Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
This young gun pitcher is Pat Venditte, a 26-year-old from Omaha, Nebraska. In his high school and college days he pitched both right and left. On June 19, 2008 (when 23) he pitched a scoreless ninth inning. However, he became noticed by everyone when he faced a switch hitter Ralph Henriquez of the Brooklyn Cyclones on the last out of the game. Venditte then pitched for the Staten Island Yankees. Henriquez came up to bat left then Venditte switched to throw right. Henriquez then crossed over to the right box. This went on for quite a while, then the umpires decided that the batter must pick one way to hit and stick to it. The pitcher can then decide with which arm to throw. Both managers were in the fray and the result is one for the books. The video shows how this played out and the confusion created:
Pat Venditte was trained by his father from childhood to pitch both ways, even though Venditte is a natural right hander. Hours of practice on mechanics with both hands took place in the family backyard. But, here is the big thing, you have to have the same feel and control of the ball from both sides. For this, Venditte's father made him punt footballs with both legs to balance his body, strength from both sides and too establish the needed leg motion. He pitched right to righties and left to lefties. From his natural right side, Venditte throws over the top with a curve and moderate fastball. From the left, he throws sidearm with a slider. His glove is an interesting two-directional deal with a thumb hole on each side and appears to have netting in the middle. He can change back and forth quickly.
Because of this very unique situation, the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation (PBUC) came up with new rules on July 3, 2008. It limits the number of times a switch hitter vs switch pitcher can change sides during one at bat:
“The pitcher must visually indicate to the umpire, batter and runner(s) which way he will begin pitching to the batter. Engaging the rubber with the glove on a particular hand is considered a definitive commitment to with which arm he will throw. The batter will then choose which side of the plate he will bat from.
The pitcher is not permitted to pitch with the other hand until the batter is retired, the batter becomes a runner, the inning ends, the batter is substituted for by a pinch-hitter or the pitcher incurs an injury.
Any switch (by either the pitcher or the batter) must be clearly indicated to the umpire. There will be no warm-up pitches during the change of arms.
If an injury occurs the pitcher may change arms but not use that arm again during the remainder of the game.”
One quick aside; Greg A. Harris is the only MLB switch pitcher in the modern era. He did it only twice on September 28, 1995 (as an Expo) against the Reds. In the ninth inning he faced four batters the first right-handed, the next two left-handed and the last out against Brett Boone as a rightie.
Pat Venditte is now playing for the Yankee’s Class-AA Trenton Thunder. This year to date he is 0-3 with an ERA of 3.52. In 2010, at spring training he pitched for the Yankees against the Braves. Venditte has not yet been called up to the majors.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
There have been a number of sluggers who have had no one else with a lot of pop to protect them in the lineup. Joe Jackson, Rogers Hornsby, Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Bobby Bonds, and now Jose Batista come to mind. I'm sure readers can come up with others, but here are some of the most dynamic duos ever.
The most famous and probably most fearsome of course would be Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, who were teammates from 1923 through 1934 but really at their peak from ’25 to ’33.
Prior to them the Pirates had Fred Clarke supporting Honus Wagner and at the same time in the junior circuit the Tigers featured Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford. Neither Clarke nor Crawford hit too many homers but they had a helluva lotta doubles and triples many of which would have left the playing area in modern stadia.
In the ’30s slugging pairs included Gabby Hartnett and Hack Wilson of the Cubs, who combined for 93 homers in 1930, Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx of the A’s, and Lou Gehrig and Joe Dimaggio.
In the ’40s there were Ken Keltner and Joe Gordon of the Indians.
In the ’50s there were Hank Aaron and Eddie Matthews of the Braves and Mantle and Berra of the Yankees.
In the 60s there were Mantle and Maris and Mays and McCovey and Bob Allison and Harmon Killebrew of the Twins.
In the ’70s there were Willie Stargell and Dave Parker in Pittsburgh and the Reds had a fearsome foursome of Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, George Foster, and Joe Morgan.
In the ’90s there were Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio of the Astros.
In the 2000s the Red Sox had David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez and later the Phillies had Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. I’m sure you can come up with a few other powerful pairs that I have omitted.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Alex Anthopoulos, in his second season as GM and he has made some big and bold moves with the team. I will just take a look at a few. The minor league moves are too many to discuss here. His first was the biggest and involved the best pitcher in either league.
Roy Halladay, the “Doc Deal”: Cy Young.
Roy Halladay was traded for Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor and Travis d’Arnaud. Taylor went to the Athletics for Brett Wallace who went to the Astros for Anthony Gose. Halladay and his contract would have not allowed the financially confused Jays to move to improve their other weak positions. It was painfully clear that the team around Roy was not competitive enough to give him a chance to get to the World Series. Also, the Jays were not prepared to offer a large extended contract that Halladay needed beyond free agency. Anthopoulos sought the best deal he could get on paper. In retrospect, a deservedly great deal for Halladay and weak one for us. Drabek has been sent down for seasoning (too many walks and anger issues), d’Arnuad and Gose working there way up. This rates a D so far.
Vernon Wells: Games -42,BA -.192, HR -6, RBI -16
Wells had a career year in 2006 and another good year in 2010. But, with the big contract and sporadic production in recent years, Anthopoulos traded Wells to the Angles for Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli (who was immediately filliped for Frank Francisco). So, Rivera has proven to be a good go to guy who has contributed with the bat and with surprisingly soft hands at first base. Judgment on Francisco is still out as one cannot tell how good he will be when he takes the mound. He could walk the first three or serve up a big hit and not go for the save but have to work for a win. He is not truly a closer, at least at this point. Back to Wells, I do not think that the injuries are what plagued him the most. I think he can no longer actually see the ball the way he did. His power hitting days are done. Over all, with the money and the lack of production, I think the Jays did well with these transactions. Maybe Kyle Drabek can get over himself. I give the Jays an A+.
John Buck: Games -59,BA -.230, HR -6, RBI -24
John Buck had a great and career year in 2010. The Jays did not want to offer him a long-term deal so he left a free agent. I think the Jays forgot that one also has to call a game. JP Arencibia is improving all the time but still leaves his pitchers hung out to dry and does not always calls the best game. In a previous blog, I mentioned how he did not help the now departed Kyle Drabek. Arencibia is a rookie as well. He needs more seasoning. Buck called a great game, just ask Romero. I appreciate that he has much more money now, but we lost something here. I give the Jays a C.
Shawn Marcum: 7-2, ERA 2.68
After the Tommy John surgery and rehab assignments, Marcum was the opening day starter in 2010. He headed up a promising rotation including a second year man Ricky Romero. Both had good years and contributed 27 wins. This year, Marcum is ahead of last years pace and his ERA is lower. We should not have dumped him so fast. The Jays had their eye on Brett Lawrie and got him for Marcum from the Brewers. Lowrie was expected to fill the dismal third base position. He was to be up by now. It is a very tough call to give up pitching for an up and coming bat and glove but the Jays were desperate. If the rest of the pitching had not gone south I would have given an A. If your ace is a third year guy and the most experienced, maybe the pitching has gone exactly the way it should have, South. I give this a C+
Alex Gonzales: Games -66,BA -.264, HR -7, RBI -22
Alex Gonzalez was traded for Yunel Escobar and JoJo Reyes. Escobar (Games -62,BA -.284, HR -7, RBI -39) is finally fitting in with the team. He is a very tall short stop who has limited range but is swinging the bat quit well this season. He seems to have found his spot and has caused no personal issues as he did in Braves. Reyes (W-L: 2-5 · ERA: 4.30 · K: 47 · BB: 25 · IP: 73.1 · WHIP: 1.51) is now famous for being tied with the longest streak of no decisions at 28. He seems to have good stuff most of the time. With the entire pitching staff this year the Jays have gone on to long without making changes. Three of the starters have been sent down already. Will there be more? The bullpen is blown up and now not able to finish games without way too much excitement. I give this trade an A for what is and what could be.
So as the bell curve goes, I give Alex Anthopoulos and the front office a C+ for the season so far. The record shows it I’m afraid. Not up to last year’s standard.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Other players who were always called by their nicknames include (Larry) Napoleon Lajoie, (Frank) Home Run Baker, (Lewis) Hack Wilson, (Lynnwood) Schoolboy Rowe, (Charles) Gabby Hartnett, (James) Cool Papa Bell, (Charles) Chief Bender, (Mordecai) Three-Finger Brown, (Harold) Peewee Reese, and (Carlton) Pudge Fisk.
Cool Papa Bell
There have been several very cool and understandable nicknames given to players because of their rare talents. They would include Iron Man Joe McGinnity, Ty Cobb the Georgia Peach, Lou the Iron Horse Gehrig, Walter the Big Train Johnson, Frankie Frisch the Fordam Flash, Ted Williams the Splendid Splinter, Phil the Skooter Rizzuto, Stan the Man Musial, Leo the Lip Durocher, Willie Mays the Say Hey Kid, and Reggie Jackson, Mr. October.
Okay, now let's have some fun and use mostly actual birthnames and some nicknames to put together baseball's all animal team.
1B - Moose Skowron
C - Steve Lake
OF - "Gentleman George" Haddock
DH - Mike Carp
Why don't you readers try to come up with your own All __________s teams?
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Sure, there are still a few kicking around, but in the old days nearly every ball player had a nickname, often a good one. With some, the nickname was more well known then their real names. Will hit on one with his blog posting on Tuesday. If you haven’t looked at it read all about Rube Waddell and how he got his moniker. The Jays current all-universe right fielder, José Bautista has a pretty good one. Don’t know if it will stick over time, but it’s not bad: Joey Bats. Has an Italian ring, but what the hell. José does look like a gangster.
So, with out further ado, here are some of my favourite nicknames from the recent past.
Steve “Bye, Bye” Balboni: so called because Balboni hit a lot of homers. However, I’ve also heard that is referred to the fact that seemed to be on a shuttle between the Yankees and their AAA farm team as he was sent up and down a number of time. In any event, I feel this is a classic.
Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson: he’s 7 feet tall and had a 100+ heater to match. Any other reasons needed for giving him this nickname?
Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas: Possibly the most-feared hitter of the ’90s. A big man who could put a big hurt on a baseball – and on the pitcher who threw it.
And from longer ago:
Lawrence “Yogi” Berra: You know you’ve been given a successful nickname when very few people remember what your real name is. That’s Yogi all over. He got it long before his pro baseball career began when a childhood friend said he thought Larry bore a resemblance to a Hindu holy man they’d seen in a movie. He even has a cartoon character named after him.
Jay “Dizzy” Dean: Another player whose nickname eclipsed his given name. I even had to look it up. As for its roots, well you only had to listen to some of the things Dean said to know why he got it.
“Joltin” Joe “The Yankee Clipper” DiMaggio: A great name given to a great player. Obviously, because of his hitting, Joltin’ was a natural. The “Yankee Clipper” part came from the Yank’s stadium announcer, Arch McDonald, who likened Joe’s speed and range in the outfield to the then-new Pan American airliner.
Bob “The Heater From Van Meter” or “Rapid Robert” Feller: an easy one because Feller came from Van Meter, Iowa, and could throw a baseball harder than anyone else of his era. He pitched his first major league game at the age of 17. He also is the only person to ever pitch a no-hitter on opening day. Guess he was ready for the season...
Paul “Big Poison” Waner: Yeah, he could hit home runs and he wasn’t a small man, but Waner’s nickname has a most interesting origin. Apparently, a Brooklyn Dodgers fan was actually saying “that big person’s always on first” but what came out in his heavy Brooklyn accent was “that big poison’s always on foist.”
I could go on, but why don’t our readers. Please comment below with some of your favourite nicknames!
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Drabek's problem with walks has already been discussed and it has not helped his ERA, which is now at 4.98. He now has 48 walks and 43 strikeouts. But now he has an even worse problem. And it’s not all his fault. When you have trouble with control, you need to have someone calling a game that you can handle. If you have trouble with your curve and slider you need to be careful when they are used in the count. If a pitch is called and thrown it must be caught or covered.
My problem is with the three people who should have been taking care to keep their pitcher in control: the catcher, pitching coach and manger. First, JP Arencibia did a great job of hitting his 10 homer and the Jays cinched the lead. Bravo to him for his great season at the plate. But he did not help the hole that was dug by Drabek. He called for pitches that were causing Drabek trouble. When, in two separate innings, Drabek got ahead with two outs he called and allowed pitches that were thrown wild (for a total of 4 on the night). These 4 wild pitches advanced the runners into scoring position and they scored 3 runs. Arencibia should have known what was called and keep the balls in front of him. These balls were scored wild and maybe should have been scored passed balls. Just another point, Arencibia should have taken more time, gone to the mound and spoke with Drabek to calm him down. It was more than obvious that he was upset and getting increasingly out of control. In any event, Arencibia, by his pitch call and lack of fielding should have controlled the situation.
Both John Farrell and Bruce Walton should have done their bit to control the emotions of their rookie pitcher who has had a few poor outings. Remember his previous game against the Indians and the four earned runs in 2/3rd of an inning. He has averaged only 5 innings pitched per start for the season. In this, the next start, neither of them went to the mound to sooth the savage thoughts of the pitcher. Walton spent his time speaking to Molina about the situation but did not take those thoughts to the mound. It was clear what that communication was out the window when Drabek walked past Farrell handing him the ball. Farrell held him back to say a few words. What Farrell said may not be that which he told the press. But whatever it was, it was too little too late. If the Jays had not produced on the offensive side, the game would not have been in the win column.
This Jays team is very young and in many ways talented. It needs to be managed and messaged. Most of the time Farrell does this. Arencibia needs to know how and when to communicate with the pitcher and how to call a better game (Molina is there to help). When there is what looks like an obvious challenge to the pitching staff, little help during the game seems to come from the management. The Jays have had the hitting manager and now they have the pitching manager. Looks like a staff that averages only five innings per outing should be getting some more help. The Jays seem to be relying on the long ball again to cover up the rotation. It certainly needs work.
Monday, June 6, 2011
I don't want to play golf. When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it. Rogers Hornsby
It's hard to win a pennant, but it's harder losing one.
I was such a dangerous hitter I even got intentional walks in batting practice. Casey Stengel
Don't forget to swing hard, in case you hit the ball. Woodie Held
Good pitching will beat good hitting any time, and vice versa.
Blind people come to the park just to hear him pitch.
Reggie Jackson on Tom Seaver
When a heckler yelled to the illiterate Joe Jackson who was standing on third base, "Hey Joe, can you spell cat?" Jackson replied, "Hey big mouth, can you spell triple?"
Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. George F. Will
There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. Al Gallagher
Sandy's fastball was so fast, some batters would start to swing as he was on his way to the mound. Jim Murray
And the best collection of them all...
"This is like deja vu all over again."
"You can observe a lot just by watching."
"He must have made that before he died." -- referring to a Steve McQueen movie.
"I want to thank you for making this day necessary." -- On Yogi Berra Appreciation Day in St. Louis in 1947.
Yogi was once asked what he would do if he found a million dollars?
"I'd find the fellow who lost it, and, if he was poor, I'd return it." -- When asked what he would do if he found a million dollars.
"Think! How the hell are you gonna think and hit at the same time?"
"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get ther
"If you can't imitate him, don't copy him."
"You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six."
"Baseball is 90% mental -- the other half is physical."
"It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much."
"Slump? I ain't in no slump. I just ain't hitting."
"A nickel isn't worth a dime today."
"Nobody goes there anymore (referring to a New York restaurant); it's too crowded."
Referring to the bad sun conditions in left field at the stadium.
"It gets late early out there."
Once, Yogi's wife Carmen asked, "Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?" Yogi replied, "Surprise me."
"I take a two hour nap, from one o'clock to four."
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
"Thanks, you don't look so hot yourself." – After being told he looked cool.
"I always thought that record would stand until it was broken."
"Yeah, but we're making great time!" -- In reply to "Hey Yogi, I think we're lost."
"If the fans don't come out to the ball park, you can't stop them."
"How long have you known me, Jack? And you still don't know how to spell my name." Upon receiving a check from Jack Buck made out to "bearer."
"I'd say he's done more than that." – When asked if first baseman Don Mattingly had exceeded expectations for the current season.
"The other teams could make trouble for us if they win."
"I never blame myself when I'm not hitting. I just blame the bat, and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn't my fault that I'm not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?"
"It ain't the heat; it's the humility."
"You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours."
"I didn't really say everything I said."
Saturday, June 4, 2011
There are eight ways to accomplish this feat. Do you know what they are? Scroll down when you think you've got it.
1. base on balls
2. safe hit
4. fielder’s choice
5. catcher’s interference
6. third strike not caught
7. substitution (pinch running)
8. batted ball makes contact with umpire or runner before contact with a fielder
Now a bonus question: Two teams are tied. The home team is batting in the bottom of the tenth with 2 out and a runner on third. With a 3-2 count the batter fouls back the next pitch, a fastball. The ball hits the catcher’s outstretched glove, ricochets high in the air. The pitcher sprints in and catches the foul popup. The runner has already crossed the plate and runs into the dugout.
What's your call?*
I'm out of town at the moment, and this is a contribution from Will and myself to make sure you've got some Saturday reading.
*And the Bonus Question answer is: the game is over; the home team won and everybody goes home. Reason? When a batted ball goes directly to the catcher's glove it is ruled a foul tip and a runner can advance (steal) on a foul tip.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
This milestone is a huge deal in baseball. It is a milestone because it takes great technical skill and consistency to be able to survive long enough to collect the 3000. There are only 27 players to have ever hit for 3000-plus. Some of the biggest names like Babe Ruth did not hit 3000. Lou Gehrig is not on the list nor is Ted Williams. Charlie Gehringer, Barry Bonds and Dave Parker are not on the list.
Of course Pete Rose holds the all time record with 4256 and Ty Cobb at 4189. Along with them are Rod Carew (3053), Lou Brock (3023) and Roberto Clemente (3000). Also, for Jays fans, Paul Molitor (3319) and is ninth on the all time list. So are Dave Winfield (3110) and Rickey Henderson (3055)on the list.
It takes time to reach the 3000. Rose took 16-plus year to make the mark. Some of the top names took similar or more time to get there. Hank Aaron – 17 yrs, Stan Musial – 18 yrs, Tris Speaker – 19 yrs, and Ty Cobb – 17 yrs. Peter Rose led the league seven times in hits and Jeter has led only once. Most of the leaders hit an average of 150 to 165 hits per year. Derek Jeter has hit 182 on average for the last sixteen years.
If Jeter is successful he will have taken 16-plus years to accomplish the feat. A feat that means he has played a full schedule and has not suffered too many injuries over the years. He is now 37 years old. He is in good company as the median age for hitters in the 3000 club is 37 years old. Aaron, Musical and Cobb were all right around 37 years old. Now, all these players hit more than 3000. Roberto Clemente hit just 3000. Derek Jeter will join this august and hearty group soon.
Another leader who is even more spectacular is Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro only started in the MLB at age 27. He has amassed, so far, in 10-plus years, 2305 hits and over those 10 years has averaged 224 hits per year. He led the league in hits seven of those ten years. He also holds the single season record for most hits at 262. He has the lowest number of career strike outs at 697, nearly half of all the other hit leaders. At his current pace he will outstrip all other previous players and reach the 3000 in just 13-plus years. The time is coming. Ichiro is only 37 and with his good fortune and his skill he might get to play like Rose. Rose hit another 1199 hits in his last ten years to age 45.
For all the above-named players, it has always been a hitter's year. Pitchers beware. If Ichiro can go even eight more years he could add another 1000 hits to his current for a total of 3305 placing him 11th on the list, just ahead of Willy Mays. Incredible.