Tuesday, August 14, 2012

7/12/12 Gwinnett Braves 8, Louisville Bats 5

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 1 of 4

Hello, hello...it's $1 beer night and also the annual "meeting" of my church Men's Club at Louisville Slugger Field.  It's still bloody hot in Possibility City and with the past few weeks at work being as hectic as they have been, baseball and beers for a buck sound pretty damn good tonight...threatening rain and heat be damned, bring on Thursday Baseball!
Observation is key to my craft...the responsible score-keeper (amateur or professional) must be keen to subtle changes in situations.  It has been barely two weeks since I last attended a Bats game, but immediately I notice a significant change in the lineup as I arrive at the Overlook Patio and see a name familiar to me, but not to the Louisville team, on the lineup display: Didi Gregorius, batting 2nd and playing SS.

I also see Jose Constanza in the lineup for the Braves, he being the infamous bat-licker I glorified in a post last year.  Sure I'm still stunned to see Gregorius' name posted, but I make no secret to my comrades about Constanza's taste for burning wood.  Constanza only tags two balls foul tonight, one was a bunt attempt.  As for the other one, he did bring the bat to his nose and I'm positive he gave it a taste.
Today, July 12, 2012, Mariekson Julius "Didi" Gergorius is making his debut with the Louisville Bats.  Aside from having a great baseball name (h/t to my friend William Tasker for pointing this out last year on Twitter) Didi had a great 2011 season with the Reds organization, .289/.324/.429 in 84 games between the A+ Bakersfield Blaze and the AA Carolina Mudcats.  With the AA franchise shifting to the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in 2012, Gregorius stayed the course, .278/.344/.373 in 81 games before being called up to the Bats on July 10th.

Contrary to local press reports to date that speak of the Bats' defense "keeping them in games," I've bemoaned their poor defense a few times this season...most notably in this post.  Judging a team's defensive prowess solely based on 'lack of errors' is truly poor defensive projection mechanics.  Errors are purely at the discretion of the Official Scorer, and fielding metrics are not quantitative and/or qualitative enough to even scratch the surface of how a team is really doing on the field defensively.  Regardless of what strangely seasoned beat writers and even the team themselves feel about their defensive capabilities, one way to tell is to look at how starting pitchers are doing, how their misguided ERA performance metrics compare to where balls are being hit, and how much ground infielders and outfielders have to travel to get to those balls.  A key telling point of this: one of the Bats' most highly renowned 'highlight reels' this season is Kris Negron making a tremendous run and catch of a nearly impossible line drive.  These highlights are sexy, but from where I sit: if Negron had been where he should have been, that out would have been a whole lot easier to make.

Didi Gregorius is probably better known for his athleticism and defense than he is for his bat; he's capable of handling any infield position well but seems at home as a shortstop, and has what many scouts consider above-average range at the position, good hands, and a great throwing arm.  This is pretty much a guy with a great deal of upside, something the Reds don't need now (as long as Zack Cozart doesn't break his legs anytime soon) but would be a good trade chip, or fair replacement for Cozart should he go on the auction block.  For right now, the Bats need better defense (and better defensive positioning)...Gregorius' presence here should make a difference.  Defense aside, his left-handed bat brings it tonight, going 2-for-4 with 3TB and 2RBI, one of those from a SAC fly line drive to right-center field.

Despite Didi's presence tonight, the Braves take care of the Bats in edge-of-your-seat fashion, dealing Bats starter Tim Gustafson with 4ER in 4IP, an even clock with Braves starter Todd Redmond's 5R (4ER) in 5IP.  The Bats bullpen gives up the game nearly an inning at a time, with Carlos Fisher and Nick Christiani allowing a combined 2ER in 3IP to give the Braves a lead they will possess for the rest of the inning.  Donnie Joseph pitches a scoreless 8th, but Jordan Smith slams the door on any hopes of a comeback with a 3hit, 2 run 9th inning.  Luis Durango and (yes!) Lance Zawadzki drive in 5 runs and have 9TB between them; former Major League enigma Felix Pie drives in 1 run and has 4TB.  The Braves are 7-15 with RISP, the Bats are 4-10.  Of peculiar interest: the Braves strand 7 runners in scoring position with 2 outs (Pie is responsible for 3 alone), the Bats only strand 4.

There are other changes I notice during the game.  The official scorecard no longer features Danny Dorn, but instead Kristopher Negron.  Sure, this makes sense: Negron's highlight reel grab mentioned earlier, as well as his plus plus hair, make him a player that is quite popular here (but never as popular as Corky Miller).  However, in recent years the Bats have never 'switched' featured players on the official scorecard...even when Justin Lehr was featured and was summarily out for the season before it even began.  A quick review of the roster provides a few surprises in this respect...

Didi Gregorius' arrival wasn't the only one...he was here for a few games in May, but I completely missed Brian Peacock arriving in Louisville, being sent back down to Pensacola, and then returning to Louisville again.  He's not playing tonight, but the oft-injured erstwhile catcher (who also plays other esrtwhile positions as erstwhilically needed) proves to be a puzzling addition to this squad...as long as he stays healthy.  Also in Lousiville is Xavier Paul, a 4th round pick by the Dodgers in 2003.  Paul has been with 3 organizations, including the Dodgers, prior to his release by the Nationals on July 3rd of this year; 4 days later he signed as a free agent with the Reds.  Finally, here's Henry Rodriguez, a 22-year-old Venezuelan with 4 seasons of professional service for the Diamondbacks and the Reds.  Rodriguez finished 2011 with the AA Carolina Mudcats, and has spent time with the AZL Reds and AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos until getting called up to Louisville on 7/4/12.

The omissions from the roster (since 6/30/12) are more startling.

Danny Dorn: his absence from the official scorecard definitely means something now, his last game in Louisville was 6/29/12 (the day before my last visit here).  Dorn was granted his release by the Reds after 6 full seasons with the organization.  The 28 year old was a 32nd round pick in the 2006 draft, and despite being notorious for his righty/lefty splits and reasonable career .280/.362/.489 had fallen slightly below this mark since 2010 (when he posted a monster .302/.398/.545) and has never had a cup of coffee of any kind with the Reds.  5 days after today's game, he was picked up by the Tigers and will certainly be in the lineup for the IL Wset rivals Toledo Mud Hens in an upcoming series.  Dorn was a fan favorite here, but nothing the likes of which Corky Miller can boast.

Scott Carroll: ah, this one stings a little.  Scott has always been one of my favorite pitchers, but as a starter in 2011 posted a somewhat disappointing 7-8 record with a 5.39 ERA for the season, with a team that boasted much better practical defense than the current squad.  Scott made the change to relief appearances for Louisville this year, but was somewhat inconsistent and was released by the Reds on July 1st.  3 days after today's game, Scott was picked up by the White Sox and again, and could be a factor (or not) in an upcoming series with the Charlotte Knights.

Daryl Jones: I wrote about him after seeing him on opening day, his .187/.282/.363 in 27 games wasn't enough to keep the mustard warm for long and really, his release by the Reds isn't much of a surprise.  His star shined bright, very briefly, but this 3rd round pick in the 2005 draft was let go by the Cardinals after the 2011 season and couldn't get the shine back here.  As of this writing, Jones hasn't landed elsewhere yet.

Joey Gathright: last but not least, this Minor League roustabout has had some Major League playing time (452 games in 7 seasons with 4 different teams, including the Cubs and the Royals) but other than being able to leap over parked cars (inside joke falls flat) has never really pulled off anything short of a missed sensation for the various Major League, Minor League, and Independent League clubs he's played for in his 11 season professional career (including the infamous Yuma Scorpions in 2011).  He arrived in Louisville in late May after starting 2012 with the Bridgeport Bluefish, and after his release by the Reds he has returned there.  I'd be hard pressed to believe there are many organizations left ready to take a chance on Gathright.

Moving on, most readers know that I have a firm and steadfast requirement: if you are visiting Louisville and intend to take in a baseball game while you're in town and you DON'T let me know so that I can join you, I will be very angry.  Matt and Carolyn LaWell of A Minor League Season were in town (and celebrating their anniversary tonight) and were kind enough to stop by and see me and hang out from about the 3rd inning on.
Matt performed the ultimate score-keeper support duty and manned by scoresheet while I made a mandatory hygiene run during what was getting to be a crazy 9th inning.  It was great to meet them, and I would be a total miscreant if I didn't take a moment to urge you to check out their site and their amazing project, one that's keeping them busy enough to barely go mad.  The good news is they are young, and they've got the energy...and their stories are fantastic.  They were even kind enough to invite me to join them in Dayton later in the week, something I really regretted that I couldn't do.  Check them out, and do what you can to support their work!!  I'll get you started...here's a wonderful article about scorekeeping, quality stuffs!

My friend Ranny (who comes with me to games once in a while) caught a Dioner Navarro foul ball.  I love the smell of fresh foul balls, this one smelled excellent.
 I told him I could get it signed for him in a couple of days, as I had a game on the 14th...and I did!

The Mystery Rookie card game was interesting today; since I was with a large group (who, before the game, were with a larger group, all enjoying the discount beer special Thursdays are so well known for) I couldn't well afford to buy as many mystery packs that were required to play the game the right way.  Instead, I opted to pick up 3, and get two volunteers at the Overlook to play the game with me.  This would make trading a little more exciting, and with more possibilities.  I can't recall who my original pick was, but somehow (maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the beer flowing at a dollar-bill pace) I managed to trade my forgettable mystery pick for this 2007 Topps Turkey Red Billy Butler RC.

My friend Tony decided he didn't want his pick, this 2006 Upper Deck Andrew Brown RC, so he gave it to me.
Andrew Brown, 6th round pick for the Atlanta Braves in 1999, is pictured here as a Cleveland Indian in 2006, his 3rd and final season with the Indians organization.  Brown spent 2000 injured and was spun by the Braves in 2001.  After 2-1/2 seasons with the Dodgers, Cleveland picked him up.  He was a Padre to start the 2007 season, and ended it with the Athletics, where he stayed until 2008.  He made Minor League appearances for the Nationals and the Cardinals in 2010, his last blip on the Baseball-Reference radar.  Between 2006 and 2008 he pitched in 73 MLB games (as a starter for Cleveland and a reliever, often closing, for Oakland).

During the game, Ranny joined me and had 2 more mystery packs.  This is a fun game, people love it!  Ranny picked this stunning 2005 Upper Deck First Pitch Justin Germano RC.  Not really a stunning pick at first, but only a few days later, Germano was picked up by the Cubs!!

My pick was a good one...last year when Ranny was at a game with me, he lucked out on a Ken Griffey Jr RC; I lucked out on this 1994 Upper Deck Electric Diamond Manny Ramirez.  Sticker says "5 bucks," I say "HIGH FIVES"!!
So fresh, so clean!

Official Program #3, featuring Kristopher Negron

Official Scorecard, also featuring Kristopher Negron and NOT Danny Dorn, and Bat Chat


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