Tuesday, April 15, 2014

4/15/2014 Toledo Mud Hens 2, Louisville Bats 5

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 3 of 3

My first Bats game of the year, and a game I'll always remember as the COLDEST baseball game I've ever attended...thoroughly beating the record previously held by my 40th birthday visit to Wrigley Field of mid-April 2007.

The paid attendance was announced as 4,634...however, there couldn't have been any more than 1,000 bodies at the game, and this number dwindled as early as the 2nd inning. It was 40 degrees with a mild wind in the full sun at first pitch; when the sun began to set an hour or so later, I started to think about how nice it would be in a couple of months when this place will be a sauna...
My daughter Kei and I did our best to make the most of it; we seriously bundled up for the game, and were hoping we'd fend off the extreme chill. This photo speaks only to my joy at attending my first game of the season, keeping score, and admiring the bunting that had blown inside the ledge of the upper deck.

Sean Marshall was here tonight, making a rehab start that was anticipated to only last an inning or so. Here he is warming up...while the rest of us were freezing. Look at all the frigid, yet empty seats.

Despite the fact that the Bats managed to avoid any extra base hits, their big inning in the 3rd against Toledo Mud Hens LHP Kyle Lobstein gave them an early lead, and an eventually insurmountable one for the Mud Hens.

As I donned my GLOVES to continue keeping score, Nate Robertson came on in relief of Lobstein after that inning. Heck, I just LOVE Nate Robertson...but I can't explain why. Whatever the reason, he's back with the Detroit Tigers organization for the first time since 2009.
I fondly remember Nate the most for a Fox Sports Florida commentator assessment of his performance during this 2010 Florida Marlins game:
    RICH WALTZ: "He (Robertson) has a good work ethic..."
    TOMMY HUTTON: "Well, he needs to work his way out of this!"

Kei and I did out best to brave the cold for the entire game, but it wasn't meant to be. She asked if we could leave after the 6th inning, and I was glad that she did. She felt bad about it, but I assured her that I was sincerely hoping she'd let me know when she was ready to go, because my fingers were starting to not respond to the commands from my brain.
Perhaps my reception for Nate Robertson was so pleasant because our mood was so absolutely less than pleasant at the time.

Now it's time for the Mystery Rookie Card game. In case you missed it before, the game is simple. Matt of Slugger Monkey has a stand at LSF and is there for every single game. He sells $1 Mystery Rookie packs for each sport; I buy two baseball rookies - one for me and one for my guest. Each pack has a Rookie Card, the identity of the card is obscured by the colored paper the card is packaged in. I allow my guest to pick their card, and before the game we unwrap them and see who we got; if there isn't a price tag on the card it's worth a buck (or less), if there is a price tag on the card, that's the card's book value. The only rule to the game is: since I'm springing for the cards, I expect a fair opportunity to trade. Other than that, the "game" is...check out the cards, and talk about them before the game!

For our inaugural Mystery Rookie Card game of the season, I picked this 2004 Fleer Ultra #373, featuring a...gasp...Yankee that I've never even heard of before, Houston, TX native Brad Halsey.
On the back of the card, we are told that Halsey "became a serious prospect in 2003...the lefty control artist had a 3:1 whiff/walk ratio in three Minor League seasons." Well, enough of a prospect to be part of the January 2005 trade that sent Halsey, Dioner Navarro, Javier Vazquez, and cash from the Yankees to the Diamondbacks for none other than Randy Johnson. Halsey spent the rest of that season on the D-backs roster , posting an 8-12 record and 4.61 ERA in 26 starts. We was passed on to Oakland in exchange for Juan Cruz early the following year, appearing in 52 games but only 7 as a starter. He began the 2007 season at AAA Sacramento and missed a return to Oakland over a squabble about his health that also involved Rich Harden and Dallas Braden. His season ended with shoulder surgery in July of that year and was released in early 2008. After a month-plus minor league contract with the Dodgers came and went, Halsey spent 2009-2010 playing Independent ball. He returned to the Yankees system for a few months in 2011, as a 30-year-old, and has since vanished without a trace. Rearrange the names, dates, and teams and this is a fairly common career path that always manages to throw that TINSTAPP thing right back at ya.

Kei's pick was as much of a mystery as mine...this 2007 Bowman Chrome #BC56 featuring another Texas pitcher, Brian Henderson. Pretty much the same old story here, except for the fact that Henderson never made an MLB appearance throughout his career. 
He looks pretty cheerful in his Tampa Bay Devil Rays gear, and he has a right to be...on the back of the card we are thrilled by his exploits, namely earning a spot in the 2006 Arizona Fall League and how he helped the AA Montgomery Biscuits to a Southern League title "by allowing only 2 HR in 50 innings." Go ahead and cue the sad violins now; he labored in AA ball with Montgomery for the majority of 5 seasons, with only a brief stint at AAA Durham in 2008. The Rays organization ran out of gas for Henderson, who spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons with the Atlantic League Somerset Patriots. As a 28-year-old, he was heralded by Ryan Dunleavy for his potential "beyond (the) baseball diamond" in this May 2010 blog post. The potential referred to was, unsurprisingly, intelligence. In other words, after 2010 one wonders if Henderson's decision to give up baseball was an intelligent one. Or not.

My scoresheets, using my new pitch-counting method! Read about it HERE, download the scoresheets for free HERE!

Official Program (featuring Corky Miller) and Scorecard

Ticket (Jumbo Diaz)

Bat Chat and Gameday Stats

If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

Monday, April 14, 2014

For Those Of You Scoring At Home: Counting Pitches - Part Three

This is a continuous series of posts where I share some intermediate-to-advanced scorekeeping methods and tips.  The assumption here is that you’ve already made it through “Scorekeeping 101” and are working out ways to improve your skills and expand your enthusiasm for scorekeeping.  I’m also assuming you are using the current version of my customized scoresheet, which you can download for FREE, as I will use it for all of these examples unless otherwise specified.  Get your pencil ready, the game is about to start!

In Part One of this series, I demonstrated my methodology (and notation) for tracking pitches during a game using the current version of my customized scoresheet (you can download it for FREE right here).  In Part Two, I expanded upon this system to reveal my own method for using the same (or similar) notation to track the order of those pitches quickly, easily, and effectively. Before we go any further, it’s important that you revisit what was detailed in both of those posts, as I’m going to build on that for this final topic in the epic “Counting Pitches” trilogy…how to keep track of who’s pitching and to whom, and how to use the notation to tally their respective pitches on the scoresheet.
Wouldn’t life be simpler if, as in the olden days of yesteryear, a pitcher just stayed in the entire game and finish the job he started? Sure it would, but those days are so gone, we can’t even fathom what they were like…even among the geezerest of us all.  As the pitches throughout the game are being tracked with the notation system, part of the purpose of all of this documentation is to have a record of something above and beyond who pitched when. I want to look at a finished scoresheet and deduce, without unnecessary brain-cramp, when they pitched, who they faced, and of course, how many pitches – particularly, how many total pitches and how many of those pitches were strikes.

First of all, let’s revisit the area of the scoresheet in which I track the pitches (and the order of those pitches, if we are so inclined)…the “pitch boxes” found in each Plate Appearance Box; “balls” upstairs, “strikes” downstairs:

Also, if you will recall in Counting Pitches Part One, at the end of that post I briefly touched upon the methodology of counting the pitches, and provided an example of how this happened and where it goes on the scoresheet:
It was here that I first touched on the method of counting the marks in the “pitch box” area, plus what happens (the result of the PA) in the Plate Appearance box. For a 4-pitch walk, I’ll count the 3 notations in the “ball boxes” plus the final notation of “BB” as the fourth pitch; for an 0-2 home run, the 2 notations in the “strike boxes” plus the final notation of HR totals 3 pitches.

The main point in this example, is that the total pitches for each inning are perpetually additive, so where the pitch count in the first inning was 18-13 (18 pitches, 13 strikes) there were 14 pitches, 9 strikes in the 2nd inning making the total recorded as 32-22 (which is 18 pitches + 14 pitches = 32 total pitches, and 13 strikes + 9 strikes = 22 total strikes). I also pointed out that regarding the balls in play that aren’t in or near the boxes that I’ve been counting as strikes, including the called strike 3 (or swinging strike 3, or ‘foul-tip-to-mitt-caught-for-strike-three,’ there is another type of pitch not recorded in or near those boxes that isn’t in play and still needs to be counted.  That type, of course, is a ball…and it usually happens on the 4th ball of a walk (BB) or the ball that hits a batter (HP), even if one thinks that ball was a strike.

I’m not trying to beat this to death, but to me, counting inning-by-inning pitch counts in this manner is really important.  After a few innings of only recording totals for each inning only, you’ll need a calculator to understand what’s going on.  Doing it this way, you know how many total pitches have been thrown in 3 innings ‘just like that,’ and you can still tell the difference between one inning and another ‘on the fly’ (without a calculator), letting the fella sitting next to you at the game know “Verlander threw 38 pitches in that inning, only 14 in the previous inning” – even if that fella doesn’t give a darn about that.  For better reasons than that, when that pitcher is finished, his totals (pitches, strikes) are pretty much totaled up, without a calculator (which can spoil a good time at the game, you know).

Here’s the area on the scoresheet where the pitch counts are documented, there’s a big red arrow pointing right to it.  In the first inning (and more often than not, for a few innings afterward) the starting pitcher is on the mound.  Sure, that’s a very broad assumption, and one that dips into the realm of the “blinding flash of the obvious,” but stay with me on this:
I’ve also circled the spot where the pitcher’s jersey number is recorded.  Again, that’s not super important now, in regards to the starting pitcher, but it will be for those who relieve him.

Let’s go ahead and set up a game so I can start recording some of this.  It’s September 2, 2013; the last game of the season for the Louisville Bats as they wrap up a 2-game series against the visiting Indianapolis Indians – LHP Andy Oliver is starting for the Indians.

First Inning: Oliver retires the first 3 batters in order on a flyout to LF and 2 swinging strikeouts.  He does so with 17 pitches, 11 of them were strikes.

Second Inning: Mike Hessman doubles to start the inning, Oliver notches two more swinging strikeouts (one of them on a dropped 3rd strike), he hits Nevin Ashley and gets Jason Donald to groundout to 3B. 19 pitches, 13 strikes in the inning, so the running total recorded in the pitch area box for the inning is 37 pitches, 24 strikes.

Everybody counts and adds differently, so here’s a tip from me: Instead of counting the pitches for the second inning separately, and then adding to the previous inning totals, I start counting the second inning from the last number counted in the first.  In the above example, I start counting with Oliver’s first pitch to Hessman as “18,” then go through all the pitches to come up with 37 as the total – then I start counting with Oliver’s first strike to Hessman as “12,” then go through all the strikes to come up with 24 total. You can do whatever you want, but there’s only so much time between innings, and personally I don’t like to get behind on this during the game. So, here’s the “running count” for the second inning detail above:

For the third inning, then, Oliver  faces 4 batters, allowing a single and striking out three (all swinging, impressive!) for a total of 52 pitches, 36 strikes so far (over 3 innings of work).

In the fourth inning, Oliver walks Hessman on 5 pitches, then retires the next two batters he faces on popouts, both to the second baseman.  Suddenly, things get weird – the skies open up, torrential rains occur, and the game is held up on a rain delay.  The call is made as Oliver has a 1-0 count on Ashley; I’m a good scorekeeper so I record the time the rain delay started to the left of the PA box.

As the delay approaches the hour mark, one can be sure that once play resumes, there will certainly be a new pitcher. After an hour and 30 minutes, Ryan Reid starts warming up, and it’s official…a rain delay-forced pitching change!

This is an unorthodox manner in which to change pitchers during an inning, especially since it’s occurring in the middle of an at bat, but these things do happen, so this is a great opportunity to demonstrate the notation and methodology.

First things first, I need to “close” Oliver’s account on the scoresheet.  I can’t finalize all of his line score stats, as he is responsible for the runner on first, but I can record what I know now, as well as tally up his final pitch count and add the appropriate graphic notation on the scoresheet so it is apparent when he finished pitching and when the new pitcher took over. Oliver’s final pitch count goes where I’ve been recording it, I’m going to leave some room to the right and add a backwards slash that creeps into the area right above it.

To the left of the PA box, I make a note that Oliver’s count ended with 1-0 (I’m doing this right above my rain delay notation). Since the change is occurring during an AB, at the top of the PA box I record Oliver’s jersey number (41), then a slash with the new pitcher’s jersey number (43).  I also record Oliver’s jersey number only (not Reid’s…at least not yet) in the upper left hand corner of the box above the “pitch count area” that hasn’t been used for anything up to this point.
You can get creative with your own notation, but the rule to follow is simple: whatever you come up with, you need to be able to remember how you did it again and again. For any of my scoresheets where a pitcher changes during an AB, for whatever reason, I follow the same protocol consistently…thus avoiding the “uh, what the hell was this all about” many years later when I’m recalling this game via the document. Some situations arise only once in a blue moon; simplicity and consistency are important.

The game resumes at 4:01pm, I add this to my rain delay notes to the left of Ashley’s AB box and record the total time of the delay. Reid strikes out Ashley on 3 pitches (all of them strikes) to end the inning.  Oliver’s line score can now be closed out, and so can the other totals for the inning (Runs, Hits, Errors, LOB). I record Reid’s total pitch count on the line right above the pitch area box, adjacent to the backslash I left hanging up a little bit, and I also record his jersey number in the upper right hand corner, on the opposite side of Oliver’s number.
Now all this funkiness is as clear as glass on the scoresheet. With traditional scorekeeping methods, tracking this single event would require copious handwritten notes that would threaten to destroy the flow of the scoresheet. With my method, everything is documented cleanly and accurately.  Here’s what we know, just by looking at the detail featured above:
·        41 Andy Oliver faced 15 batters, threw 69 pitches (43 strikes)
·        At the 1-0 count for the 16th batter he faced, rain delay called at 2:17pm
·        Game resumed at 4:01, at which time 43 Ryan Reid replaced him
·        43 Ryan Reid finished the inning facing 1 batter, threw 3 pitches (3 strikes)

So in that large, previously unused area, it can now be revealed that this is an important method of recording who is pitching and when they are pitching.  Remember, to start the game I didn’t record Oliver’s jersey number up there…he’s the starting pitcher, the “Pitchers Faced” log below indicates this so it isn’t necessary (however, feel free to record his number if you want, in that area at the start of the game…it’s redundant, but that doesn’t really matter).  In the 4th Inning, in that same area, his number in the upper left corner indicates that he was the pitcher that started that inning. Reid’s number in the upper right corner indicates that he was the pitcher that ended the inning.

Now that I’ve introduced this method of notation, I can carry this through the rest of the game and identify who pitched when, what their pitch count was, and easily identify pertinent info to tally each pitcher’s line score. I detailed one “dotted line” to illustrate this, I’m sure you can visualize the rest…Reid stayed in for the 5th inning, then was relieved by Graham Godfrey, and so on so forth.
I know you’re rubbing your eyes right now, yes that is Matt Hague brought in during the 9th inning (in a SAVE situation, no less), who allowed a walk-off Grand Slam to Denis Phipps to end the game. Baseball is crazy, especially Minor League Baseball on the last day of the season, after September callups.

Here are the completed scoresheets for this game.

Now, let’s look at a more traditional pitching change during an inning…it works very much the same way, but with one distinct difference. For this example, let’s go back to Busch Stadium in St Louis, MO, for the 2013 World Series Game 3.  Yes, that’s the game that ended with an obstruction call.  It’s the bottom of the 7th inning; Jake Peavy started the game, went 4 innings – he threw 63 pitches (43 strikes) and was relieved in the 5th inning by Felix Doubront, who worked 2 innings, throwing 25 pitches (15 strikes).  The game is tied 2-2, and Craig Breslow is on the mound now, his jersey number is 32 and he’s facing the top of the order.

Breslow faces 2 batters; Matt Carpenter who reaches on a single to SS, and Carlos Beltran who is hit by the first pitch he sees.  Two men on, nobody out; John Farrell decides he has had enough of Breslow’s heroics and brings in Junichi Tazawa to face the righty Matt Holliday.  Before Tazawa is ready to strike, I need to finalize whatever information I can on the scoresheet…which happens to be Breslow’s pitch totals and all of his line score except for the R/ER.
I record his pitch totals in the pitch area, add the backwards slash, but I don’t record Tazawa’s number in the upper right corner yet.  Why? Because he, too, may be relieved by another pitcher…I don’t know yet for sure.  I do know that I need to indicate somehow that Beltran was the last batter Breslow faced, and that Holliday will be the first batter that Tazawa will face.

I’m going to do this in between Beltran’s and Holliday’s AB boxes.  I’m going to do it with a backward slash that “joins” both boxes – in Beltran’s AB box zone, I record Breslow’s jersey number, and in Holliday’s AB box zone, I record Tazawa’s.
Now it’s very clear…Breslow faced Carpenter and Beltran, and Tazawa is taking over. KaBOOM!!

Let’s continue…Holliday doubles, driving in Carpenter and Beltran (Holliday to 3B on the throw).  Well, THAT worked out, didn’t it? Tazawa strikes out Matt Adams and Yadier Molina, walks David Freese (who is replaced by a pinch runner, Daniel Descalso), and the inning ends when John Jay flies out to CF. Now I’m going to update the pitch area with this information. This is what the AB boxes look like.
At a glance, it’s apparent that Breslow is responsible for the two runs that did score…again, having the jersey numbers between the AB boxes provides a quick graphic reference of the pitching change, what happened before it, and what happened after it. I included a second graphic of the same AB boxes (with red border) to illustrate the work of both pitchers.

I update the pitch detail area with Tazawa’s jersey number in the upper right corner, add his total pitch count.  In the Runs/Hits/Errors/LOB fields, the total for the inning is updated, as is Breslow’s line score (but not Tazawa’s yet…he might stay in the the next inning…at a minimum, I’ve recorded what he did this inning in the AB boxes and pitch detail area, but I’m going to leave his line score alone until I know how the bottom of the 8th is going to start).
For a moment, don’t look at the AB boxes…just focus on the pitch area detail.  Breslow (32) is on the left (started), Tazawa (36) is on the right. Piece of cake.  Two pitchers in the inning, 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on base.

Who allowed the hits? Who is charged with the runs? Now you can look at the AB boxes again. Fantastic!!

If Tazawa stays in for the 8th inning, I don’t have to “carry over” his jersey number or anything…just his running pitch count total. As it turns out, Brandon Workman takes the mound for the bottom of the 8th, so his number goes in the upper left corner, I finalize his line score, and start anew with his pitch count totals.

It gets a little messier for 3 pitchers in an inning, but still very manageable.  From the same game, but the top of previous inning:
Starter Joe Kelly (58) faced two batters, was replaced by the LOOGY Randy Choate (36) for one batter and didn’t record an out, then was replaced by Seth Maness (61). Once again, I included a second graphic (with red border) of the same AB boxes to illustrate the work of all three pitchers, as indicated by the notation between the AB boxes.

As it was with one pitching change, the pitch detail area looks similar when there are two pitching changes…room is at a premium, but heck…now that you know what you’re looking at, it unfolds like a neat little story.
This graphic notation method really helps out when working out the line score! One no longer has to rely on their memory…let the scoresheet do the work!!

I’d show you what 4 pitchers in an inning looks like, but I don’t want your head to explode.

Here are the completed scoresheets for this game:

This concludes the “Counting Pitches” trilogy for this series, good luck!!

Coming up Next: 
Tracking Team RISP - It's Trickier Than You Might Think

If there are any topics you’d like to see covered in future installments, please let me know here (via comment) or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook!

Here’s hoping I’ll see you at the ball game, and if I do…be sure you have plenty of sunscreen on!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Baseball is BACK!! Are YOU ready?!?

...of course, it never really left!!

Ah, yes, OPENING WEEK!! As we collectively celebrate the END of the Winter that just wouldn't go away, and the BEGINNING of the "games that matter," I wanted to remind you that as a part of your preparation, be sure and have plenty of copies of my custom scoresheet on hand!

You can download it HERE - for free!!

Also, this season I will be continuing my intermediate scorekeeping series, "For Those Of You Scoring At Home" - a selection of topics beyond the "first steps" of the art of scorekeeping, aligned for use with the scoresheets I've designed.  In 2013 I started with "Counting Pitches" and very soon I'll be wrapping up that trilogy and moving on to new stuff!!

In case you missed them:
Part One (tracking balls, strikes, and pitch counts)
Part Two (tracking pitches in order)

Counting Pitches: Part Three will detail keeping track of pitchers and pitching changes!

Future entries in the series will cover movement around the bases, graphic depiction of batted ball behavior, tracking and calculating RISP, and a variety of unusual scoring decisions & rules.

If you have any ideas for topics to cover, or any other crazy questions, please let me know! I want to be YOUR source for scorekeeping insanity!!

You can leave a comment here, or you can contact me on twitter or facebook!!
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