Rainiers Open House Tomorrow

March 14, 2014

The Rainiers are hosting their annual Pre-Season Party on Saturday, and you are invited.

Cheney Stadium will be an open house from 11 AM to 2 PM. Take a guided tour, or wander around aimlessly on your own. Try some items from the concession stands – including some new options we’ll be breaking out this year. Hang out in the Rainiers locker room, and then enjoy the luxury of the Summit Club.

Season tickets will be for sale, with available seats marked off. For those of you who already bought season tickets, you can pick them up at the box office.

Also, there will be a Bounce House. I’m not sure what the age limitations are on the Bounce House, but hopefully adults are allowed, because Bounce House.

Oh yeah – it’s free, by the way. The Pre-Season Party is always free.

Links:

  • New Rainiers manager Roy Howell told The News Tribune “it’s time to win.”
  • Yesterday Taijuan Walker threw his first bullpen since being put on slow-down due to shoulder soreness, and apparently everything went well.
  • Exhibition games: Blake Beavan made a strong start as a continues his push to make the Mariners rotation in a 6-3 win over Arizona on Thursday… on Wednesday, some Rainiers players attacked in the ninth and the Mariners came back and beat the Cubs. Ty Kelly had the game-winner.
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Closed For Holidays

December 20, 2013
Cheney Stadium on Friday morning

Cheney Stadium on Friday. I don’t think it’s playable.

It’s that time of the year again, when the baseball news crawls to a stop.

Most minor league baseball teams close the office for the Christmas-to-New Year stretch, and the major league moves will slow down as well.

As a result, this blog will slow down over the next two weeks. I’ll post if anything Mariners or Rainiers-related comes up, but I don’t expect much to happen during this down time. We’ll start gearing up for the 2014 season in January.

Of note, the Mariners told us they will be announcing the minor league coaching staffs in January. So we’re going to have to wait a little longer for that.

Notes/Links:

  • The Mariners removed Rainiers pitcher Chance Ruffin from the 40-man roster when they signed Franklin Gutierrez yesterday. Ruffin can be claimed off waivers by any other team – but if nobody claims him, he’ll (almost certainly) be back in Tacoma this season.
  • The 49ers are playing the final game at Candlestick Park this weekend, and then the stadium will be empty. The San Francisco Chronicle is running a series of “Candlestick Memories” and I have to link to this one: September 14, 1986, forever known as the Bob Brenly Game. It’s a great baseball tale: Brenly made four errors in one inning, putting his team in a massive hole, and then hit the game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth.
  • In the PCL, the Iowa Cubs announced their coaching staff. Marty Pevey returns as manager, and longtime Tacoma Tigers reliever Bruce Walton will be his pitching coach.
  • Special memo to Washington State Cougars fans: you can watch the bowl game in the Summit Club at Cheney Stadium. Details right here. And yes, we’ll be open for the Huskies bowl game next week, too.

Happy holidays!


Sweeney Delivers Six

April 30, 2013

Brian Sweeney tossed six shutout innings as the Rainiers won their sixth straight game on Monday night, 4-1 over the Tucson Padres. It was the opening game of an eight-game homestand.

Sweeney, Brian Moran, and Lucas Luetge combined to limit Tucson to four hits and one unearned run. It was the fourth game in a row in which the Rainiers pitching staff had allowed three runs or fewer – a remarkable feat considering that three of those games were played in the Las Vegas launching pad.

Tacoma’s team ERA is down to 3.93. That ranks 6th-best in the 16-team PCL, and is the best among the eight Pacific Conference teams.

Offensively, Tacoma had seven hits and four runs. Eric Thames continues to swing a hot bat, going 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. He has played in every game this year, reaching base with either a hit or a walk in all 25.

Mike Zunino hit a long triple to center in his first at-bat, collecting his first career Cheney Stadium hit.

Nick Franklin contributed an RBI single, extending his hitting streak to ten. He has reached base in all 16 games he has played in, and he has a six-game streak of games with an RBI.

Tacoma is 15-10 going into the final game of the month. This is the most victories for the franchise in the month of April since the 2001 PCL Championship team went 18-5 in the first month of the season.

Roster moves: yesterday the Mariners activated Michael Saunders from the disabled list, and optioned Carlos Peguero to Tacoma.

Today the Rainiers officially added Jimmy Gillheeney to the roster, with utility man Leury Bonilla going back to Double-A Jackson.

The second game of the Tucson series is tonight at 6:05, and you can listen on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here (yes, the online audio stream was fixed yesterday and we should be all set moving forward). Tacoma starts LHP Jimmy Gillheeney (Triple-A debut) against Tucson RHP Wilfredo Boscan (0-0, 0.00).

Links:

  • Don Ruiz had the pleasure of covering last night’s 2 hour, 18 minute Rainiers game. His story for The News Tribune has lots of reaction from Mike Zunino.
  • Story of the day: historian David Eskenazi has an article on our stadium namesake Ben Cheney and his impact on sports and the American lumber and housing industries. This seems like a good time to remind everybody that the Cheney family pronounces it “CHEE-nee.”
  • Michael Saunders came off the disabled list and made an instant impact for the Mariners. The other Saunders – Joetossed a rare complete game in the Mariners win last night.
  • The A’s beat the Angels in the 19th last night, after a 6 hour, 32 minute game. Brandon Moss was the hero, and everyone was so exhausted that he just pied himself. <<< watch this video, it’s hilarious.
  • In the PCL, Fresno walked-off Sacramento in the bottom of the 11th in a fierce battle between rivals. One of the PCL’s top hitter, Sacramento’s Stephen Vogt, returned to his homeland.
  • Erick Aybar is rehabilitating with Salt Lake, but he couldn’t prevent the Bees from losing their seventh game in a row last night.
  • Former Rainiers pitcher D.J. Mitchell tossed a gem in his first start for Las Vegas, earning a win in Reno. Aces speedster Tony Campana tied the record by stealing three bases in one inning – which included a straight steal of home. Make sure you watch the video on there, which includes fantastic calls by too-good-to-be-in-Triple-A Reno broadcaster Ryan Radtke.
  • New Orleans pounded out 14 hits in a 6-3 win over Omaha.
  • Oklahoma City leadoff man Trevor Crowe had three hits, two walks, three steals, and scored four runs in a 9-8 win against Nashville. Brett Wallace is trying to find his rhythm with the Red Hawks.
  • Albuquerque’s pitching rotation is a mess, but the Elian Herrera saved the day with a walk-off hit against Memphis. A crowd of 6,948 ‘Topes fans ate an incredible 17,071 dogs on their annual 50-cent hot dog night. That’s 2.47 hot dogs per person.
  • Former Rainiers slugger Brad Nelson went 4-for-5 but his Iowa Cubs lost to Round Rock, 10-9.

It’s a beautiful day in Tacoma, and the weather is supposed to be nice all week. Come join us at the ballpark!


New Cheney Saw More Home Runs, Yet Remains A Pitcher’s Park

November 16, 2011

Forty-seven more homers.

That was the result, by my tally, of lowering the fences by eight feet as a part of the Cheney Stadium renovation.

For decades, Cheney Stadium outfield fences were 17 feet high (with the exception of straightaway centerfield, which remains 29 feet tall). With the remodel, they took out the old plywood fences and put in modern, padded outfield fences that are nine feet high.

Before the season, I was talking with manager Daren Brown about the change, and we estimated that there would be 15-20 line drives that would be home runs with the short fences but would have been singles or doubles with the old walls. We decided that I would keep track of them during the season.

Our estimate ended up being very, very low.

I marked down 47 home runs that would have been singles or doubles prior to 2011.* I took a conservative approach, too – if I wasn’t sure it would have been a homer over the old wall, I didn’t count it. I only marked definite cases – it was actually pretty easy to judge, because of the tree line in right field, and the reader-board in left.

So we had 47 more homers. But how much did scoring rise? Remember, those 47 extra homers were still hits in previous years, extending rallies and driving in runs.

We have home-road splits going back to 2004. Here are the total number of runs scored and home runs, per game, plus the batting average for games played at Cheney Stadium each year since 2004. The totals are for both teams combined.

Cheney Runs/G HR/G Bat Avg
2011 9.8 2.24 .263
2010 9.1 1.93 .259
2009 10.9 2.15 .278
2008 10.3 2.00 .276
2007 9.1 1.71 .269
2006 8.8 1.47 .267
2005 8.5 1.29 .251
2004 9.1 2.04 .257

As you can see, teams hit more home runs at Cheney Stadium than in any of the previous seven years. However, runs per game was only the third-highest, and the batting average was below the median.

Sometimes it’s easier to look at this stuff as an average. When sabermaticians compute Park Factors, they like to use a three-year sample size. At least, that’s what a guy who knows a lot more about this stuff than I do told me once.

This chart compares 2011 totals to the 3-year average from 2008-2010, and then the entire 7-year sample from 2004-2010.

Cheney Runs/G HR/G Bat Avg
2011 9.8 2.24 .263
3-YEAR 10.1 2.03 .271
7-YEAR 9.4 1.80 .265

The data seems to indicate that while home runs were definitely up at Cheney last year, scoring remained at normal levels.

What was most clear, when looking at the home/road splits, was that Cheney Stadium remains a pitcher’s park by PCL standards.

In 2011, Tacoma batted .266 at home and .310 on the road. The Rainiers hit 76 home runs at Cheney, and 100 on the road. Let’s just go to the same categories from the above charts, and look at both teams per game totals. The first line is 2011 Rainiers home games, the second line is 2011 Rainiers road games, and the bottom line is the league average per PCL game in 2011.

2011 Runs/G HR/G Bat Avg
Cheney 9.8 2.24 .263
Away 14.4 2.45 .311
PCL Avg. 11.1 2.05 .286

In the first season with lower fences at Cheney Stadium, we saw more home runs but it did not have a large impact on scoring. Cheney Stadium appears to remain one of the few ballparks in the Pacific Coast League to favor the pitchers.

OK, that’s enough math for a while. My current list of fun future blog posts contains no math.

* The Rainiers had the home field advantage in this category. I counted 27 “New Cheney Homers” for Tacoma, and 20 for the visitors.


Friday Reading

November 11, 2011

A few quick hits for your holiday Friday:

  • In his News Tribune column, John McGrath hopes that the new Husky Stadium will follow the path blazed by the new Cheney Stadium, and retain its old-school charm after the renovation.
  • In the wake of the disturbing news about the abduction of Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, Geoff Baker remembers his time in Venezuela and exactly how dangerous it was.
  • Former Rainiers shortstop Ramon Santiago has been a mainstay with the Detroit Tigers as a utility man, but now he’s a free agent. Apparently Pittsburgh is considering signing him to play every day.

Peace to all of the veterans out there. Have a great weekend!


Awards And Recognition

November 9, 2011

We still don’t have a name here at the blog*, but Cheney Stadium was named a big winner, and Baseball Prospectus named the Mariners top prospects.

Ballpark Digest – the top website for stadium construction news, reviews, etc. – named Cheney Stadium “Renovation of the Year” for 2011.

In the full story on the website, they talk about the things you already experienced this year, getting down to the core fact: the renovation successfully updated the fan and player conveniences, providing modern amenities, without sacrificing the old-time right-on-top-of-the-field feel that fans have always had in the seats at Cheney. They also mention, quite realistically, that the project probably saved Triple-A baseball in Tacoma.

It’s pretty cool to get recognized by a national web publication that is read by baseball front offices throughout the game.

As noted in the story, Mortensen Construction also won a national award from the Design-Build Institute of America for their work on the project.

Speaking of recognition…

Baseball Prospectus is the first of the major outlets to release its Mariners Top Prospects list for the 2012 season. You need a subscription to see the list and read the scouting reports – this is one of my favorite websites, worth subscribing to if you have a thirst for baseball knowledge.

The whole list with the scouting reports and ETAs is right here. It’s proprietary information, but BP partner Kevin Goldstein has kindly allowed me to print the ranking:

Five-Star Prospects
1. Taijuan Walker, RHP
2. Danny Hultzen, LHP
Four-Star Prospects
3. James Paxton, LHP
4. Nick Franklin, SS
Three-Star Prospects
5. Jose Campos, RHP
6. Guillermo Pimentel, OF
7. Francisco Martinez, 3B
8. Vinnie Catricala, 3B/1B/OF
9. Chih-Hsien Chiang, OF
10. Chance Ruffin, RHP
11. Phillips Castillo, OF

A couple of thoughts: First, there are no Rainiers on the list (although he had Alex Liddi as #12). This is because the Mariners called all of our potential candidates up, and they received too much major league playing time to qualify. Second, based on where he expects the top players to open the season, it appears that Double-A Jackson is going to be *loaded* this year. This will be very good for us down the road, with a wave of talent right below – that was how the season started in 2010, and we all saw how that worked out.

Here is Goldstein’s summary:

Summary: The Mariners organization has some of the best starting pitching around, but there is a lack of depth among position players and a dependency on very young players. Still, there is more than enough help on the way to provide optimism in the Pacific Northwest.  

We even have a few Mariners-related links today:

  • The Mariners hired former major leaguer Jack Howell to be Minor League Field Coordinator, filling a position that had been empty since Andy Stankiewicz left to become head coach at Grand Canyon University last May.
  • Larry LaRue riffed on the Baseball Prospectus list over at The News Tribune’s Mariners Insider blog.
  • So you want to be a minor league RG? We learn from Ballpark Digest (again!) that the Mariners Class-A Clinton affiliate apparently needs a new radio guy. That’s Clinton, Iowa, folks – a great place to start. Note: the Mariners don’t hire for this; either the Clinton LumberKings or their radio station does it. Best of luck to their former RG Dave Lezotte, who is moving on to do PR at Triple-A Gwinett of the International League, where he will work closely with former Rainiers manager Dave Brundage.
  • This will make some of you feel old: Led Zeppelin IV was released 40 years ago today.

I know I’m a crazy person, but I watched six-and-a-half hours of live heads-up poker on ESPN last night, and I found it riveting. German pro Pius Heinz is this year’s person who lived my dream and won the Main Event at the World Series of Poker.

* I hope that the Rainiers marketing gurus come up with a name soon – just to end the stream of unprintable blog name suggestions being texted to my phone by clearly bored Rainiers manager Daren Brown.


On Sellouts

June 20, 2011

The Rainiers lost to Salt Lake on Sunday afternoon, 3-2, in front of a sellout Father’s Day crowd of 7,225.

It was the sixth sellout at the new Cheney Stadium.

Since several people have now asked me, I thought I should clarify what exactly defines a sellout – in the eyes of the Rainiers office, anyway. 

There is no exact capacity at the new stadium – and if you have been out to a game yet, it’s clear why.

There are a large number of seating areas for group outings in which the number of actual people in that area can fluctuate. The most notable examples are on the Party Decks on the third base side: A group could reserve an area that might seat 50 people in one configuration, or 75 in another.

Take that concept and apply it to the new areas down the right field line, and the add the fact that the new indoor seating areas upstairs have multiple configurations, and you can see how exact number of tickets sold can vary.

So, as a benchmark, the result is that any crowd over 7,200 is considered a sellout – to us, at least. That means that Cheney Stadium is operating at full capacity, and all of my Rainiers Front Office co-workers are running around like crazy, making sure everything is going smoothly.

So yesterday was sellout number six. The smallest sellout was 7,202 on opening day, and the biggest one was 7,359 on June 3.

Thank you, fans – we like sellouts, nothing is better than a packed ballpark – especially since our ballpark can now handle the crowds!

Tonight’s game – which will not be a sellout; when we start selling out Monday nights we’ll need to apply to for Major League expansion – will be at 7:05 pm. Tacoma starts either Luke French (3-5, 6.16) or Fabio Castro (5-2, 3.47) against Salt Lake RHP Matt Palmer (2-6, 7.69). French starts unless his wife goes into labor – then he’s out the door, fast, and Fabio takes over. The broadcast will be on South Sound Sports 850 AM, and streaming online here. We’ll actually have a decent broadcaster in the booth today – because today is a Monday With Bob, and Bob Robertson will be joining me in the booth.

A word about Salt Lake starter Matt Palmer, who serves as a great reminder to me about how much I have to learn about this game.

Palmer was a regular member of the Fresno Grizzlies starting rotation from 2006 through 2008. He pitched a lot against Tacoma, and to me he just looked like an ordinary Triple-A pitcher – one of those guys who might get a brief call-up at some point, but wouldn’t ever get much of an opportunity in the bigs.

In fact, that happened to him in 2008 – he made three starts for the Giants, and spent the rest of the year in Fresno.

Then came 2009, when he joined the Angels organization and appeared in just two Triple-A games – while going 11-2 with a 3.93 ERA in 40 games and 121 innings pitched for the major league Angels.

Last year and this year, Palmer has split the season between Triple-A and Anaheim, performing just fine in the majors when called upon. He’s amassed about two full seasons of MLB service time now, with a strong likelihood of more to come.

The point is: I was wrong about Palmer. He’s pretty good, and this won’t be easy for Tacoma tonight, even though he’s been struggling recently with Salt Lake.

Links:

  • Here is the game story from The News Tribune on yesterday’s 3-2 loss, which I ignored in the main segment. Chris Seddon had a gutsy performance, but the Rainiers offense missed out on a couple of scoring opportunities.
  • The Mariners won the game and the series against the Phillies. Mr. Vargas tossed a shutout. Greg Halman made a nice defensive play – for the right reasons.
  • Larry Stone normally sits in the press box, but this weekend he attended two games as a fan, and he filed this post. It’s always a good idea for us cynical media types to sit in the regular seats from time to time.
  • We have the weekly Minor League Wrap from USS Mariner.
  • And, a Dustin Ackley weekend in review from Lookout Landing, as well as a blog post on Dustin Ackley and uniform #13.
  • Mariners #1 draft pick Danny Hultzen was terrific and his Virginia squad won its College World Series opener.
  • If you are a Baseball Prospectus subscriber, today’s Monday Ten Pack has two Mariners prospects in it.
  • In the PCL, Reno finally got a win in Las Vegas, 12-9. That means Tacoma is eight games back. Las Vegas starter Kyle Drabek was wild in his 51s debut (he had jumped from Class-AA straight to the majors).
  • Tucson beat Colorado Springs in the top of the ninth inning for the second day in a row. This keeps Tacoma alone in second place.
  • Fresno is giving Sacramento a tough time, winning two of the first three at Raley Field. Sacramento has lost 5 of 7 at home (the Rainiers were a big part of that).
  • Round Rock hit four homers in an 11-7 win over Omaha.
  • Breaking news: Memphis lost a baseball game. Two different Nashville Sounds hit two homers in a 5-3 win at Autozone Park. Funny: Memphis starter Nick Additon took the loss, but clearly the Memphis Commercial-Appeal computers weren’t having any of that “Additon” stuff. Perhaps the game was played at Autocorrect Park.
  • New Orleans has been tearing up the RedHawks in a road series at Bricktown – they go for a rare road sweep today.
  • Awesome Mascot Alert! The independent Joliet Slammers have named their mascot J.L. Bird. See the picture for yourself. Where do I buy season tickets?

Usually I try to write a closing sentence here, but after that J.L. Bird link, I’m sentenceless.