Friday, April 27, 2012

Random Thoughts on Game 20

 In my fourth Padres game of the year, I again watched the team win 2-1 with 2 runs in the eighth inning.  Some random thoughts on the evening:

1.  The franchise honored members of the original SEAL team, who graduated from BUDS in 1962.  Which is, of course, extremely cool and whose members could probably beat the hell out of any number of us even today.  One comment on the public announcer remarks regarding the term 'Plankowner'.  He made it sound like that term is unique to the SEALs.  Not true.  Any member of the first crew which places a new ship, sub, squadron, or team into commission is called a 'Plankowner' for that particular ship, sub, squadron, or team.  I believe its usage dates to the days of wooden ships (and probably the British Navy) when planks were used to build the ship and decking.  Likely the individuals in question helped finish the final fit out of the ship, including laying the decking.  So there's that; file this paragraph in the 'font of useless knowledge' section of your brain.

2.  With Edinson Volquez squaring off against Edwin Jackson, my expectation was a lot of strikeouts and walks by both teams, and a game that plodded along and was tough to watch.  In reality both pitchers pitched very well.  Volquez in particular was sharp over his seven innings, walking only 1 while striking out seven.  Figures the only real mistake he made - the 0-1 pitch to Jason Werth - ended up in the left-center bleachers and gave Washington a 1-0 lead.  The air was thick last night - it even started raining as the eighth inning started - so you know Werth crushed that ball.  It still only ended up about 5 rows back in the lower bowl.  More ammunition for Tom Garfinkel to move the fences in after this season.

3.  Jackson was almost as good, going 6 2/3 innings, scattering six hits, striking out six.  But by rights Volquez should have lead by at least 2-0 when Werth's HR left the building.  If you need a microcosm of this Padres season it could be found in the bottom of the fourth.  Three pitches into the inning and San Diego had runners on second and third with nobody out.  Orlando Hudson then swung at 3 pitches and sat down.  After an intentional walk to Cameron Maybin, Jason Bartlett swung at 3 pitches and sat down.  Some booing could be heard after Hudson struck out and a lot more could be heard after Bartlett followed suit.  Volquez then grounded out to short to end the inning.

You got to get a run home with second and third and nobody out.  Just got to.  Putting a ball into play would likely have netted at least one run unless it was a pop-up.  The fact that two veteran guys couldn't do it in a key situation was very disappointing, and sadly not unusual.  San Diego ended up 1-11 with RISP, bailed out only by Mark Kotsay's 2-run double in the eighth.

4.  Other than Werth's HR the Nationals really didn't threaten in this game.  The only other runners to reach scoring position were Wilson Ramos, who was sacrificed to second in the secon after singling, and Adam LaRoche, who doubled with two out an inning later.  On the other hand, San Diego left 10 runners on base, and the bases loaded twice (fourth and seventh innings).  San Diego was supposed to win this game.  Nice to see they found a way.

5.  Jesus Guzman has now not started for four consecutive games.  I have not heard if he's nursing an injury.  He is only hitting .216 so Bud Black might just be giving him some time off to clear his head.  Then again, it's not as if the rest of the Padres roster is tearing the cover off the ball right now (outside of Chase Headley anyway).

6.  Werth was extremely shallow for Kotsay, but his double up the gap in RC was so well struck I don't think it would have made any difference if he'd been playing normal depth.

Some interesting additional tidbits:

- Yonder Alonso, Jesus Guzman, and Andy Parrino all made their first Opening Day rosters this year.  Additionally, John Baker, Jeremy Hermida, and Joe Thatcher made an Opening Day roster for the first time since 2010, 2010, and 2008 respectively.  That's a lot of turnover in the clubhouse.

- Did you know Ernesto Frieri is the longest tenured Padre in terms of time in the organization (signed in 2003)?  I didn't.  Now you do too.

- Going into last night's game, Andrew Cashner and Huston Street have allowed all the runners they've inherited to score (3 and 2 respectively).  That's almost double the number of inherited runners the rest of the bullpen have allowed to come around (Frieri none of 2, Luke Gregerson none of 4, Josh Spence one of 7, Thatcher two of 11).

Finally I'm now 3-1 in games attended.  Padres are 4-9 at home.  So when I'm not at the game San Diego is 1-8.  Quick - somebody call the ticket office.

Sorry for the lack of posting recently.  A business trip on which I caught a cold, followed by a couple of days at Disneyland kept me from my computer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Baseball Greatest Games

Periodically this blog will cover general baseball topics, as it suits me.  Today we go back to last year's World Series.

Every now and then the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is offered free stuff via mail.  Usually it is a request for review, promotion, or something like that.  Recently I received a copy of the latest addition to the Baseball's Greatest Games series - Game 6 of last year's World Series.  What's cool about this release is the inclusion of both a DVD and a Blu-Ray formatted disk.  It is the first such game to be available in Blu-Ray.

The game disk is exactly what you expect.  It is the unfiltered telecast of Game Six, as it appeared live on Fox.  Now you might find Joe Buck and Tim McCarver annoying - many do - and not want to subject yourself to 3 hours an 45 minutes of their blather.  You don't have to.  One of the cool features of this disk is the inclusion of alternative tracks to the video.  The viewer can choose from the Spanish broadast, the St Louis Cardinals radio feed, or the Texas Rangers radio feed.

I did not test the Spanish feed, mostly due to my feeble grasp of Spanish (Uno cerveza, por favor is about the extent of my fluency), but I did listen to some of both the Rangers and Cardinals calls of various innings during the game.  I have to tip my hat at whoever did the audio engineering for MLB.  The radio feeds match up EXACTLY with the game action you watch.  If you listen to the radio while watching the game on TV (which I have done on those cold days I'd rather hear Ted Leitner than Dick Enberg) the radio always leads the TV picture.  For me it was cool to see them completely synched up, just like the man at the mike saw it as he called the action.

Obviously Cardinals fans will be falling over themselves to get this disk, even if they never watch the first 6 innings again (which were surreal).  Rangers fans might want to torture themselves with how close they came to winning the whole thing, or they could be interested in it to honor how hard their club fought to win.  Heck St Louis took the lead after one inning, lost it 3 innings later, then kept punching Texas in the gut the rest of the game trying to go ahead again.  The Rangers always answered.  Until Freese's HR ended it.

Baseball fans everywhere will agree this was the most compelling game of the Series, a contest between two teams who didn't know how to quit, and refused to acknowledge they were beaten.

The DVDs go on sale today.

Update:  Some additional information on the DVDs for your perusal:

Disk provided courtesy A&E Networks Home Entertainment/MLB Productions.

2001 World Series Game 6 can be found here:

Quick Padres news:  Monday San Diego activated Mark Kotsay and sent Brad Brach to AAA Tucson.  I  thought Brach might be the next guy sent down, although I thought he would go on Saturday.  I'm trying to salvage my soothsayer reputation here - I don't care if it's a reach.

Thanks to A&E Networks for the opportunity to participate in this offer.

Friday, April 13, 2012

So Who Gets Sent Down?

With Dustin Moseley on the DL, and with the possibility he will miss the rest of this season staring him straight in the face, the San Diego Padres will call up Joe Weiland to start tomorrow's game against the Dodgers.  He draws Ted Lilly, who will also be making his first start of 2012.

This poses two questions:  (1) who will the Padres send down, and (2) will Weiland be a permanent part of the Padres 2012 rotation?

Who will the Padres send down?  Recognize this is all pure speculation on my part.  The Padres called up Josh Spence when they placed Moseley on the 15-day DL, so the early money would be on him returning to AAA.  All the Padres relievers have pitched over the past 2 games, so there's no guy not getting any work who could be on his way out.

Spence has made 2 appearances, both against Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero, and thrown 4 pitches total while retiring Montero twice.  Montero had one of the ugliest ABs you will ever see Wednesday afternoon against the soft-tossing lefty; none of the 3 pitches he swung at approached within a foot of the plate while breaking from right to left across the plate.  Spence made him look bad.

If the Padres are looking to ship out someone currently struggling, the obvious candidates would be Brad Brach an Ernesto Frieri.  Brach has faced 14 hitters and allowed 4 hits (including a HR) and 3 walks while striking out two.  Frieri has been slightly better; he's faced 16 batters, allowed 3 hits (including a HR) and 2 walks while striking out 5.  Now granted, 16 hitters is the epitome of a small sample size, yet these two guys are not throwing it as well as the rest of the bullpen.

We could also look at Micah Owings, who's numbers are similar (24 BF; 4H 1HR 2BB 3K); but his ERA+ (115) is better than both Frieri (68) and Brach (56).

The other criteria is the question of options.  All 4 of the pitchers discussed above are on the 40-man roster.  Owings has 4.053 years service time, Frieri 1.101 years, Brach 0.029, Spence 0.100.  If I'm interpreting the options rule correctly Owings is out of options, Frieri has 1 left, Brach has 3 left, and Spence has 3 left.  So the Padres can't send Owings down without having to pass him through waivers, but they could send any of the other 3 down with no issue.  If I've screwed this up I would really appreciate a correction and tutorial on the options subject.

All that presented, I'm leaning towards Spence.  Before Joe Thatcher threw a scoreless inning last night he had as many innings (2/3) in 6 previous games as Spence had since being called up.  Somehow I don't think Bud Black needs two lefties in the bullpen.

Is Weiland here to stay?  Most of that will depend on how he pitches.  There are a number of factors here, not the least of which is starting his arbitration clock.  For a cash-starved franchise like San Diego one would assume they will try to hold onto their young players for as long as possible, which means delaying their arbitration clock start for as long as possible.  I don't think Weiland stays with the club for the rest of this season.

When Tim Stauffer returns from the DL (rumored to be at least another 3 weeks) Weiland will probably be sent down regardless.  The Padres could call up Jeff Suppan to cover Moseley's rotation spot long-term, sending Weiland back to Tucson and Bass back to the bullpen. Or they could have something else in mind (wouldn't Roy Oswalt look good in Padre colors?  Hey we can dream).  Like I said, Weiland is likely here for experience and a cup of coffee only - not permanently.

No matter what, the first big prospect call-up of 2012 will happen tomorrow.  I for one am really looking forward to seeing the kid pitch.

Random Thoughts - Games 6 and 7

I've watched a lot of Padres baseball in the last 2 days. Let's over the highlights.

- Cory Luebke was all over the place in the first inning Wednesday, needing 43 pitches to retire the side.  Some of that was due to an inconsistent strike zone from HP umpire Eric Cooper (which, incidentially, was a common theme throughout these two games), some of it because Luebke was all over the place.  After walking Jason Kubel to force in Arizona's first run, he struck out Paul Goldschmidt swinging.  The next 3 1/3 he struck out three more, didn't walk anyone else, and scattered 4 hits.  The fact he got into the sixth inning is something of a miracle, but he did, and he held down Arizona's offense.

- Willie Bloomquist's triple in the second inning should have been a HR.  I've never understood the function of those plexiglass windows placed at the end of stairwells at Petco.  I had season tickets waaaay out in the LF corner a couple of years ago and the aisle right next to our seats had that window.  It made it tough to see the game because the plexiglass is warped.  Other than giving the usher something to lean on when standing at the bottom of the stairs I don't know why its there.

Bloomquist managed to hit the plexiglass plate in left-center, on the fly, with a batted ball struck 400 feet away.  That's amazing.  There is no yellow line at the top of the wall at Petco, so that plate is considered part of the wall; and since the ball struck it, it was a live ball and Bloomquist had a triple.  If he'd hit the ball 4 feet either side of where it landed he'd have had a HR and they might still be playing.  If the plexiglass isn't there that ball is out.  Tough break for Willie.

- Nick Hundley's throw down to second in the first inning was one of the most ridiculous ones you'll ever see.  Hundley had two options on that play.  He could either eat the ball and give up the stolen base without a play, or try to throw it down.  Because the pitch was low, away, and breaking away from him, his momentum pulled him into the LH hitter's box and he didn't have time to get on top of the ball.  Apparently just after he let it go he thought "Oh S*!t" knowing he'd uncorked a wild throw to second.

- The Padres really only hit Joe Saunders hard in one inning - the seventh, his last inning.  Kyle Blanks had a hard single,  Orlando Hudson lined into a tough-luck double play, and Andy Parrino lined out to right.  Other than a pair of line drives by Guzman (one for a single, one for an out), the Padres didn't hit it all that hard.

- I didn't think Chris Denorfia's ball would get out.  It didn't appear to be hit well enough, but it kept carrying and carrying and carrying.  Then the other bizarre play in this game happened - Diamondbacks CF Chris Young jumped up to try and catch the ball, but he clipped the wall on his way up knocking his glove off his hand.  The glove kept going upward and was struck by the ball on its way down.  In slow motion on Fox Sports SD it looked very cool.

Padres pulled it out to win 2-1.  Arizona kind of gave that game away, having left the bases loaded twice and 11 guys on overall.  The game featured 10 walks, 12 strikeouts, and 5 pitching changes.  Two hours and 58 minutes of fun.

By contrast, tonight's game featured 6 walks, 20 strikeouts, and 8 pitching changes.  Three hours and 2 minutes to play a 3-1 game.  If you want to live forever go to a Padres game because they take forever.  I'm the biggest baseball fan I know but these two games were excruciating to watch.

- I'm also the biggest Jesus Guzman homer this side of his mom, but he had a lousy game tonight.  Three strikeouts at the plate, and a fly ball he misplayed into a double.  Guzman broke the wrong way initially, charged in far enough to catch it, then had the ball kick off his glove as he slid trying to catch it.

San Diego has made at least one error in 5 of their 7 games so far. Yeech.

- The sad thing about this game is the Padres came out on fire.  Cameron Maybin's leadoff triple was crushed, as were the singles that followed it by Will Venable and Chase Headley.  I could watch Maybin run all day, by the way.  Love the chicken wing.  But after Guzman struck out looking for the first out, the Padres kind of went all flat.  After that they got a 1-out double from Jason Bartlett in the second, and a two-out single from Yonder Alonso in the sixth.  That was their offense.

As an aside, HP umpire Marty Foster's strike zone was just as inconsistent as Cooper's was the night before.  Not inconsistent during an at-bat, but definitely inconsistent from at-bat to at-bat.  On several occasions a pitch called a strike to one hitter was a ball to a later hitter.  Hitters on both teams were frustrated throughout these two games.

- Gotta love it when you get to see the 5-2-4 double play.  Also both games featured a rundown, which is always cool (Parrino picked off first 1-3-4-3, and Anthony Bass' great play on Lyle Overbay's drive up the middle that led to a 1-5-6 put out on Chris Young).

- Bartlett airmailed the throw to first that eventually led to the unearned run which won the game.  I don't know if Alonso could have caught that ball in any situation.  He didn't jump for it, which is true, but the throw landed 3 rows deep in the stands on the fly.  Not sure he had any play on that throw.

- Bass pitched pretty well despite not surviving the fifth.  He had some tough luck in that fifth; had Guzman made the play on that fly to left Bass might have gotten out of the inning unscathed.

- Young's HR in the seventh was crushed, a line shot into the fans down the LF line.  Nice, easy swing, dropping the head of the bat onto the ball.  Since it was coming in at 98 MPH he didn't need to do too much with it.

San Diego finishes their opening homestand 2-5.  Last year they went 3-5 on their first homestand.  They head up to LA and out to Denver for this 6-game road trip.  They've used everyone in the pen during the last 2 games, but only Josh Spence in both, and he threw only 1 pitch tonight.  Tomorrow's game is a rematch of Sunday's game.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Random Thoughts on Game 4

Congrats Kid.  (Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
36 hours late?  I must have been in a sugar-induced coma.  Some thoughts on the Padres first win of the new season.

- Sunday's attendance was announced at 19,021.  My first thought was 'Wow, for a Dodger game on a Sunday that's a really small crowd.  Guess people really are pissed off about the ownership and TV deal soap opera'.  Well that's not really the case.  I went back to 2005 and looked at the Padres schedule.

They've played on Easter Sunday five times (including this Sunday); in 2005, 2008, and 2010 Easter fell on a Sunday prior to the start of the regular season. The 2006 game was played in Atlanta, but the 2007, 2009, 2011, and this year's were played at home.  Here's the attendance figures for those 4 games:
  • 2007:  Win 2-1 (10), 27,086
  • 2009:  Win 6-1, 19,415
  • 2011:  Loss 1-3, 24,031
  • 2012:  Win 8-4, 19,021
So although Sunday's attendance was the lowest of the four, it's not an outlier.  So what's driving the attendance sine curve?  Probably the previous year's record:
  • 2006:  Padres finish 88-74, win NL West
  • 2008:  Padres finish 63-99, last in NL West
  • 2011:  Padres finish 90-72, miss playoffs by one game
  • 2012:  Padres finish 71-91, last in NL West
So although it'd be great to make the statement "Padres fans stay away in droves, protesting lack of TV deal" it's much more plausible fewer folks attended in response to the lousy year San Diego had in 2011.  Either that or they were all still at church.

- Matt Treanor crushed a ball in the third inning that died in LC (caught by Cameron Maybin on the track).  Venable hit a ball even further leading off the bottom of that same inning only to have Andre Ethier run it down at the wall near the 401 sign.  Cue the 'bring in the fences' music.  Then Andy Parrino launches a shot into the Padres bullpen to give the team a 4-0 lead.  That ball didn't look like it was hit as well as Venable's, yet it kept going and going.  Matt Kemp later snuck a ball out just beyond Maybin's reach in dead center, and Chase Headley hit his ball into the second deck in left to blow the game open.

That's 3 HR and 2 almosts in this game.  Maybe the Padres should play all their games at home under the sun.  Check this out:

Home record in day games, 2004-2012:  94-83 (.531)
Overall record at home, 2004-2012:      336-316 (.516)

Just sayin'.

- Jesus Guzman snubbed the Marine Drill Instructor waiting for him in LF.  Now, to be fair, he shook the hand of the DI waiting at shortstop for Jason Bartlett, but then he ran into LC and started warming up, ignoring the gentleman standing there.  Maybe he didn't see him - that particular SSGT was standing just beyond the infield near third base - but it's not like this is a new event on Sundays at Petco. 

If his personal politics are such that he doesn't support the American military actions in progress around the globe, that's fine; but shake the man's hand, at least.  He's just an instrument of the policy, not the formulator of it.

Speaking of military Sundays, why is it always the USMC who gets to run onto the field before the game to greet the Padres?  Last I checked, Commander Surface Forces US Pacific Fleet was headquartered at 32nd street, Commander Naval Air Forces at Naval Air Station North Island, and there's a whole squadron of Submarines moored at Point Loma.  We can't find 9 First Class or Chief Petty Officers to run onto the field?

Of course, watching some 'robust' CPO amble onto the field with a coffee cup in one hand and a cigarette in the other would be hilarious, at least to me.

- I forgot how fast Clayton Richard works.  He breezed through the first 3 innings.  10 pitches each in the first 2 innings, and 14 in the third.  In his last inning (seventh) he threw 6 pitches.  Get the ball and throw it - nice.

The game would have been a lot shorter if not for the 8 walks, 1 hit batsman, and 4 pitching changes the Dodgers did.

- My gosh the Padres defense has been awful so far.  Another 3 errors on Sunday, which included a dropped fly ball (Venable), a 'I closed my glove too fast' (Richard), and a bad throw to first (also Richard).  I don't know why pitchers try to finesse the ball to first on a bunt or roller to the mound.  I'm in the Joaquin Andujar school of baseball:  FIRE the ball to first if you have to make a throw.  Why change your mindset?  You don't need to wind up, but don't throw an eephus pitch over there either.

- One more Guzman note:  Jesus has hit in every game this season.  It continues to baffle me how the team's best returning power hitter from 2011 will become a utility player in 2012 once Carlos Quentin returns from the DL.  He has to play every day.  And those who say his glove isn't good enough:  San Diego made 8 errors in this 4-game series. How could he be any worse than what's been run out there so far?

Padres resume their homestand against Arizona tonight.

When I'm in the park the Padres are 1-0.  Clearly the 2 are connected.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bill Center takes angry comments over TV deal in chat

So the Padres dropped their home opener 5-3.  At points, it looked like they were reprising Tony Bennett's famous ballad, 'I left my glove in A-ri-zona' with the 3 errors.  At least Jesus Guzman knocked in a run and Cameron Maybin launched a mammoth 2-R shot.

Today Bill Center had a second consecutive chat on the U-T website.  As you might have expected, there was some grousing about yesterday's result, some questions about who the owner is and will be, and a LOT of anger directed at the Padres over the TV deal.  And frankly there should be.

Some of that delay was due to MLB's obstinance regarding the use of funds initially received by the Padres once they signed the deal.  Most of us had surmised the delay was entirely due to fallout from the Frank McCourt debacle, and we were right - MLB did not want Moorad to put the new TV money to personal use, or to even have the opportunity to do so.  Moorad's assurances on this point weren't enough, apparently, and that's too bad.  Not all men are as dishonorable as McCourt.

But because of that MLB position the TV deal was not and is not done.  The fact that games are on TV at all is something of a miracle, a good faith sign between the Padres and Fox Sports SD that they will in fact be awarded this contract somewhere down the line.

That's not why fans are upset.  Most fans suffered through the past years of only being able to see the Padres on Time Warner or Cox, thanks to the Channel 4 SD arrangement.  If you had another cable TV service provided besides those two companies you were SOL.  When the Time Warner deal expired, many fans were happy thinking the 2012 season would be available city- and county-wide.  And yet it's not.  One can still see the games on Cox; one can now see the games on DirecTV; but if you have Time Warner, U-Verse, Dish Network, or some other provider you're still SOL.

No wonder people in the north county are defecting to the Angels. 

Whether or not this is an issue between the Padres and FSSD or between Fox and the cable TV providers is irrelevant.  In this day and age people want to watch the games at home.  Listening to the radio isn't good enough.  Quick poll:  how many of you even HAVE a radio in the house where your TV sits?  Anyone?  There you go.  To allow the conditions of the previous decade to continue into the start of this season is ridiculous.  This needs to be fixed ASAP. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Clear the decks for action

At last, the 2012 season is upon us.

The roster is set, Edinson Volquez makes his second consecutive Opening Day start (albeit it with two different clubs), we play baseball downtown starting at 4pm today.  It should be a beautiful day for what will probably be the only Padres sellout this season.

Before we get there, I've got two items I want to touch on.

Joey Votto's contract extension.  Dave Cameron put up a lengthy Fangraphs post discussing this deal and its implications for baseball's economy in the near future. His spin was mostly positive, especially from the players perspective.

From the club's perspective I don't think everyone will view this deal as a plus. And I think it put a shudder through the San Diego Padres front office.

Why? Because San Diego doesn't have the kind of television money flowing into it that some other teams have. Anaheim signed a TV deal worth $1.5 billion over 20 years; optimistic estimates on the Padres new deal put it at less than half that ($30 mil per/20 years is $600 mil). If the norm becomes teams locking up their stars with long-term, lucrative contracts, San Diego will struggle to compete. First, either there will be no above average free agents on which to bid or the price for those free agents will be so stratospherically high this club has no realistic chance to sign them. Second, if San Diego can't offer the kind of financial security a marquee player could fetch on the open market, why would they sign with the Padres for less? Tony Gwynn did; Adrian Gonzalez wouldn't, as prominent examples from the last 2 decades.

Bud Selig's Interview Last Night.  The other item isn't Padres specific. Bud Selig was interviewed during ESPN's last night's Cardinals/Marlins game, and during that discussion he mentioned he'd voted for the Designated Hitter way back in 1972 (interesting tidbit - he's the last front-office executive left who worked for an AL team before the DH was enacted).

Bud Selig has been a driving force for the change in Major League Baseball over the last two decades. Lots of articles have been written about the implications of the permanent interleague play that debuts this season - that it places NL teams at a distinct disadvantage when playing the AL in their ballparks because no NL team has a 20 HR guy just sitting around on their bench.

If he wants to level the playing field between the two leagues Selig either bans the DH from the AL or enacts it in the NL. If Selig was for the DH when it was first discussed, I'm SURE he will be for forcing the DH onto the NL during the next collective bargaining agreement talks.  For me, Selig's comment last night is the first sure sign the DH is coming to every NL ballpark - it's only a matter of when.