Saturday, November 19, 2011

11/19/11 Salt River Rafters 9, Surprise Saguaros 3

Scottsdale Stadium, Scottsdale, AZ
Arizona Fall League Championship Game

It’s a great day in Arizona every day during the Arizona Fall League season, but in the championship game this year, it was all Arizona…Arizona Diamondbacks, that is… This is Diamondbacks prospect David Nick, who went 4-for-4 with a HR for the Salt River Rafters in their Military Appreciation game victory over the Mesa Solar Sox on November 11 (scoresheet coming soon!).

The Rafters featured not one, but two Diamondbacks prospects in their pitching tonight; add Nick and fellow D-back Adam Eaton to their lineup and for this game at least, you’ve got a lock.

Brewer took the mound against Marlins prospect Alex Sanabia, whose only transgression was a 2-run 2nd inning and a solo HR for Nolan Arenado in the top of the 3rd. Brewer, on the other hand, yielded a 2-run tater with nobody out to my favorite Panamaian Christian Bethancourt. After 4 innings, Sanabia was lifted for hard-throwing Adam Liberatore and Brewer was replaced by Diamondbacks prospects Adam Woodall (2IP, 0H, 0R, 1K) and Kevin Munson (02.IP, 0H, 0R, 1K).

The Rafters had a barely comfortable 1-run lead to begin the top of the 7th, when the ball went to Jeremy Jeffress. I was happy to see him in the Rising Stars Game, but after all he’s been through…this wasn’t his best outing. He face 5 batters, only recorded one out, allowed 2H, 4R, 1BB and 1 wild pitch. In doing so, the Saguaros train was derailed and the Rafters earned nothing less than a modest victory.

The surprise for me (no AFL pun intended) was David Nick. The Military Appreciation game was the first I’ve heard of him, and now I’m very intrigued. He’s not an OPS beast per se, but he’s had a great run so far in 3 seasons of Minor League ball (.751 OPS in Missoula (Pioneer League), South Bend (Midwest League), and Visalia (California League)). With Visalia in 2011, in 132 games he struck out 80 times, hit for 253 total bases, and walked 30 times. By comparison, in South Bend the previous year he struck out 97 times, hit for 181 total bases, and walked 41 times. His performance has been fairly consistent, as in 2011 AFL his OPS was .756, with a modest 34 total bases in 22 games. He’s no Bryce Harper or Wil Meyers, but these numbers are comparable to the AFL stats of high-profile prospects such as Nick Franklin and Mike Trout (ahem!). David Nick is not stud prospect material (you probably won’t see him in any top 10 lists), but at 21 years old, he seems to have some spark and potential, and hey…he’s fun to watch on the field, which is an all-around win for fans like me.

SCOREKEEPER’S NOTE: Let’s talk about Fielder’s Choice plays with NO PUT OUTS!
From the rules, 2.00 “Terms and Definitions”:
FIELDER’S CHOICE is the act of a fielder who handles a fair grounder and,instead of throwing to first base to put out the batter-runner, throws to another base in an attempt to put out a preceding runner. The term is also used by scorers (a) to account for the advance of the batter-runner who takes one or more extra bases when the fielder who handles his safe hit attempts to put out a preceding runner; (b) to account for the advance of a runner (other than by stolen base or error) while a fielder is attempting to put out another runner; and (c) to account for the advance of a runner made solely because of the defensive team’s indifference (undefended steal).
A very common scorekeeping misconception for some is that a Fielder’s Choice play typically results in a put out…while this is true most of the time it certainly isn’t a “typical” situation. For me, the key element to consider in scoring a Fielder’s Choice play of any kind is that “fielder’s choice” is shorthand for “batter-runner reaches on a fielder’s choice,” anything else that occurs during the play or as a result of the play (a run scored, a PO, an error, etc) doesn’t determine the scoring of a Fielder’s Choice…the fact that the batter-runner reached a base and/or advanced is enough. For those who are new at scorekeeping, thinking in these terms makes the determination quick and easy as long as you consider that if a fielder exercises an option to make a play other than putting out the batter-runner, it’s a Fielder’s Choice, period.

In this game, we see two examples of a Fielder’s Choice play without a put-out; one of them is strictly textbook, the other not so much.

In the top of the 7th, with Adam Eaton on first, Jake Goebbert on third, and 1 out, Tim Wheeler hits a sharp grounder to Leury Garcia. Garcia fields the ball quickly and has 3 options:
• Field the ball to 1B, put out Wheeler, then Goebbert may score
• Field the ball to 2B, put out Eaton, then Goebbert may score
• Field the ball to C, put out Goebbert if he tries to score, or keep him at 3B to load the bases
The Rafters are only up by one, there’s only one out, and Jeffress hasn’t really started the meltdown on the mound that’s yet to come for him, so any of these options are viable as long as he can make the assist, which also assumes that the receiver can make the play. Garcia decides to prevent the run from scoring and fields the ball to Bethancourt. Unfortunately, Bethancourt doesn’t make the tag; Goebbert scores and nobody is out. This is a textbook “fielder’s choice, no PO” play. If you charge a batter for a groundout on a fielder’s choice when another baserunner is PO, you wouldn’t do it here since there is no out. The batter does get an RBI, and the run is earned by the pitcher.

An earlier Fielder’s Choice play with no PO in the top of the 2nd inning isn’t really a textbook example. Ben Paulsen is on second base, David Nick is on first; with 1 out Jason Castro hits a chopper to Leury Garcia. Garcia fields the ball a few steps away from the bag at 2nd and has a real opportunity to make the play unassisted at 2nd to force out Nick. He dives toward the bag, extends his arm painfully, but Nick reaches the bag as Garcia is unable to make the tag and Castro reaches first base on the play. I emphasize this to further illustrate the scoring thought process I elaborated on in the previous example. Novice scorekeepers may observe this play as, perhaps, a hit(*) for Castro; however, the way the ball is hit and the speed of the runners gives Garcia one option for a play with two outcomes, this is the “non-textbook” aspect of this play and how it’s scored. In the previous example there were more options and even more outcomes, so the Fielder’s Choice ruling is a bit clearer. Here, the fielder made a decision and the decision allows the batter-runner to reach base regardless of the outcome, as it were, without a PO. Think about it this way: if Garcia had made the tag successfully and Nick was out, it would still be a Fielder’s Choice…if Garcia had been more than a few steps away from the bag, probably deeper in the field, and didn’t have an unassisted play option, you would probably rule that a hit. If the ball wasn’t a chopper and was, for instance, a sharp ground ball that was fielded cleanly with enough time and space for Garcia to make the play and he couldn’t do so, then the situation is more arbitrary and based upon Garcia’s effort, you could rule a hit or even an error.

(*)Of course, as I’ve said before, this is your scoresheet, you can do whatever you want –especially if you are ruling on an error- but in this case, I strongly recommend that you consider the rules as they pertain to Fielder’s Choice. Ruling this a hit probably wouldn’t result in an appeal or something of that nature, but when an error isn’t a factor you want to make your best effort to be consistent in your interpretation of the rules in your ruling.

On my scoresheet, I made notes next to each player in the lineup as to what MLB parent organization they belonged to.

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