Tuesday, May 8, 2012

5/7/12 Norfolk Tides 4, Louisville Bats 2

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 1 of 4

I was excited at my first chance to see Jeff Francis in Louisville this season, but this almost didn’t happen…the weather forecast was pretty darn nasty looking, with a 100% chance for thunderstorms right about the time of first pitch threatening. My wife, being the good sport she is, decided we should brave the possibility for a rain delay just the same, so we solidered on. The good news: the thunderstorms did come (we could see them across the river) but never threatened the game at all. The other news: Jeff Francis, he of “future greatness” several years ago, is still working on a few things.
So really, is Jeff Francis not his old self anymore, or was his old self that great to begin with? I’ve only really followed him since he became a Royal last season, and while I fell in love with his “stuff,” the fact of the matter is, he wasn’t much help for the Royals last year, and is now working out in AAA Louisville for the Reds

Not saying the Reds don’t need any help in pitching, but is Jeff Francis the answer? Is age catching up to him, or is his ability to miss bats getting there first?

Well, hang on just a second…Jeff Francis may be 2-3 so far this season for a Louisville squad that is at the bottom of their division with a 10-21 record, but you know what…tonight he looked pretty damn good, for the most part. Here’s a breakdown of his work this evening:
Other than a rough 3rd inning, he faced no more than 4 batters (faced 3 batters in 4 innings), induced 8 groundball outs, struck out 6 and only walked one. So what happened in the 3rd inning?

He gave up base hits to Joe Mahoney and Jai Miller to start, those were liners and grounders, respectively, hit to places just beyond the infield where there were no defenders; Mahoney’s shot went a bit deeper, yet still playable. Blake Davis struck out swinging next, then 2 more back-to-back soft liners towards right-and left-center field, both places “where they ain’t,” as Wee Willie Keeler would say. Another sharply hit grounder thru the gap between short and second and 2 runs had scored with one out. Bill Hall pops out weakly to Kris Negron in foul territory, then catcher Chris Robinson walks in a run in 5 pitches. DH Ryan Adams flies out to deep left-center to end the inning.

For the sake of argument, Francis was in trouble when the rookie defenders weren’t where they should have been; I’ll give some credit to the Tides for finding Francis’ pitches with their bats when they needed to, but in the world of nascent defensive metrics, you can’t ignore the fact that with better position play, at a minimum the shots fired by Avery and Antonelli would have been quick outs. This is stuff you can never see in box scores.

Francis’ FIP in this game was 4.63, a few ticks down from his 5.14 game ERA. Throughout his Major League career, Francis has been as high as 5.29 and as low as 3.88 in FIP. For the Bats this season, his FIP is 2.62 (ERA 3.96). So, that can’t really be the entire issue, can it?

I really don’t know what Jeff Francis needs to do to miss more bats, and I also really don’t know why I’m always drawn to pitchers like he, where the talent and application is there, but something just isn’t right. Whatever the issue, I’m not confident that the Reds can help him solve it.

That being said…BilLOL HalLOL.

Photos from the Game:

Bats LHP Jeff Francis

1st Inning:
Tides 2B Matt Antonelli faces Jeff Francis

Tides 3B Bill Hall (Major League veteran: 0-for-4, 2K, LIDP and a popout to 2B in foul territory) wobbles on deck

Bats 3B Chris Valaika faces Tides LHP Dana Eveland

Bats CF Denis Phipps faces Eveland
Dana Eveland on the mound
Phipps lines out to Tides CF Xavier Avery

2nd Inning:
Bill Hall “looking” vs. Jeff Francis

Bats RF Bill Rhinehart (3-for-3, stranded each time) faces Eveland

Bats SS Miguel Rojas (0-for-3, 3 LOB) faces Eveland
Rojas fouls one back…
Rojas lines out to Avery to end the inning, stranding 2.

3rd Inning:
Tides RF Jai Miller vs. Francis

Tides SS Blake Davis vs. Francis, 2 on and 2 out
Swingandamiss, he got ‘im!!

Matt Antonelli, bases loaded and 1 out

Ladies and Gentlemen: Corky Miller!!

6th Inning:
Bats 1B Neftali Soto faces RHP Brad Bergesen

7th Inning:
Jeff Francis: the wind-up and the throw…
(this picture is blurry, but it’s still very KOOL)
Francis checks Blake Davis at 2B

Xavier Avery vs. Jeff Francis

Matt Antonelli grounds out, SS Miguel Rojas to 2B Kristopher Negron to end the Tides’ 7th, stranding Davis

Brad Bergesen on the mound

8th Inning:
Bats RHP Scott Carroll, in relief

Tides RHP Miguel Gonzalez relieves Bergesen

9th Inning:
Bats LHP Travis Webb gets the ball in the 9th

Neftali Soto faces Gonzalez with 1 out

I was disheartened to find the Slugger Monkey stand only had 1 mystery baseball rookie pack, so my wife and I both couldn’t play the mystery rookie card game. I bought that one, and was further disheartened to find I drew a Hong-Chih Kuo RC.

Official Program, featuring new manager David Bell on the cover

Official Scorecard (with Danny Dorn) and Bat Chat

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