reminder: you can enter to win the opportunity for Rainiers mascot Rhubarb The Reindeer to trick-or-treat with your kids. Here’s what it will look like, and here are all of the details.

We’ll be back Tuesday with… I don’t know, something? The World Series should be set by then, I’ll probably write about that.


Cardinals Confusion

October 16, 2012

One of the fun things about going to minor league baseball games is trying to pick out the future big leaguers on the field. Fans do it, ushers do it, broadcasters do it, newspaper writers do it – it’s a fun, never-ending conversation.

As a team broadcaster, I see a lot of games and I’ve picked a few winners over the years. But I have a secret to tell you.

I can’t figure out the Cardinals.

The St. Louis Cardinals are surging in the playoffs once again – and once again, it is seemingly unlikely players who are leading the way. Last year it was David Freese and Allen Craig. This year, they have had huge clutch hits by Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso.

The Cardinals have reaped the benefits of one of the most successful farm systems in the sport – even though they rarely get credit for it. According to my count, 19 of the 25 players on the current St. Louis playoff roster are homegrown (I included players they originally signed/drafted, and players they traded for as minor leaguers like Freese and Adam Wainwright). It seems like many of these current homegrown Cardinals players did not have “top prospect” profiles as minor leaguers, yet here they are, with the chance to reach another World Series.

I’m as confounded by this as anybody. There is no team in the PCL that I have been more wrong about in recent years than their Triple-A affiliate, Memphis. I’m a radio guy, not a scout. The Cardinals organization has proven that, over and over again.

Now, Tacoma only sees the Redbirds for one four-game series each year, so my look at them is brief. But there are statistics, too, and they are just as confounding.

The Cardinals are getting huge contributions from several players I never expected to do well in the majors.

Kozma is the most extreme example. He had many important hits after a September call-up, leading the team to the wild card. He’s already come through in the clutch multiple times in the post-season.

Kozma has a career minor league batting line of 236/308/344 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage). When Tacoma faced Memphis two months ago, Kozma hit eighth in the lineup. Eighth in the order, in Triple-A. He hit .232 with 11 home runs in a full season for Memphis this year.

What in the world is going on with Kozma in the playoffs? Heck if I know.

How about the Cardinals starting center fielder, Jon Jay? He hit 305/373/400 for St. Louis this year, and is now a career .300 hitter in over 1,300 big league plate appearances.

When he was in Memphis, Jay put up a .281 batting average with a .732 OPS in a full season in 2009. Those are very pedestrian numbers for an outfielder in the PCL. Since reaching the majors, he has had a career OPS of 773 – 40 points higher than in the hitter-friendly PCL.

I saw Jay slap a few singles and also drill a homer against Tacoma in 2009, but not once did I think to myself, “this looks like a starting outfielder on a World Series team.” Whoops!

In his full season with Memphis in 2010, Lance Lynn was a workhorse, making 29 starts. He went 13-10 with a 4.77 ERA – not bad numbers for the PCL, but far from elite.

The Rainiers whacked Lynn the only time they saw him in the regular season – Chris Woodward and Eliezer Alfonzo took him deep. Like I said, I’m no scout – and I never thought to myself, “this guy looks like he’ll lead a playoff team in victories some day.”

Lynn went 18-7 with a 3.78 ERA for the Cards this year, leading the team in wins and finishing second with 180 strikeouts.

I fell for the party line on Allen Craig, who crushed the PCL for two seasons in 2009 and 2010. The word was that he couldn’t play defense. He was not very good in the outfield, scouts said, and he was stuck behind Albert Pujols at first base. Now that Pujols is gone, Craig is hitting up a storm in the majors.

An exception seems to be David Freese, who put up big numbers in the PCL (306/351/556 over a full season in 2008) and obliterated Tacoma pitching in a four-game series.

Then there are the little guys- Shane Robinson and Skip Schumaker, who both stand well under six feet tall. The looked like typical “gritty” little guys who used hustle and determination to reach Triple-A, and would probably end up as minor league coaches or scouts. They have made themselves valuable as major league utility players, with Schumaker even learning to play the infield at the major league level to create a role for himself.

On top of all of this, the Memphis players who I thought were going to be good can’t crack the starting lineup. In recent years I’ve been impressed by Adron Chambers, Matt Carpenter, and Daniel Descalso. Descalso did have a big showing in the Division Series so I’m holding out hope that I can still be right about him.

I can’t figure out the Cardinals. But it certainly is cool to see a team with so many homegrown players do well. It shows other teams trying to build from within that it can be done.

One thing I can figure out is this: nobody should offer me a scouting job when my broadcasting days are over.

Links:

  • The Tacoma Rainiers are giving one lucky kid a chance to trick-or-treat with Rhubarb The Reindeer. Contest information is right here.
  • Baseball America released its list of Top 20 Prospects in the PCL. Two Rainiers appear on the list. Subscribers can click through for scouting reports.
  • The latest minor league transactions show that both Mike Wilson and Cesar Jimenez have elected to become free agents. The Mariners can still re-sign them, but look for both to opt for a change of scenery this off-season.
  • Larry Stone spent a chunk of his vacation watching playoff baseball, so we get his thoughts.
  • Inspired by Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso, Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated has a look at little-known infielders who have come up big in the playoffs. 1978 Tacoma Yankees second baseman Brian Doyle shows up on the list.
  • The new short-season Northwest League team in Hillsboro, Oregon has a name: the Hillsboro Hops. Check out the logo – yay or nay?

Check back Thursday afternoon for a look at how former Tacoma Rainiers players did on other minor league teams this year.


How Ex-Rainiers Fared In 2012 – MLB Version

October 10, 2012

Today we’ll begin a series of posts in which we check in on former Rainiers players and see how they performed this year. We start by looking at former Rainiers who played Major League Baseball this season.

We’re not going to look at the current Seattle Mariners who played in Tacoma. My hunch is that if you read this blog, you probably already follow the Mariners and know that most of the players on their roster played in Tacoma some point. In fact, let’s count them… the Mariners used 38 different players last year, and by my count 26 of them are former Rainiers.

I’m going to list the player, his current team, and a few stats. The focus is on players who had an extended run in Tacoma – players who Rainiers fans are likely to remember. If you are wondering exactly when someone played for Tacoma, there are great resources for this under the “Roster” and “stats” tabs at the Rainiers official site.

To get the project started, we’ll open in the National League and work through to the AL.

  • Willie Bloomquist, Arizona. Hit .302-0-23 in 80 games and 324 at-bats. Mostly played shortstop while Stephen Drew was injured.
  • J.J. Putz, Arizona. Posted a 2.82 ERA with 32 saves and a 65-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Now has 183 career saves.
  • Eric O’Flaherty, Atlanta. Left-hand reliever had a 1.73 ERA in 57.1 innings; he has flourished in Atlanta.
  • Bryan LaHair, Cubs. Hit .259-16-40 in 340 at-bats with 784 OPS. Made NL All-Star team but tailed off in second half.
  • Luis Valbuena, Cubs. Batted .219-4-28 in 90 games, played a lot of third base. Managed to walk 36 times.
  • Jason Giambi, Colorado. The last active Tacoma Tigers player hit .225-1-8 in 89 ABs. Has 429 career homers and 1,968 hits.
  • Greg Dobbs, Miami. Batted .289-5-39 in 319 at-bats. As usual, opened season as a pinch-hitter and ended up playing a lot.
  • Nick Green, Miami. Spent most of season in Triple-A but got into seven MLB games.
  • Rob Johnson, Mets. Played in 17 games as a back-up catcher, hit .250. We’ll have more on him in the minor league update next week.
  • R.A. Dickey, Mets. Went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, 230 strikeouts in 233 IP, wrote a book, Cy Young award candidate.
  • Jeff Clement, Pittsburgh. Went 3-for-22 pinch-hitting after a September call-up, spent season in Triple-A.
  • Brian Fuentes, St. Louis. Split season between A’s and Cards, went 2-2, 7.20 in 30 innings. End of the line for the 37-year-old lefty?
  • Mike Morse, Washington. Batted .291-18-62 despite injury-plagued season, currently in playoffs.
  • Adam Jones, Baltimore. Hit .287 with 32 home runs and 82 RBI, will get down-ballot MVP votes.
  • Scott Podsednik, Boston. Appeared in 63 games and hit .302 in 199 at-bats. Went 8-for-10 stealing – now 36 years old.
  • Scott Atchison, Boston. Put up a 1.58 ERA in 42 games out of the bullpen in his age 36 season.
  • Jose Lopez, White Sox. Appeared in 81 games as a utility infielder, hit .246 with four homers.
  • Matt Thornton, White Sox. Had a 3.46 ERA in 74 relief outings; somehow got dinged for ten losses.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland. Hit .270 with 35 doubles and 16 home runs as everyday shortstop. Do not talk about this trade.
  • Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland. .283 with 43 doubles and 16 homers; don’t talk about this trade either.
  • Ezequiel Carrera, Cleveland. Hit .272 with a .312 OBP in 147 at-bats. Split season between AAA and MLB.
  • Jack Hannahan, Cleveland. Batted .244-4-29 in 105 games and 287 at-bats. Defensive whiz.
  • Chris Seddon, Cleveland. Spent second half in MLB, went 1-1, 3.67 mostly as a reliever.
  • Ramon Santiago, Detroit. Utility infielder batted .206 in 93 games.
  • Doug Fister, Detroit. 10-10, 3.45 in 26 starts, currently in post-season.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt, Kansas City. Hit .228 in 57 games, released in August.
  • Adam Moore, Kansas City. Went 2-for-11 with a homer as a September call-up.
  • Raul Ibanez, Yankees. Hit .240 with 19 homers at age 40. Career: 1,883 hits, 271 home runs, 1,116 RBI.
  • Alex Rodriguez, Yankees. .272 with 18 HRs, 57 RBI, .783 OPS. Slowing down but still: 2,901 hits, 647 home runs, 1,950 RBI.
  • Freddy Garcia, Yankees. 7-6, 5.20 as swing-man. Career record of 152-101.
  • Derek Lowe, Yankees. Actually spent most of the season with Cleveland, went 9-11, 5.11 combined. 175 career wins.
  • Rafael Soriano, Yankees. Saved 42 games with a 2.26 ERA for the injured Mariano Rivera.
  • Travis Blackley, Oakland. Went 6-4 with a 3.86 ERA as one of the biggest surprises in the majors.
  • Josh Lueke, Tampa. Got into three games for the Rays; spent most of the season in Triple-A.
  • Mark Lowe, Texas. Went 0-2 with a 3.43 ERA in 36 games from the bullpen.
  • Steve Delabar, Toronto. Put up better numbers after the trade: a 3.38 ERA with 46 K’s in 29 IP for the Jays.
  • Brandon Morrow, Toronto.10-7 with a 2.91 ERA in 21 starts. Another trade we’re not gonna talk about.

That should cover most of them. I’m sure I missed a player or two; I had to look at the final stats for every team to find the players and I’m sure I glossed over a name or two – they all start swimming in your brain after a while.

Next week we’ll look at former Rainiers in the minor leagues and see what we find.

Links:

  • The News Tribune’s Ryan Divish is back on the Mariners beat, and he returns with a blog post detailing the contract status of every Mariners player on the 40-man roster.
  • The Arizona Fall League opened up yesterday, and Mariners prospect James Paxton pitched a strong game. Look for Paxton in a Rainiers uniform this coming April.
  • It’s Mariners Domination Time in Baseball America’s list of the Top-20 Prospects in the Double-A Southern League. Subscribers can click through for scouting reports.
  • In the PCL, a complicated stadium lease situation in Las Vegas has cleared up, paving the way for the team to be sold.
  • Pretty amazing story out of San Francisco: Brandon Crawford grew up in a family of Giants fans, and his name is on a brick the family purchased when AT&T Park was built. The newspaper took a “sad fan” picture of the 5-year-old Crawford at a game in 1992. Now he is the team’s starting shortstop.
  • While we are in the Bay Area, here is a funny little story on Tigers pitcher Al Albuquerque kissing the baseball.
  • It’s Wednesday and you need a good laugh, so spend some time with these guys mocking Dennis Eckersley‘s haircut.

I’m going out of town for a few days and won’t be blogging again until Tuesday, when we’ll get caught up on the news and look at the former Rainiers in the minors.


Ten Former Rainiers In MLB Playoffs

October 8, 2012

It’s that time of the year when we take a look at all of the former Tacoma players involved in the Major League Baseball playoffs.

Please keep in mind that you are not required to root for the team with the most former Tacoma players. This will become quite clear as you read below.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Washington Nationals: Mike “Michael” Morse is the only player on the Nationals with any Tacoma ties. Morse played for the Rainiers in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009. Morse ranks 13th on the Tacoma career doubles list – he hit 67 two-baggers as a member of the Rainiers. I put the “Michael” in quotes because we always called him Mike, but upon achieving stardom with the Nationals last year he decided to go by Michael publicly.

St. Louis Cardinals: the Cards do not have any players who are former Tacoma Rainiers. However, their coaching staff is loaded up: hitting coaches Mark McGwire (1986) and John Mabry (2000, 2003) both played in Tacoma, as did bench coach Mike Aldrete (1993).

Cincinnati Reds: utility infielder Wilson Valdez played in one game for the Rainiers in 2005. That’s all we’ve got.

San Francisco Giants: none. No coaches, nothing. Not even a front office ticket sales guy. Couldn’t find a roster of hot dog salesmen – perhaps one of their vendors once worked at Cheney Stadium? The Giants do have local product Tim Lincecum.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Baltimore Orioles: outfielder Adam Jones played for Tacoma in 2006 and 2007, I recently spoke to him and wrote about it here. While he never pitched for Tacoma, starter Jason Hammel is a product of the baseball factory at Port Orchard’s South Kitsap High School (class of 2000).

New York Yankees: The Yankees lead the way with four former Tacoma Rainiers on the playoff roster. Outfielder Raul Ibanez (1996-2000, 2004), third baseman Alex Rodriguez (1995-1996), reliever Derek Lowe (1996-1997), and closer Rafael Soriano (2003-2005) all suited up for Tacoma. As is the Yankees way, all of these players are veterans who have achieved varying levels of stardom and eventually signed with the Yankees as free agents. One additional local connection: first base coach Mick Kelleher starred at the University of Puget Sound and is in their athletic hall of fame.

Detroit Tigers: Two former Rainiers are on the roster. Doug Fister (2009-2010) started game two for Detroit yesterday, pitching well in the Tigers 5-4 win over Oakland. Infielder Ramon Santiago (2004-2005) is the utility man, he still possesses a smooth glove. Pitching coach Jeff Jones (1982-84) has worn two Tigers uniforms: Detroit and Tacoma.

Oakland A’s: pitcher Travis Blackley (2004, 2006) is the only former Tacoma player on the roster, but the A’s coaching staff is a veritable Tacoma Tigers reunion. Pitching coach Curt Young (1983-1986, 1996), third base coach Mike Gallego (1982-1984; 1986-1987), bullpen coach Rick Rodriguez (1983-1987), and assistant trainer Walt Horn (1980s-mid-1990s) were all with the Tacoma Tigers.

Final totals: Yankees 4, Tigers 2, Nationals 1, Orioles 1, A’s 1, Reds 1 (sort of), Cardinals 0, Giants 0.

EDIT: the Rainiers have made a slide show of many of these players in their Rainiers uniforms – check it out!

Links:

  • Larry Stone is still churning out his Sunday baseball package in the Seattle Times. He has a column on the divergent paths of the Mariners and A’s (he used my stat!), a notebook leads with an item on Ryne Sandberg, power rankings, and thumbs up-and-down.
  • This is fun, Mariners fans: the Seattle P-I released a large number of their previously unpublished photos of “The Double” in 1995.

Later this week we’ll check in on some recent former Rainiers players and see how they performed this season.


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