Monday, December 31, 2012

A Look Back at 2012, and a Glimpse Forward...

As 2012 comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment and thank everybody who's been reading this blog, as well as my work at Big Leagues Monthly, for all of your support.  This has been quite a year for me, as a writer, in more ways than one.

Towards the end of 2011, as part of a personal development exercise, I made a conscious decision to work harder and more cohesively towards improving my baseball writing not only on this blog, but beyond.  I'm more than pleased at how this commitment led to new opportunities and personal growth in 2012.

I made a sincere effort to improve content on this blog, and in doing so opened the doors to opportunities for writing outside of this blog.  Specifically, my collaboration with Jim Pratt and Big Leagues Monthly emerged as just the channel I was looking for, just the right type of person with the kind of vision I was hoping to participate in.  Jim helped me immensely with my goal, helping me develop my skills beyond blogging and further into the realms I had only hoped I would encounter as a writer.

I look forward to continuing my collaboration with Jim and his staff, as Big Leagues Monthly becomes Big League Magazine, and we collectively take another step forward with this excellent concept into the new year.  As always, I invite all of my readers to continue your support of BLM through 2013 and beyond.

Here's a summarized recap, with links to URLs as well as alternate links to copies on my Google Drive repository, of the pieces I've written for BLM this year.  Thanks again, Happy New Year to everyone, and be on the lookout for the BLM Season Preview, coming soon!!

The December issue of Big Leagues Magazine is still "live" at the time of this writing, please check it out now...I have two pieces featured, one on Brandon McCarthy (pg.28) and one of my personal favorites so far, a revisit of Nate Silver's Closer Efficiency Index (pg. 52).

"How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Post-Post-Steroid Era" (Big Leagues Monthly Magazine, August 2012)
My debut at BLM, where I investigate the "Post-Post-Steroid Era," no-hitters, and pitcher injuries; features a Q&A with Will Carroll.

"The Curious Case of Pedro Alvarez..." (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, August 22, 2012)-Alternate Link
Fun times with Pedro Alvarez and his bizarre day/night splits.

"Have the Royals Really Been 'Yosted'?" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, August 28, 2012)-Alternate Link
Run differential and Ned Yost's success (or failure) with the Royals.

"Playoff Risk Mitigation: Are The Nationals Concerned About Jordan Zimmermann?" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, September 4, 2012)-Alternate Link
After the Strasburg shutdown, Jordan Zimmermann suddenly went "meh"...was this a big red flag for the Nationals?

"2012 Draft Pick Steven 'Paco' Rodriguez Makes His MLB Debut" (Big Leagues Monthly Magazine, September 2012)
Draft Picks typically don't make their MLB debut the same year they are selected, here's a little bit about "Paco" as he becomes the only draftee of his class to have a cup of coffee in 2012.

"Aroldis Chapman: The Cuban Missile Crisis" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, September 14, 2012)-Alternate Link
Here, I break my silence on Aroldis Chapman...

"The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Taste of a Winning Season" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, September 18, 2012)-Alternate Link
The Pirates were this close to breaking one of the most humbling streaks in professional sports...what did this mean to them, and to their fans?

"Previewing the NL Wild Card Race" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, September 24, 2012)-Alternate Link

"Previewing This Weekend's NL Wild Card Race" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, September 28, 2012)-Alternate Link

"One NL Wild Card Spot Left, Final Series Preview" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, October 1, 2012)-Alternate Link

"Max Scherzer's Breakout Season Is Here: Who Saw This Coming?" (Big Leagues Monthly Magazine, October 2012)
What I didn't know: Max Scherzer was one of the best pitchers in Baseball heading into October; here's the story behind his breakout season.

"Nationals Hope Home Field is an Advantage in Game 3 vs. Cardinals" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, October 9, 2012)-Alternate Link

"Giants Sweep the Reds On the Road to Advance to NLCS" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, October 12, 2012)-Alternate Link

"NLCS Heads to St. Louis Tied 1-1" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, October 16, 2012)-Alternate Link

"The Demise of Defense" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, October 23, 2012)-Alternate Link
A whimsical review of what went wrong for the Cardinals.

"Baseball Predictions: The Good, The Bad, and the Bob Nightengale" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, October 30, 2012)-Alternate Link
Bob Nightengale's voice changes in light of his World Series prediction, in a most unusual way...

"Of WAR and wRC: Has Michael Young Lost His Groove?" (Big Leagues Monthly Magazine, November 2012)
What happened (or didn't happen) to Michael Young in 2012.

"An End to American League Superiority?" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, November 7, 2012-Alternate Link
After the 2012 World Series, a lot of folks thought "Well, so much for American League superiority..." as it stands, this may not be the case.

"Is Ending the September Expansion of Rosters Really Such a Good Idea?" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, November 14, 2012)-Alternate Link
A little known suggested rule change could have serious ramifications...

"Debunking the Melkman Myth: What We Don't Know About PEDs and Free Agent Value" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, November 27, 2012)-Alternate Link
A lot of folks thought a PED suspension would hinder a certain player's free agent value...harumph harumph!

"The 2012 Winter Meetings: No Parking On The Dance Floor" (Big Leagues Monthly Daily Edition, December 5, 2012)-Alternate Link
Recapping the first 2 days of the 2012 Winter Meetings

Sunday, December 30, 2012

10/28/12 San Francisco Giants 4, Detroit Tigers 3

Comerica Park, Detroit, MI
World Series Game 4

The winning run, scored by Ryan Theriot, the CYLON.

Head-to-head nuclear starting pitcher combat.  Blistering blast beat infield defense.  Turgid baseball antics.

...and postseason extra-innings mayhem.  Maybe a World Series sweep isn't that sexy, but ending the World Series in extra innings under these circumstances probably is.

I took Bob Nightengale's unusual World Series predictions over my knee in this piece I wrote for Big Leagues Monthly on October 30, 2012.  Lots of chuckles.

The hashmarks at the bottom of each set of PA columns (right above the pitch totals) are one of several strategies I used to track first pitch of early 2013, I've figured out a better way to do this, and I posted my method HERE so please go check that out.

 Giants win the World Series 4-0.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

10/25/12 Detroit Tigers 0, San Francisco Giants 2

AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA
World Series Game 2

Sorry, Prince Fielder.
That's the first ever 7-4-2 put-out in World Series history.

Giants lead the series 2-0

10/24/12 Detroit Tigers 3, San Francisco Giants 8

AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA
World Series Game 1




Giants lead the series 1-0

Friday, December 28, 2012

8/29/12 Columbus Clippers 4, Louisville Bats 2

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 2 of 2

It's our last game of the season, as I bring both Chihiro and Kei to Slugger Field by redeeming a pair of unused season tickets and splurging for an extra seat, all in the lawn section, where I enjoy sitting from time to time.  The Columbus Clippers are back in town, we saw them here last week as they fell to the wayward Bats 10-7.  Tonight, as we make our way around the concourse and the starting lineups are being posted, I notice a familiar face on the Pepsi Vision jumbotron...a friendly, smiling face staring down at us, larger than life, pictured in his Padres cap...that face belonged to Aaron Cunningham; it was this very same shot:
Yes, Aaron was a Padre...but not anymore.  I had lost track of him, and was genuinely shocked to see his face way up there.  As we took our seats and I shriveled with glee over Cunningham in the lineup, my girls wanted to know why I was so excited...beyond the fact that he was a Padre, that is.  They aren't really much into statistics, but in Cunningham's case, that story isn't a good one.  

As the game ensues, and Cunningham prepares for his first plate appearance in the 3rd (the game is still scoreless), I've reviewed Cunningham's numbers and my daughter Kei notices by abject cringing.  Sure, hew was a Padre, and gave that his best shot, but he batted .243/.301/.396 in 2 years and 105 games in 2010-2011...his 2011 season alone he posted a dismal .178/.257/.367 in 52 games, and was pretty much on his way elsewhere when he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in late 2011 for Cory Burns.  Cunningham spent the better part of 2012 with the Indians, again choking at the plate to the tune of .175/.245/.247 in 72 games, heading to the Clippers to clear a roster spot in late July.  As of tonight's game, he's not doing any better, hitting .135/.237/.173 in 16 games.  

As I'm explaining OBP, SLG, and OPS to Kei (and trying to think of some other way to defend my adoration of Cunningham other than his lowly OPS), Cunningham is working Bats SP Pedro Villareal into a full-count.  On the 6th pitch, Cunningham connects for a lofty HR to left-center, one that fell in the left-field boxes, only a few feet from where we were sitting.  One more ricochet off of an empty seat, and we would have had a serious chance at catching that ball.

It was more than interesting that this event occurred just as I was using Cunningham's performance of record to not only explain why he was batting 9th in the lineup, but also to explain why nobody could count on him to do anything outrageous tonight.  As to further send my review and dissertation of his tendencies to my daughter, he promoted his feats at the plate by eventually nearly hitting for the cycle, a triple shy of doing so. He was not eligible for this opportunity as he approached the plate in the top of the 9th, with one on and no outs, and was instructed to bunt...which he effectively did.

Certainly tonight's performance isn't going to signal a turnaround for the 26-year-old, who needs to find something to grow on very soon or else his career will be in greater jeopardy...but for a guy like this, tonight was definitively a game he could truly hang his hat on.  As for me, it justified in many ways why I really really adore some players, even if their numbers don't add up to anything more than a bomb and a few goose eggs.

During the 5th inning, we noticed many empty seats in our usual spot in the upper deck, so the girls persuaded me to pack up and move on up there to join our friend Jimmy for the rest of the game.  Foul balls were literally raining in our section, and a lot of souvenirs made a lot of folks happy.  Jimmy was kind enough to share some of the great photos he's been taking with me, here are a couple from this game.

Denis Phipps in the 1st inning, as he cracks a lead-off double to left field.  Photo by Jimmy Bessar.

Didi Gregorius strikes out swinging.  Photo by Jimmy Bessar.

It's worth mentioning that I was lucky enough to see Loek Van Mil pitch an inning for the Clippers.  At 7' 1" he is the tallest player in professional baseball, right now...or so I'm told.

We all played the Mystery Rookie Card game, of course.  My pick was a dud, this 2008 Topps Chin-Ling Hu RC.  Chihiro picked another one of his cards earlier in the season, I kinda teased her a little about I suppose this is payback. 

Chihiro picked this 2006 Bowman Mike Pelfrey RC.  Sweet.

Kei has a prime component of the Rookie Card game worked out...I always let my guests pick first, and Kei knows not to pick by color, but by weight.  She nailed a bonus, first of all, this 2007 Bowman Dennis Dove RC.  Dove was a 3rd round draft pick in 2003 by the St Louis Cardinals, and spent 5 seasons in their Minor League system with a 14-24 record and 4.54 ERA before getting called up to the Majors after the tragic death of Josh Hancock in an auto accident.  Dove needed something better than his two pitches to succeed, but never found them in time before injuries sidelined him, appearing in only 3 games and accruing a blistering ERA of 15.00; the Cardinals optioned him back to AAA at the end of the season and he hasn't pitched professionally since.

Kei's bonus card in her envelope was this 2007 Topps Carlos Guillen AL All-Star Copper Parallel, number 14 of 56, with a book value of $6 or so.  She wouldn't trade this for my Chin-Lung Hu card...I think she's on to me.

Fun times, fun season...despite the failings of the Bats.  Thanks again to Jimmy for sharing the photos!

Official Program #4, featuring Didi Gregorius...still misspelled, inside and out. 

Official Scorecard #3, featuring Corky Miller, and autographed by Corky Miller.

Bat Chat and Gameday Stats (never mind they meant nothing to Aaron Cunningham tonight)

8/27/12 Atlanta Braves 0, San Diego Padres 3

Petco Park San Diego, CA
Game 1 of 3

When I heard that Casey Kelly was scheduled to make his long-awaited debut with the Padres tonight, I cancelled the rest of my pressing affairs and stayed up late to watch this event.  As San Diego looks to win their 8th straight game, my expectations were high...even though they were facing the Braves and one of my favorite pitchers, Paul Maholm.
I would not be disappointed...Kelly showed up ready to go, and summarily blew me away.

There was little doubt how good Kelly was going to be; as a key part of the trade in late 2010 that sent Padres hero Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox, he spent all of 2011 with the AA San Antonio Missions, compiling an 11-6 record with a 3.98 ERA in 27 games...a nice bounce-back from his 3-5 5.31 ERA season with Boston AA affiliate Portland Sea Dogs in 2010.  At 22 years old, he's still got a great deal of development to go; perhaps he's not Major League-ready yet, had battled right elbow inflammation to start the 2012 season in AAA Tucson that saw him miss some service time through most of July.  All the same, in 8 games between the rookie league AZL Padres and the AA Missions, he compiled a 0-2 record, 3.35 ERA, and saw his WHIP dip below 1 for the first time since his single A days with the Red Sox organization.

Kelly held it all together and showed anything but a hint of questionable promise as a future starting pitcher, and had some help from Yasmani Grandal along the way.  Maholm held the rest of the Padres handcuffed as he couldn't afford anyone other than Grandal to emerge from the gate, but the Padres prevailed, with Kelly and the bullpen keeping the Braves scoreless and earning his first MLB Win.

8/26/12 Colorado Rockies 0, Chicago Cubs 5

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Game 3 of 3

IF you would have told me that today would be the day that Chris Volstad would WIN and Shawn Camp would earn a SAVE, I would have then showered you with beer and popcorn in retaliation.
OK, so today is the day, then.

Volstad notched his FIRST win of the season (after 9 losses in 13 starts) and Camp earned his SECOND save...even as the game was called in the top of the ninth due to rain.

I thought this game would be more memorable for other reasons...I started with Gameday Audio, noticed a banner advertising MLB.TV Premium subscriptions for $10 (to celebrate the 10th anniversary of MLB.TV), and took up on that offer by the end of the 2nd inning, watching WGN-TV in glory on my laptop in the backyard.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Catching up on 2011 games...

I stumbled upon a handful of scoresheets for games from 2011 (3 from May, 1 from June) that I hadn't posted yet, so without further ado, here they are.  Expect light write-ups.  I think I tried to forget one of these games on purpose...ohh, Doug Davis.

5/24/11 New York Mets 1, Chicago Cubs 11

5/26/11 New York Mets 2, Chicago Cubs 9

5/27/11 Pittsburgh Pirates 4, Chicago Cubs 2

6/30/11 San Francisco Giants 2, Chicago Cubs 5

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

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