All Star Break(downs) – @ValleyCats Position Players Report: Outfielders

Each PDF for position players includes a hit chart, so you’re able to see the spread of the balls they’ve put into play.

I need to remind everyone that my numbers don’t sync up exactly with the official stats on the MILB site. Again, it’s very close to the official numbers, but don’t take my accounts as their official stats.

Outfielders:

#20 – Chris Epps (PDF)

  • Batting: 8 G, 29 PA, .261/.414/.391, 6 H, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 6 BB, 8 K (6 swinging)
    Chris is a relatively new Cat, and I haven’t seen as much of him at the plate. He takes pitches and pieces together solid at bats, but I haven’t seen much power from him, aside from a walk-off homerun. That was the one ball I’ve seen him hit really hard so far. It looks like he’s got a tendency to pull the ball, but I’ve seen seen him slap a couple hits to left center. He’s got two multi-hit games so far, and is batting .100 w/RISP.
  • Fielding: He looks fine in the outfield, and his arm is okay. He’s already got an assist from left, and I see no reason that he shouldn’t be a fine defensive outfielder, but I feel that he’ll be pushed aside in favor of the flashier outfielders as he climbs through the system.
  • Notes: I’d say he’s got average speed on the bases, but I don’t see him get many good leads and jumps off pitchers. I don’t think I’ve seen him attempt a stolen base yet, but I think he has the tools to be able to do it. As of now, the word to sum up Epps is “average” but we’ll see how he does the rest of the season.

#16 – Justin Gominsky (PDF)

  • Batting:  50 G, 220 PA, .259/.330/.299, 51 H, 8 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 15 RBI, 19 BB, 34 K (21 swinging)
    Justin seems like an instigator, a guy that’ll slap the ball around the field without much power. He’ll put balls in play all over the field, and he’s quick enough to get some bunt basehits, and he’s very good at getting the sac bunt down. If the ball hangs up in the air as it goes into the outfield, he’s got more than enough speed to take second base. He’s hit a few hard linedrives and a hard flyball for two bags, but he’s much more prone to just get the extra base from hustle. He hasn’t had many opportunities to drive in runners, but he seems to be able to slow down the game and make good contact when the chance arises. He’s got fourteen multi-hit games so far, and is batting .260 w/RISP.
  • Fielding: Gominsky is one of two centerfielders on this team, and he’s got the range and tracking ability you’d expect from a professional. I’ve seen him fooled twice off the bat, but he’s smooth enough to recover if he doesn’t get a good read. He’s one of those guys that you think is barely moving as you watch him run, but he covers a ton of ground. I think he’d be graceful enough to troll the big center field down in Houston, and he looks like he’ll be a durable guy. He’s definitely not one of those Ellsbury/Fuld types that throws their bodies around without any regard to longevity. Think more along the lines of how Bernie Williams or Torii Hunter used to play center. Quick reactions off the bat floating to the ball with what appears to be very little effort.
  • Notes: I’d like to see him cut down on swings at pitches out of the zone. He’s got more than enough speed to beat ground balls out, and he makes a lot of routine groundouts look closer than they should. His bunting ability is above average, and I’d expect him to be able to get ten or eleven bunt singles a year without a problem. His arm is decent, but I don’t think it’s anything exceptional, even compared to his own teammates.
#36 – Brandon Meredith (PDF)
  • Batting: 34 G, 141 PA, .250/.379/.405, 29 H, 7 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 19 BB, 28 K (19 swinging)
    Brandon’s got a quiet, level swing, and he’s able to keep his hands inside the ball well. He’s got some pop to both gaps, but as he gets older and develops some more strength I expect him to have some serious power to the deepest parts of ball parks. When he can get full extension on the ball, boy oh boy does it sound good and travel far. The biggest hole in his swing is just the inability to not recognize pitches on the outside corner. He’ll take ones that break back over, and swing at ones that drop far out of reach. Anything over the plate he sees well, and he’s got very good plate discipline for a guy at this level. He’s got nine multi-hit games so far, and is batting .158 w/RISP. This isn’t a knock at all, because his role has been more of a bottom of the order set up guy, rather than a clean up or fifth hole guy. I figure as he develops that pop in his bat some more, he’ll make a very solid five hole hitter. It always seems like he’s seeing 6+ pitches in his at bats, I’d just like to see him get more walks out of those than strikeouts.
  • Fielding: Brandon’s sneaky quick, and looking at a guy his size you’d think that he should be much slower. He reacts off the bat very well, and he gets the ball back into the infield quickly.  He’s got two assists from the outfield, and aside from an error in a spot start in right (first time at the position), he’s been fine in the outfield.
  • Notes: I’m incredibly biased toward Brandon, as he’s by far my favorite player on this team. I’d really like to see him get a better grasp of the outside corner of the plate, and I want him really develop power to drive the ball more. He’s really a guy you have to watch to understand just how fast he is, but he’ll steal bases, go first to third, and he has no problem scoring from first or second in all the appropriate situations. Dude plays hard and has enough talent to go far in this game, and I really wish the best for him. #SwagLikeWontonSoup

#18 – Drew Muren (PDF)

  • Batting: 53 G, 210 PA, .237/.357/.312, 41 H, 5 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 27 BB, 42 K (21 swinging)
    Drew is a contact hitter. He’ll take a walk if a guy is flirting around the plate, but he’s striving to put the ball into play every time he digs in. With all of the solid bats on this team, Drew usually bats down in the seven or eight hole, and I’d like to see him get a better eye at the plate. He has a tendency to lead off a lot of innings, but he’s not very adept at getting on base in those situations. He’s much better at moving runners up and extending rallies than he is at starting them. He’ll hit to both gaps, but he’s much more of an opposite field kind of guy. I don’t know if it’s because he’s late on a lot of pitches and his hands are quick enough to make solid contact, or if it’s just what his game plan is. He keeps his head down and his hands in close to his body, so I’m inclined to say he’s just got that inside-out swing down pat and he’ll keep using it until pitchers figure out a way around it. He’s got eleven multi-hit games so far, and is batting .258 w/RISP.
  • Fielding: He’s a natural center fielder, and it took him close to three full weeks to get accustomed to right field. He struggled on balls hit directly at him through his first month, but he’s settled in and he doesn’t misread that many balls off the bat. He’s quick enough and has good enough instincts to recover when he doesn’t see the ball off the bat well, and he’s got an absolute cannon. I’d say the decision to convert him into a right fielder was the right move, and I’ve got him down for ten outfield assists. I feel like it’s low by one or two, but whatever the case, he’s got a very strong and accurate arm.
  • Notes: I’d like to see Drew get better at bunting, as he’s more than quick enough to get as many bunt singles as Gominsky or Neiko Johnson. He has to work on his plate discipline a little bit, but I wouldn’t say his eye is below average for this level.
There’s a lot of talent in this outfield, and I was sorry to see Kellen Kiilsgaard (PDF) sent down. He was clearly the odd man out, and I don’t think he was cutout to be the every day DH just yet. He’s a big guy with a little speed and some pop, he just wasn’t consistent enough to stay up with Tri-City. He’s a bit of a free swinger, and with practice he’ll get much better reading the strikezone, but he wasn’t going to get that opportunity on this squad with four solid outfielders that are more than good enough to warrant playing every day. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was back up here with the team next summer, and in much better shape at the plate. He plays a decent corner outfield, but I think his true potential will be with the bat as he settles into professional ball, maybe even at a corner infield spot.
Note about the breakdown series:
I was planning to break down all the pitchers as well as the position players, but my confidence in appraising pitching talent is pretty low. I figure I’ll wait until the end of the season to compile my thoughts on the pitchers, in another two – three posts over the span of a few days. I’ll take the next few weeks to get better at notating pitches, velocity and all that other good stuff. I know most of you out there are more interested in pitching than fielding/hitting, so I’ll do my best when I get to the pitchers in September.

All Star Break(downs) – @ValleyCats Position Players Report: Infielders

Each PDF for position players includes a hit chart, so you’re able to see the spread of the balls they’ve put into play.

I need to remind everyone that my numbers don’t sync up exactly with the official stats on the MILB site. Again, it’s very close to the official numbers, but don’t take my accounts as their official stats.

Infielders:

#8 – Miguel Arrendell (PDF)

  • Batting: 9 G, 34 PA, .233/.324/.267, 7 H, 1 2B, 0 3B,  0 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 5 K (5 swinging)
    Miggy hasn’t been with the squad very long, but what I’ve seen is good. He rolls over and pulls breaking pitches, but if anything is left up in the zone he’ll stay with it and drive the ball accordingly. It feels like his power is to left field, but he’ll loop some into right too. He’s quick, as middle infielders should be, and runs the bases well, already stealing three bases in his short time with the team.
  • Fielding: He’s played six games at short and another three at second. He seems to have solid range to both sides of his body, and he’s got quick hands turning double play balls. He’s not afraid to come in on the ball, and his throws are strong and accurate.
  • Notes: I see him as being a scrappy hitter; one that’ll fight off tough pitches to weed out good ones to put in play. He’ll need to get better at recognizing balls down in the zone, but I don’t have any reason to think that he won’t be able to. I see him as a strong eight or nine hole hitter, that’ll see enough pitches to get on base and turn the lineup over. He’s more than quick enough to score runs, and he can go first to third on basehits with no trouble.

#40 – Matt Duffy (PDF)

  • Batting: 54 G, 230 PA, .300/.374/.425, 60 H, 17 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 32 RBI, 13 BB, 36 K (23 swinging)
    This dude can flat out hit. He’s got a calm, level swing and he’ll use all parts of the field, with signs of power to both gaps. When he gets full extension on the ball it travels a long way. I don’t know if he’s got a swing conducive to becoming a home run hitter, but he’s got potential to be a really solid doubles guy. It feels as though he’s got a strong grasp of the strikezone, and he rarely chases bad pitches. He can be beaten on high cheese, and he doesn’t get good reads on curveballs (typical of most batters at this level, so nothing that I’m worried about). He’s had fifteen multi-hit games this year, and is batting .333 w/RISP.
  • Fielding: He’s an average third baseman, and he’s quieted down his throwing errors substantially. Early on he wasn’t trusting his arm and rushed throws, pulling Zach off the base a lot. Everyone in the infield took about three weeks to settle in and know that they’re good enough to take their time and make accurate throws. He doesn’t have the best range to his left, and plays closer to the line most of the time, but he’ll come in on the ball very well. He’s not afraid to use his bare hand to scoop and throw, either.
  • Notes: Dude is easily in the slowest three of the team, maybe just the flat out slowest, behind two catchers. He can’t go first to third or score from second on average basehits. He’ll need to develop some pop if he’s going to be a big league corner infielder, but it shouldn’t be too hard to develop that. He’s got a quiet swing, and it won’t take much adjustment to tap into his legs for some more power.

#5 – Jacke Healey (PDF)

  • Batting: 34 G, 116 PA, .101/.224/.192, 10 H, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 16 BB, 30 K (19 swinging)
    I hate to say this, but I think Jacke just has terrible luck at the plate. He makes solid contact, but it feels like he always hits it to a fielder. Lately, he’s been seeing the ball well and taking pitches, but for the first seven weeks of the season you could just tell he had absolutely no confidence at the plate. He jumped on early pitches in the count, and he looked like he was just waiting for bad things to happen to him. A few times I’ve felt like Jacke was on the precipice of breaking out, but all it takes is for him to hit the ball on the screws for an out and he’s right back to square one. Jacke’s had only one multi-hit game, and is batting an abysmal .067 w/RISP.
  • Fielding: Jacke’s as smooth as glass at short. He’s got great range to both sides, and he’s quick enough to get balls that eke past the mound and convert them into outs at first. I can see why the Astros are holding out on him for his bat to come around, I just don’t know how long they’re going to be patient.
  • Notes: I really like Jacke personally. I’ve spoken to him a few times last year and this year, and he’s always in great spirits. I want so badly for him to figure things out at the plate and advance. One thing I’ll say, though, is that he never takes his hitting into the field with him. He’s made four errors –two balls got through him when he was trying to throw it before he gloved it– and a couple throwing. I want him to bust out and move on.

#4 – John Hinson (PDF)

  • Batting: 43 G, 182 PA, .284/.348/.389, 46 H, 9 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 17 BB, 26 K (19 swinging)
    John’s a guy that likes to use the entire field, and he’s got some pop to the opposite field (both homers were to right-center). He makes solid contact and he’s quick enough to beat out balls on the ground in the infield. He sees a lot of pitches and was doing well as the lead-off guy before getting hurt. John has fourteen multi-hit games, batting .182 w/RISP.
  • Fielding: Early in the year, John would hang back on ground balls and let the ball come to him. He’d get the ball and realize the runner was closer to the bag than he expected, and he’d rush a throw forcing an error. Stubby said that it was because he was a college player, and was used to how quick the ball got to him off aluminum bats. I’d say it took a full month to adjust to the wooden bat, and he’s been a fine second baseman.
  • Notes: He’s got a history of back injury (sat out all of 2009 after getting back surgery), and he’s hurt his right wrist (maybe, I can’t find out what his exact injury is, but his right forearm is in a cast) this year. He’s a quick runner and he can handle the bat well, we’ll just have to see how durable of a player he is. If he’s going to be a top-of-the-order kind of guy, which I’ve definitely potential for, he’ll need that durability.

#3 – Neiko Johnson (PDF)

  • Batting: 41 G, 174 PA, .262/.427/.300, 34 H, 5 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 15 RBI, 35 BB, 21 K (15 swinging)
    Neiko’s a prototypical lead off guy, and I love watching him hit. He sees a ton of pitches, goes with the ball and puts it into play, and never shies away from taking a walk. He’s got a great eye and he’s incredibly smart when he runs the bases. He’ll steal off anybody at any time, and he goes first to third better than anyone else on the team. I’ve seen him score from first at least twice this year, and he’s definitely got potential to go far in this game. Neiko’s got eight multi-hit games, batting .375 w/RISP. Most of that average came when he was batting further down in the lineup, but he’s versatile enough to be the lead off guy moving forward in his career.
  • Fielding: Neiko’s had ten errors this year, but I’ve got him down for eleven appearances at second, one at third, fifteen at short, ten in left and two in right. When you move around that much, you’re going to have adjustment periods. His arm is strong, his feet and legs are quick, and his arm is more than accurate enough to be an outfielder. When I look at the lineup and see where he’s playing, I know that he’s going to do just fine wherever he’s been asked to take the field.
  • Notes: Dude’s electric and a total utility player. He’ll play wherever he needs to help the team out, and he always has an impact on the game. Neiko’s a contact hitter with great speed, and he’s full of energy. He’s going to make a great big leaguer someday. He played college ball with Dat Dude BP, Brandon Phillips, and I see a lot of common ground in their personalities. Always smiling, always making everyone else smile. Such a fun guy to watch. I really want him to make it.

#32 – Zach Johnson (PDF)

  • Batting: 54 G,  236 PA, .262/.340/.369, 54 H, 11 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 31 RBI, 19 BB, 34 K (22 swinging)
    Zach’s got a solid bat, even if his power numbers from college haven’t carried over to professional baseball yet. He’s got solid power to both corners, though he pulls the ball more often than not. He has a level swing, and his hands are quick through the zone. I’ve seen him pull his hands in and stay with slow breaking pitches, which I know is not easy to do, and he’ll slap his fair share of offspeed balls to the opposite field. He’s not a base stealer, but he’s got solid instincts when running the bases. He’s had 17 multi-hit games, and is batting .295 w/RISP.
  • Fielding: He doesn’t have the best footwork of the first basemen I’ve seen, but he has shown progress over the last few weeks. He’s got solid range to his right, and has good instincts on when to get back to the bag on bunts to the right side. I think his footwork caused some throwing errors on his teammates in the early part of the year, but he’s been much better at scooping balls out of the dirt and stretching for balls in August.
  • Notes: He’s a decent all around player, and I think if his power translates to the wooden bat he’ll be a fine first baseman. As it stands, his fielding needs some work, and he doesn’t have nearly enough pop to make an impact at his position.

#34 – Rafael Valenzuela (PDF)

  • Batting: 14 G, 55 PA, .388/.418/.673, 19 H, 8 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K (4 swinging)
    Wow! What a bat this kid has! He’s very rarely fooled by pitches, and he’ll even put solid wood on some really good pitches. I’m not saying he’s a free swinger like Vlad Guerrero, but he’ll selectively leave the strikezone if he thinks he can get a good swing on the ball, and he’s very rarely wrong. In fourteen games so far, he’s hit safely in thirteen, with four multi-hit games. He’s got pop to all parts of the field, but he’s got some really nice pull power to right. He’s been on an absolute tear since being promoted to Tri-City, and he’s going to have a huge impact on this team for the remaining games of the season. He’s hitting .500 w/RISP so far.
  • Fielding: This Cat can play a solid corner infield, and he’s quick enough to handle the corner outfield spots. I think he’s a natural first baseman, but he’s got very strong instincts that help him out at third as well.
  • Notes: He could very well be a big impact player with power at a corner spot (infield or out), and he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite Cats. He always runs hard, has great at bats and contributes with the glove. You cannot ask for more than that out of a player, and he brings it all every single day. Oh, and he’s incredibly humble, which I love.

The other two infielders that I could write about, Hector Rodriguez and Chase Davidson, will be skipped. Hector was advanced quickly and Chase hasn’t appeared in a game yet. I liked Hector’s intensity while he was filling in for Jacke at short earlier in the summer, and I think he has the tools to be a very good utility infielder. I see that he hasn’t had much playing time since being promoted, but he’s moved three levels this summer (A-, A, A+), regardless of some wimpy offensive numbers. I’m going to keep an eye on him, as he’s a really fun guy to watch play.

All Star Break(downs) – @ValleyCats Position Players Report: Catchers

I’ve been keeping track of the Cats through the iScore app on my Droid 2 this season, and one of the really cool things about it is how it lets me keep accumulative stats for all the guys. This is the first of four planned posts where I’ll be sharing the PDF exports of the players stored in my phone, and my little scouting reports on each of the guys. Each PDF for position players includes a hit chart, so you’re able to see the spread of the balls they’ve put into play.

I’m starting with the position players, and I need to remind everyone that my numbers don’t sync up exactly with the official stats on the MILB site. I’m relatively certain that all of the discrepancies come from my accounts of home games, where I score things as I see them, rather than entering them as the official recap of the game has them laid out. I’m not saying that I have guys hitting .400 and the official stats have him at .168, it’s more like I have a guy at .268 instead of .263. I don’t have enough time to sit down and go through all of the games to this point and verify all of the data, so I have to go with what I’ve got. Again, it’s very close to the official numbers, but don’t take my accounts as their official stats.

For the position players, I’ll be showcasing their important batting stats (games, plate appearances, slash line, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, BB, K), talk about their defense a little, and share any notes I have about them.

Catchers:

#27 – Miles Hamblin (PDF)

  • Batting: 45 G, 174 PA, .263/.343/.368, 40 H, 10 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 17 BB, 31 K (21 swinging)
    Miles is a straight pull hitter. He has a typical lefty swing, liking the ball down and in. He’ll make solid contact and go up the middle occasionally, but his forte is hitting into the right-center gap. He’s not quick, but is good enough on the bases to go from first to third. He’s easy to double off on ground balls in the infield, but always runs out balls in play.
  • Fielding: Miles has caught 32 games, and I have him down for four errors, 13 passed balls and catching 3 out of 46 stolen base attempts. He does not look comfortable behind the plate, and is often hung up between if he should stab at the ball with his glove, or lunge to dampen the ball with his chest. He is sluggish moving to his right and left from the crouch, and I don’t feel confident in his ability to handle breaking balls in the dirt. When he throws to second, he doesn’t square his front shoulder and he doesn’t follow through either. His left shoulder flies open, and the ball just about always sails up and away from second, making it difficult to nab guys trying to advance. Of the three catchers, I see Miles looking into the dugout the most, but I wouldn’t say they call every pitch.
  • Notes: Miles is a gamer, and I’ve seen him playing hard with some injuries. He’s a solid line drive hitter to right-center, but often chases breaking balls that result in ground outs to the second baseman. If he develops a little more pop, I can see him transitioning away from being a catcher, as his defense will definitely be a liability as he climbs higher into the system.

#2 – Ryan McCurdy (PDF)

  • Batting: 23 G, 81 PA, .320/.358/.373, 24 H, 4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 13 RBI, 0 BB, 10 K (6 swinging)
    Ryan was with the squad last year, but he didn’t really get a big sampling of games. After batting .150 in 40 games last year, he’s sitting at .316 through 24 games with 13 RBIs. He’s one of the most clutch hitters out of the guys on the team this year, batting .333 with runners in scoring position. I know catchers hate hearing that they’re fast for catchers, but it’s true with Ryan.
  • Fielding: Ryan has caught in 20 games this year, and he’s the best of the three catchers defensively. He’s not afraid to adjust the gameplan on the fly, and is the only one out of the bunch that’ll exploit the umpire’s strikezones. If they’re calling low strikes, he’ll call more breaking pitches. If they’re calling outside pitches, he’ll set up off the plate to see how far he can go and still get strikes. He’s a little guy, and he sets up low. We’re not talking Tony Pena low, but he’s good at keeping the ball in front of him. He’s better at throwing to the bases than Miles, but he’s nothing spectacular. I have him as catching 5 out of 36 attempts.
  • Notes: Super clutch, has quick hands on inside pitches, and he’s not afraid to block the plate.

#23 – Bubby Williams (PDF)

  • Batting: 27 G, 105 PA, .212/.229/.374, 21 H, 4 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 3 BB, 31 K (23 swinging)
    Bubby’s a guy that doesn’t get cheated with his swings. He’ll miss frequently on pitches in on his hands, and he doesn’t have any recognition of balls off the plate. If you want to beat Bubby, drill a couple fastballs in on his hands, then drop a slider four or five inches off the outside corner. He’s a straight pull hitter, and he’s got some solid pop when he makes contact, twice hitting balls off the scoreboard in left.
  • Fielding: Bubby has spent most of his time as a DH, but has caught in eight games and played first in two more. I’d say he’s an average catcher and below-average first baseman, but he gives it his all when he’s in the field. He looks comfortable behind the plate, but he has some funky footwork when he’s at first, something I’m sure he could improve with more practice and playing time.
  • Notes: Bubby’s a great guy, and he’s always one of the first few Cats to step out onto the field before warm ups. He’s always talking to fans down the third baseline, and he’s always smiling. I’d say he reminds me a lot of Mark Reynolds; he’ll swing at everything hard, and he’ll drive a few out of the park when he makes contact. Past that, he’ll strike out a lot until he gets his plate discipline down, and patches the hole in his swing in on his hands. I’m not sure where he’ll fit in defensively as he climbs through the system, but he’ll probably tell you that he wants to catch.

08/14/2011 @ValleyCats Recap – Additional Thoughts

There were a few things that I thought about during the game, then forgot in the five or six hours between last out and writing my recap. I should probably just sit down and do these right when I get home, but oh well.

Interesting Managerial Choice #1:
With how effortlessly Tropeano was pitching, I was shocked to see him pulled after three innings to make way for Tommy Shirley. I know the guy just got back to town –his name wasn’t even on the jersey (#44 since Quezada won’t be needing it for the rest of the year)– but was it so important to get him into a game that you yank a starter out after three very low stress innings? The guy’s been pitching every five days all summer, why not let him go as long as he can, going into the two-game All Star break? It’s a nice gesture to give him some extra time off, but how about letting him get a shot at a win first?

Interesting Managerial Choice #2:
In the bottom of the sixth, Gominsky led off with a basehit and Rafy Valenzuela was walked, setting up a perfect sac bunt opportunity. The problem, though, is that with runners on first and second and the clean up guy at the plate, you need him to swing. Not to mention that Duff’s been absolutely raking all year and done well with runners on base, I have no idea why you wouldn’t let him swing. The bunt died right on top of the plate, allowing Segovia to field and throw to third, nailing the lead runner. The next batter, Miles Hamblin, smacked a hard grounder to second for the last out of the inning, squelching the budding rally.

I don’t get it. I understand that the game was scoreless to that point, and there’s the line that “anyone in the lineup should know how to bunt,” I just don’t buy it. At all.

Interesting Managerial Choice #3:
Diaz was pitching through stress his first two innings, and going into the ninth with a 2-0 lead, I was thinking it was a perfect opportunity for Ryan Cole to come in and get another save. He was up in the pen, stretching and long tossing during the bottom of the eighth, but come the third out Diaz took the mound for warm ups. Okay, I’m thinking, they’re just letting Dayan warm up to give Cole a few more throws. Maybe he’s not ready yet, as it was a quick inning. First guy lays down a picture perfect bunt into no-man’s land for a single on the first pitch he sees. Okay, we wanted to see if Diaz would get the first guy, but now we’ll see Cole. I look to the bullpen and see Ryan soft tossing, in between staring at the game from the bump in the pen. He’s clearly warmed up at this point. I glance back to the dugout for Stubby to walk to the mound. Nothing. Dayan’s left alone, and strikes out the next batter on three straight pitches. Okay, I guess we’ll see Ryan if this guy reaches. An absolute back-and-forth at bat ensues, two pitches well out of the zone, a strike, another ball. A swinging strike on a changeup, then the fourth ball. Runners on first and second, one out. Now we get Ryan for the two out save, right?

Nope. Ruby came out to talk to Diaz, and at this point Ryan’s stopped tossing. Diaz is left alone on the mound. During the next at bat, a double steal would have worked had a ball not been fouled off, and it got a little hairy before that batter wound up striking out. Next guy steps in. First pitch strike on the corner, then a passed ball to allow the runners to advance. Dayan bounced back with a 95 MPH fastball for a swinging strike, then climbed the ladder at 96 to end the game.

No harm, no foul, I guess. Again, I understand this level is for development, but this was a close game, and it would have been an absolutely devastating loss had things not worked out. A loss that would have come before two days off and a six game road trip. Not quite the momentum you’d like to have going into the next week.

What is with the Pitcher’s Obsession with Runners on First?
Diaz made seven pick off attempts. The really strange part? Three of them were on an 0-2 count with two down in the eighth. The first two pitches of the at bat were 94 MPH fastballs that the batter swung through, then a switch flipped and he started to care about the runner at first. Sure, he came close (close for a righty pitcher with an average move) to getting the guy picked off, but you’re up 0-2 on the batter, your team is up by two runs and you have two outs. Why do you care about the runner at all?

It slowed the inning down to a snail’s pace, and the batter got a really good swing on a ball later in the count. Luckily, the ball wasn’t carrying in our misty air today, and Muren shagged it down without any hassle.

To be fair, it wasn’t only Diaz. I recall the same situation with the Renegade’s starting pitcher, Andrew Bellatti. Two down, runner on first, up 1-2 on the batter. Now’s the time to start throwing to first to see if we can get the pick off, right? Didn’t work the first three times, didn’t work the fourth time. Just. Attack. The. Batter.

In Closing (again, and for real this time):
Okay, rant’s over, and I’m off to start compiling stuff for my next two days of All Star break recaps of the Cats thus far!

08/14/2011 @ValleyCats Recap – Drew Muren Shows Off His Arm

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This game was all about pitching, and as the sixth ended with both teams having scored no runs, it really felt that which ever team broke through first would be the team to win.

Cats’ Pitching Performance:
Nick Tropeano (3 Innings), Thomas Shirley (3), Dayan Diaz (3, Win)

Batters Faced: Tropeano 10, Shirley 10, Diaz 13
Pitches-Strikes: Tropeano 33-23, Shirley 34-22, Diaz 54-34
First Pitch Strikes: Tropeano 9, Shirley 5, Diaz 9
K-BB: Tropeano 4-0, Shirley 3-1, Diaz 6-1
Groudouts-Flyouts: Tropeano 3-2, Shirley 3-1, Diaz 1-2
HB: Diaz

The last few times I’ve seen Nick pitch, he needed about an inning and a third, some times two innings, to settle into a groove. He came out of the gate dealing, setting down the first five he faced in order, and finishing the third facing only one extra man. His fastball was in the high 80s, peaking at 91 a few times, and his changeup was absolutely dominant, with late movement and coming to the plate about 15 MPH lower than his fastballs.

Shirley only pitched in five games as a ValleyCat last year, and aggravated his knee to the point of needing surgery during the off-season. He made his last appearance in Troy about thirteen months ago, and it seems as though he hasn’t missed a beat. His fastball tops out around 89, but his butter pitch is his slow, sweeping curveball. It comes in anywhere from 68-74 MPH, and has crazy movement. He sat down the first seven batters he faced (striking three out and getting  three more on the ground), but ran into some trouble with one out in the sixth. He gave up a walk and back-to-back basehits, but on those same basehits, Muren had back-to-back assists from right field. Pretty sure Tommy bought Muren dinner tonight, and if he didn’t, he really should have. He’ll be a big help bolstering the ‘pen for the last month of the season, and I’m looking forward to seeing him pitch more.

I wouldn’t say that Diaz was really struggling today, but he wasn’t pitching effortlessly either. He was hitting 93-94 constantly, peaking at 96 twice, and threw maybe five changeups in the mid-high 80s. He struck out six through three innings, but pitched through four full counts, gave up two hits (one was a perfectly placed bunt), hit a batter and walked another over 54 pitches. He stays closed so long that his fastball is just overwhelming. You know it’s coming, you just don’t expect it to get there so fast. Sure, it’s 94, which is ridiculous at this level, but it feels faster (at least from the stands).

Cats’ Defensive Performance:
Jacke Healey made no less than three great plays at short today, one of which was a great snag on a ball up the middle in the second. He ranged far to his left, scooped and threw in one fluid motion to get the runner by a step, and I know that I’ve seen that type of ball go for infield singles a few times this year.

Duffy had a fantastic bare-handed grab and throw on a ball slowly rolling through the infield grass, and we’ve already covered Muren’s two outfield assists.

McCurdy had a passed ball that allowed runners to move up to second and third, but they were stranded when Church chased a high fastball to end the game.

Cats’ Offensive Performance:
Gotta start with my main man, Jacke Healey! He had a couple solid at bats, just getting under a ball that wound up in the left fielder’s glove, and a solid ground ball through an infield that was pulled in to protect against runners on second and third with no out, picking up an RBI.

With Neiko getting a day off, Miggy Arrendell led off, and had two really solid at bats. He led off the game striking out on the ninth pitch of the at bat (after fouling off five pitches in a 1-2 count), reached on an E4 on the sixth pitch of his second at bat in the third, and got an RBI on a 4-3 he hit into in the seventh.

Muren made solid contact in the fifth, showing some opposite field power, but the ball died in the misty air, and landed in the left fielder’s glove a few steps from the wall. In the seventh, he crushed a ball to the deepest part of the park, getting a ground rule double that really set up the Cats’ rally that won the game.

In Closing:
This was a fun home stand, with the Cats going into the All Star Break on a tear. They’re pitching great, hitting great, and playing fantastic defense. They’re on the road for six days after the ASG, returning home for three against the Brooklyn Cyclones.

What’s sinking in as I look at my wall calendar is that I’ve only got five games left at the Joe this year. Sadness fills my soul.

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08/13/2011 @ValleyCats Recap – Cats Continue to Pounce on Mistakes

All season long we’ve seen the other guys catch breaks, either on defensive miscues by the Cats, or through incredible luck of hitting the ball just out the reach of the fielders. This home stand has been the complete opposite; the other teams are making big errors, and the Cats are just hitting the ball where their opponent aren’t located. Man, it’s tough to make “hit it where they ain’t” into a normal sounding sentence…

Cats’ Pitching Performance:
Jamaine Cotton (5 Innings, Win), Travis Smink (2), Ebert Rosario (1), Joan Belliard (1)

Batters Faced: Cotton 20, Smink 8, Rosario 7, Belliard 4
Pitches-Strikes: Cotton 63-45, Smink 30-21, Rosario 27-17, Belliard 17-12
First Pitch Strikes: Cotton 15, Smink 3, Rosario 6, Belliard 3
K-BB: Cotton 3-1, Smink 4-0, Rosario 0-1, Belliard 2-0
Groudouts-Flyouts: Cotton 5-7, Smink 0-1, Rosario 2-1, Belliard 1-0

This was my first shot to see Jamaine in the field; he’d been learning how to chart pitches and record score all week, sitting next to Tropeano, Perez and Hallock during the other games. All of his pitches have a nice downward movement, and his fastball is in the low 90s. He touched 93 a handful of times, and it didn’t look like he was exerting any exorbitant amount of effort to reach that plateau. Where as Walter had a stressful outing, allowing baserunners and throwing a lot of pitches, Cotton settled in after the first inning (only giving up a line drive homer that eked over the left field wall and a double after that frame), and worked effortlessly. He attacked the zone and got out in front of nearly every batter he faced, going to a full count only once, and never looking back from the first inning.

Smink and Rosario had what I’d call typical outings, but I’d like to spend a few moments on Belliard.

For the second consecutive appearance, I saw a lot to be happy with. His delivery is nearly the same every time he comes to the plate, and he’s staying closed now. He hangs his leading leg for a second before planting and firing, and it really messes with the batters. His fastball has always been electric, and last night he was throwing it for 92-93 consistently with accuracy. This was by far his best outing, and I’m looking forward to him pitching again. The thing to keep in mind is that these last two appearances were in non-critical situations, so maybe he’s been more relaxed, but he was definitely exuding confidence on the mound last night. After a lead off double, he got a spectacular defensive play from Jacke Healey for the first out, then struck out the final two batters of the game. One swinging on a sinker in on the hands, the other called on a fastball knee-high on the outside part of the plate. Keep it going, Ebert!

Cats’ Defensive Performance:
Again, the ValleyCats played errorless ball (okay, I’m lying, there was an error, but it was a tough one assigned to Zach fielding a ball on a wet field that I would have given a hit), and two plays really stood out to me:

Jacke made a dazzling play in the top of the ninth, coming in on a high, slow chopper off the mound in the top of the ninth, getting the runner by about a half step at first.

Duffy made a similarly great play in the fifth, coming in on a soft grounder that took a last second short-hop, and made a strong throw to first for the out by a step.

Cats’ Offensive Performance:
The Cats batted around again, and were helped by five errors to power through to a 14-3 win.

Standouts:
Gominsky was 2-4 with two doubles and a walk.

Neiko reached three of his five times, going 1-3 with two walks.

Valenzuela’s consecutive games with hits streak was snapped last night, though he did hit a sac fly.

New father, Bubby Williams showed how happy he was to be back, scoring two runs and going 2-4, with two basehits and reaching on two errors.

Miggy Arrendell hit a bases-clearing double in the seventh; the fourth one I’ve seen in as many days by a Cats’ bat.

Jacke Healey was was 0-3, reaching on an error and two walks. He’s looked comfortable at the plate lately, and I hope it’s signs of him finally snapping out of his rut.

In Closing:
The ValleyCats are playing a tired team in the Renegades, and you can clearly see it in the pitching, fielding and hitting. One thing is for sure, though. Since Epps, Arrendell and Valenzuela have joined the team, the lineup has been more consistent, and their offensive prowess is really shining through!

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08/12/2011 (Game Two) @ValleyCats Recap – Welcome to Troy, Andrew Walter!

This was such a close game, and the only reason the Cats won was thanks to two errors on the same play which I’ll get to later.

Cats’ Pitching Performance:
Andrew Walter (3.0 Innings), Travis Blankenship (3.0, Win), Ryan Cole (1)

Batters Faced: Walter 14, Blankenship 10, Cole 5
Pitches-Strikes: Walter 61-32, Blankenship 29-21, Cole 12-7
First Pitch Strikes: Walter 7, Blankenship 6, Cole 3
K-BB: Walter 5-2, Blankenship 2-0, Cole 0-0
Groudouts-Flyouts: Walter 0-3, Blankenship 2-4, Cole 0-2
HB: Walter 3
WP:  Walter 2, Cole

This was the first start at home for Andrew Walter, and as such, this was my first look at his stuff. We’ll chalk up his iffy command to jitters from pitching in front of the home crowd for the first time. He threw a lot of fastballs (high 80s, peaked in the low 90s a few times) and changeups (low 80s), and sprinkled in a couple cutters or sliders too. His command was rather erratic, hitting three and tossing two wild pitches, so I’m hoping I can get a better sense of his pitching style the next time he throws. He had four 6+ pitch at bats, but only one of them reached and it was because he was hit.  He got a lot of swings on his off speed stuff, and climbed the ladder well with his fastball. Any time a guy only allows one run after loading the bases with less than two out, I’m pretty happy with their makeup.

Blankenship was nothing short of dazzling tonight. His curveball was devastating, and he was throwing it for strikes. It’s not fair at all for a guy to get first pitch strikes on a 12-6 curve at this level, and the Renegades were just unable to put good wood on it. His fastball and slider were in the mid-high 80s, and his curve was in the mid-70s. He left a handful of fastballs up that caught the middle of the plate, but everyone’s bat was so slow all they could do was get under them. A couple looked and sounded like they were hit better than they were, but Muren caught them both without any trouble.

I’m not sure what’s been going on with Cole lately. His two-seamer is not as sharp as it can be, and he left a few without bite up in the zone, which were struck well for basehits. He got a quick line drive to short, then gave up a basehit. A wild pitch moved the runner to second, and another basehit set up runners on the corners with one out. He was very lucky that Chris Winder couldn’t get a bunt down. He weakly stabbed at a diving two-seamer, and was way out in front of a four-seamer after the manger took the bunt off. It was hit sharply to Duffy, and the Cats got the lead runner on a 5-2-6 pickle, and the next batter flew out to right uneventfully. His command was about average, and his velocity is where we’ve seen it all summer: 92-94 MPH on both the two and four seam varieties of his fastball.

Cats’ Defensive Performance:
I can’t say that Walter’s command was anything spectacular, but the passed ball was a pitch Miles should have handled easily. He reached across his body to catch a pitch on the outside corner, and closed his glove too soon. It’d be nice to see him shift his weight and get his chest in front of the ball, but he looks as though he lacks the instinct of  which direction he should be lunging as he drops to his knees. He did catch a guy for a successful strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play, but if he was just a little more limber he could have saved a wild pitch. These are things that would matter more in losses, but it’s just so glaring that he’s uncomfortable behind the plate that you just can’t help but notice it.

Miggy Arrendell played second in this game, and he had quick hands turning a 4-6-3 DP on a sharply hit ground ball. He looks good at both middle-infield spots.

I love Nieko Johnson, and I expect him to advance through the system as quickly as Hector Rodriguez. He’s another guy that always contributes wherever he’s slotted in the field, and he’s extremely energetic. He played college ball with Dat Dude Brandon Phillips, and I’d say he has the potential to be as impactful. He’s certainly got the personality to be a guy that’s out in front of a club, let’s see if his talent holds up as he advances. To be clear, I don’t have any reason to doubt that it will, but you just don’t know with guys in A ball.

Cat’s Offensive Performance:
In stark contrast to the first game, the ValleyCats had only two men that reached second base. Both were stranded, leaving the Cats 0-2 with runners in scoring position. You may be asking at this point, “If only two reached second, and neither were driven in, how did they win 2-1?”

That’s an excellent question! It was very sloppy defense on the part of the Renegades. Jacke Healey led off the bottom of the third with a sold grounder through the left side, and Neiko followed up with another grounder up the middle. Jacke was caught dead-to-rights stealing third, but Halloway’s throw went into left past the third baseman. Jacke got up and came home and Neiko advanced to second. As the ball rolled toward the outfielder, Guillen, he overran and slipped letting the ball go through his legs.

I scored it as a SB for Jacke, E2 to let him score and to allow Neiko to reach second, E7 to account for Neiko getting to third and successively home. I couldn’t enter it into my phone that way, but that’s how it’s going down in my mind.

Neiko had three great at bats, a six pitch F8 (that would have gone out if he hit it to one of the corners), a single and a double.

Rafy’s a double-hitting machine, getting another –his sixth in the last four games– in a 1-3 effort.

Always have to give props to my man Jacke when he gets a hit, and he was 1-2 tonight with a run scored. Two-game hitting streak, baby! C’mon Jacke, keep it going!

In Closing:
This was about as close to a perfect day of baseball as you can get. Had an absolute great time at the park today, and can’t wait for the next two games over the weekend! Let’s go, Cats!