FF applauds Grady Fuson's tough stance on pitchers throwing change ups. He is following through on threats to remove pitchers from the rotation at minor league affiliates if they don't toss the change piece at least 15% of the time (on average). AA San Antonio pitcher Michael Ekstrom is Fuson's first victim, while a shot has been sent across the bow of Jeremy McBryde, who plays for A Fort Wayne. This really comes down to being a two- versus three-pitch pitcher, which is a well known barometer for a player's ability to handle a line up multiple times. The theory goes that a two-pitch guy won't be able to provide a different enough look to get through the second or third pass of a lineup, whereas a three-pitch (or higher) guy can give significantly more looks. There really isn't a reason that every pitcher doesn't have a change up in his arsenal. If you throw a fastball, it's difficult to understand why one is reluctant to just grip the ball a bit differently and throw it exactly the same way you do your fastball. In fact, one can manage three pitches from the same arm slot - a four seam fastball, two seam heater and change up. These should be the only three pitches taught until varsity high school ball. They are all easy on the arm, and teach players that pitching really is about changing speeds and hitting spots.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
We can't bear to give recounts of games on a daily basis at this point in the season. This is a microcosm of what we've all seen at Petco Park lately. When hard core Padre fans can't bear to watch the team (including the ones that will maintain blogs that exclusively discuss the team), it's a sign of a franchise in crisis. But that's for another post. This one will focus on something even more disturbing than the club - the strikeouts frequency it is producing. Strikeouts are unproductive outs in that nothing good can typically come out of not putting the ball into play. Over the course of that last 4 seasons, the Padres have gone from a well performing team in terms of strikeout frequency to a very poor performer. In 2005, the club punched out a respectable 15.57% of their plate appearances (PAs). In 2006, they regressed to just over the NL average over the last 4 seasons, 17.56% compared to 17.20%. In 2007, the Friars K-ed 19.42% of their PAs and are now off to a 20.40% clip. Couple this with a nearly 10% reduction in the club's ability to get on base compared to the 2005 squad (.305 vs. .333) and it's clear that pitchers will need to flash some lumber to help this club win (the NL average from '05 - '08 is almost exactly a .333 on base percentage). In fact, the average 2008 Padre gets on base just 1.5 times for every punch out. Only Brian Giles (3.96 times), Jody Gerut (2.22 times), and Josh Bard (2.24 times) boast at least 2 touches of first base per stroll from the dish to pine. In 2005, the entire club managed 2.14 trips to first per K.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
While watching the Colorado telecast over the last three games, FF is ready for a new crew in the booth to spell the tired routine of play-by-play guy Drew Goodman and color commentator George Frazier. We're the first to admit that it's tough to find an opposing crew tolerable. But some of the nonsense that has been sent over the airwaves is baffling. In game 1 of the series, the pair were discussing Randy Wolf's high pitch count and its impact on the no hitter he had in tact. Frazier tried to argue that Wolf's pitch count of around 80 was effectively double that because of warm ups before the game and between innings. There has also been the incessant whining about "cavernous" Petco Park. Everyone knows that the field is ginormous and clearly the pitchers park in the big leagues. It's just hard to listen to any criticism from a team that plays in Coors Field, which once made Dante Bichette seems like a world beater. Sure, it's better now with the assistance of a humidor, but the broken bat home runs it once surrendered should be a permanent barrier to anyone in the Colorado organization complaining about the play of another park. We won't even start on the positive accolades for FF's least favorite NL umpire, Bob Davidson. All told, the crew is still 1000% more tolerable than Tony Kornheiser.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Vin Scully described the Padres attack on Friday night as that of a "angry moth". Give the legend credit for avoiding such obvious terms as "lacking", "anemic", or "Punch and Judy". The story has its upsides. The Friars lead the National League (NL) in batting average and overall hits by a wide margin of 15 (15% more than the next closest team, the Marlins). Over their 112 hits through Friday night's game, the Padres have just 20 extra base hits (EBHs). This is despite placing third in the NL with 427 plate appearances. In fact, the average NL team has hit 19 doubles and 31 EBHs in 2008 and Florida has as many bombs as the Friars do EBHs. For fans, this translates to less than two (1.8) EBHs per game so far this season. Nothing explains the team's early season struggles more than their punchless hitting. The good news is that they are hitting well and FF expects those doubles, triples and home runs to become more common. Let's just hope the starting pitching can continue its torrid pace in the mean time.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
MLB's exhibition excursion to Wukesong Baseball Stadium, Beijing, China this weekend has been met by a series of yawns at FF. The idea seemed interesting at first, but has been more of a distraction than a fantastic opportunity. We're certain that the experience was a great chance for players, their families and members of the organization to head abroad an soak up a foreign culture. But was it a great opportunity for baseball? We doubt it.
Two games in played in Beijing will quickly fade into memories as two sellouts crowds of 12,224 seats at Wukesong baseball stadium total less than the average number of fans at a home Padre game in 2007 (34,445). Don't think so? If they don't fade now, they certainly will by the time the Olympics roll through China in August. In fact, the upcoming Olympiad will represent the last medal-bearing competition for baseball. Starting with the 2012 London games, baseball will be a demonstration sport - at best. Even so, the game seems more likely to sprout up near new military posts around the world rather than in China (i.e., Central Asia and the Middle East). A quick look at the 16 countries that have played Olympic baseball tells an important tale - proximity to the USA or an America military base have a prominent impact on the popularity of baseball, as does the country's political leanings (13/16 countries). The following map shows those Olympic baseball countries which also have at least one prominent US military base in red, those in close proximity in yellow and those that are fervently pro-American in green. The remaining blue countries are outliers to these statuses.
Baseball will mostly grow via new generations who play early and often. To this end, MLB is sponsoring many youth camps in China and elsewhere. As for the current strategy, it would make more sense have their exhibition games happen in the offseason as have been traditionally played in Japan. Sure, the Chinese number in the billions of untapped potential baseball fans, but the World League of Football has proved that potential doesn't necessarily translate into commercial success for a sport. Let's also not forget that China has been granted a spot in the 2008 Olympics baseball competition that could have gone to a country that actually does embrace baseball.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
God bless Sandy Alderson, who has made it possible for FF to continue on as Friar fans with the following quote from the San Diego Union-Tribune:
“We have no intention of signing Bonds, and that's not a decision predicated on popular opinion, or one based on commercial success, but what we feel is appropriate for the franchise... This is something we're not prepared to consider.”
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Geoff Young over at Ducksnorts.com recently posted a comparison of Bud Black vs. Bruce Bochy. His post uses a lot of statistics from the Bill James Handbook 2008 (haven't received my copy just yet). Some of the main differences outlined were (FF reaction inlined):
- Bochy used more than 3 times the number of pinch runners in 2006 than Black did in 2007. I'd attribute this to two things. First, Bochy chronically over-manages. Second, the '06 team (as well as many before it) had a number of veterans nearing the end of their careers that Bochy was infatuated with, seemingly for their experience and their ability to provide an excuse that would indulge his propensity to over-manage (i.e., Mike Piazza, Ryan Klesko, Vinny Castilla). Advantage: Black.
- Black pulls his starters faster and uses more relievers on consecutive days. Black seems happy to take a strong outing and rely on the bullpen - at least his favorites. Keeping the only part of the team that is truly strong intact was probably a wise move, but FF wouldn't be surprised to see Heath Bell's arm fall off on his 20th consecutive day of use in the 2008 campaign. We'd like to see him balance out the 'pen a bit more, but prefer Black's approach to Bochy's "use 'em cause we got 'em" approach that seemed to frequently pair a shaky reliever with a tenuous situation. Advantage: Black
- Black uses many more pitch outs than Bochy. In all fairness, he was probably just trying to slow down the racetrack that was the base paths. If Bochy was good for something, it was that he seemed to get the most out of catchers - not a huge surprise given his background. Disadvantage: Padres front office for disregarding the defensive skills of catchers in their selection of backstops.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
San Diego sports fans know about the promise of big names and bold moves. We've heard it all many times and have even experienced it a time or two. But watching the Padres operate this offseason has been painful. I can't actually believe I'm saying this - but I am: Why can't KT be more like AJ? KT is, of course, the esteemed General Manager of the San Diego Padres; AJ the corollary with the San Diego Chargers. FF has a great deal of respect for both. KT is much more open about his plans while AJ is as closed as (ironically) a Marty Shottenheimer practice. I can't quite understand why the Friar front office is making such a big, public deal out of everything this offseason. I'm not big into conspiracy theories and this isn't meant to be one itself, but there is so much telegraphing of moves going on that it makes one feel like they want everyone to know they tried, should they eventually fail. We saw the reports that Milton Bradley, Brett Tomko, and even Glendon Rusch were all but done deals; none of these players has signed (and perhaps that's a good thing). Sandy Alderson even got into the act in regard to Bradley and Kosuke Fukudome (audio clip). I think the Friar's front office is fantastic on the whole - but agents and other teams don't need any help. AJ keeps everything close to the vest and nobody really knows what he'll will do at any given time. In the giant game of chicken that is a pro sports personnel management, it makes sense to keep the rest of field wondering.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
The San Diego Padres released 2nd baseman, Marcus Giles, to make room for relief pitcher Mauro Zarate who was claimed off waivers from the Florida Marlins. Giles started the season as the Friars lead off man and had a strong April before his long swing and lack of plate patience led him to a dismal season before losing his job to utility man Geoff Blum.
Zarate, 24, debuted in the majors Aug. 7. In five innings and four outings, he allowed seven runs. In seven minor league seasons, Zarate has a 3.02 ERA with 75 strikeouts, 32 walks and a .205 batting average allowed in 85 2/3 innings.
The release of the hometown Giles leaves a starting infield spot available, at this point it would appear that Matt Antonelli will be given every opportunity to win the position. I would expect the Padres to bring in a veteran to push Antonelli (much like when the Pads brought Rey Ordonez in to compete with the highly touted Khallil Greene).
Sunday, September 23, 2007
We at FF find ourselves looking forward to Kevin Kouzmanoff's at bats more than any other Padre these days. His story is nothing short of amazing - especially in San Diego. Batting just .108 on May 10, Kouzmanoff would have certainly been relegated to the bench under former skipper Bruce Bochy. Sure, there was a time and place where we bought into the myth that Bochy was perhaps the best manager in the league; what with his 8 3/4 cap size, you almost have to think there's extra information floating around in his head. But in the last portion of his 11 year tenure in San Diego, FF beat writers realized a major flaw in Bochy's style was his massive preference for veterans over rookies (perhaps call Sean Burroughs Syndrome (SBS)?). We certainly aren't against trotting solid veterans out on the field when you have them, but at the same time you have to be able to inject some youth into your lineup. Since being traded from the club, there have been many occasions where Xavier Nady would have been a solid starter in left field. Sure - Mike Cameron came to the club for Nady, but GM Kevin Towers surely could have worked out another avenue to bring Cameron to the club. But KT actually did what he had to - moved a player that Bochy never seemed to care for and brought in the kind of player that fit his manager's style. You might point to Josh Barfield or Adrian Gonzalez as flaws in our "Bochy dislikes rookies theory" - okay, let's take a look:
- Josh Barfield: If the '06 Friars hadn't been completely dysfunctional at 3rd base (i.e., if Mark Bellhorn had managed to bat above the Mendoza line), then Geoff Blum, Bellhorn or Todd Walker would have replaced Barfield, at least in a platoon relationship
- Adrian Gonzalez: Don't recall how upset Gonzalez was at the end of Spring Training '06 that he was being passed over for Ryan Klesko? Had Klesko not been hurt, who knows how that would have gone down.
So what's this have to do with Kevin Kouzmanoff again? Simply stated, Bud Black's patience has resulted in a .308 batting average since May 10th. Kouzmanoff has been the major cog in the Padres offense for many games this season. We at FF are glad to see a little faith from a manager into an overly-qualified front office and scouting staff whose opinions should be part of the daily decision making process. Playoffs or not - Bud Black's first season has been solid. We're not sold on his bullpen management at all times - but that's for another article...
Friday, September 14, 2007
The San Diego Padres have named their minor league players of the month on Thursday. Both players were high draft choices in left-handed pitcher Wade LeBlanc and outfielder Kellen Kulbacki. The 23 year old LeBlanc, who was a second round pick out of the University of Alabama, went 3-1 record and a 2.67 ERA (8 ER/27.0 IP) in five starts for Double-A San Antonio. He struck out 29 batters and issued only eight walks, while holding opponents to a .198 batting average (19-for-96). LeBlanc was promoted to San Antonio on July 4, posting a 7-3 record and a 3.45 ERA (22 ER/57.1 IP) in 12 games (11 starts) for the Missions.
The 21-year-old Kulbacki batted .356 (32-for-90) with five doubles, two triples, six home runs, 19 RBI and 16 runs scored in 25 games for Short-A Eugene during the month of August. The outfielder earned Northwest League Player of the week honors from August 20-26. For the 2007 season, he hit .301 (68-for-226) with 13 doubles, three triples, eight home runs, 39 RBI and 33 runs scored in 61 games with the Emeralds. Kulbacki, San Diego's first pick in the compensation round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft (40th overall) out of James Madison University, was Co-Player of the Year in the Colonial Athletic Association and a First-Team All-American in 2007.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Much has been made of Greg Maddux's walkless inning streak - and why not, 54 1/3 walkless innings is nothing if not impressive. What might be even more amazing is that he's still two complete games from his personal record of 72 1/3 innings, set in 2001. That said, is this walkless inning streak responsible for Mad Dog's sub-3 ERA over the last month and half? Turns out that it isn't. As you can see from the following graph, Maddux's monthly WHIP (Padre blue line) and monthly H/IP (Charger powder blue line) are nearly identical for the season (he's only walked 21 batters in the 2007 campaign). Notice that his monthly ERA (Padre sand line) drops precipitously, and at a higher rate than his lowered WHIP, over the last quarter of the season.
So what is responsible for his fantastic pitching of late? I'm really not sure - nothing sticks out statistically. From my observations, Maddux simply seems to be hitting his spots better. During the first half of the season, Mad Dog took an inning or more to dial in his darting fastball. Recently, his balls have just been seeking the strike zone from the get-go. In this way, his walkless inning streak may be indicative of his improved control, but certainly isn't the cause of his improvement.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
This isn't a shock to anyone who has watched Padre baseball this season - teams run wild on the Friars. How wild? Try 155 stolen bases this season - 55 more than the next closest NL team. It would seem likely that Bud Black's club should at least throw out more running than other clubs, given all the stolen base attempts. Wrong. The Friars have a NL low 10% rate of catching runners (just 18 on the season). Let that sink in for a moment.
No big deal you might say, we've heard all season how only 18% of those baserunners score. That may be true, but on the season that would erode 40% of the Padres run differential over opposing teams, on average, from just over .50 runs per game down to about .30 runs per game. That's still a positive differential - but it sure isn't providing much room for error.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Padre baserunning has made FF cringe all season. Friday night provided a couple examples with Padres getting tossed at third twice when they would later score, thereby losing potential runs. So how do the Padres fair on the bases when we look at the stats? Bad, real bad. According to 2006 statistics supplied by sabermetrics inventor Bill James in "The Bill James Handbook 2007", here are 6 factors that we can look at to get the gist of a player's baserunning capabilities:
- Taking 3rd from 1st on a single (Mike Cameron excels at this)
- Scoring on a single when at second
- Scoring on a double when at first
- Taking advantage of defensive miscues (balks, wild pitches, defensive indifference, etc)
- Making outs while baserunning
- Percentage of time scoring runs when on base
- Marcus Giles +16
- Mike Cameron +12
- Geoff Blum +3
- Milton Bradley 0
- Morgan Ensburg -1
- Rob Mackoviak -3
- Josh Bard -7
- Brian Giles -8
- Michael Barret -9
- Khalil Green -14
- Adrian Gonzalez -24
One other interesting note is that Bud Black doesn't appear to be blind to these stats. He's routinely had the top baserunners at the top of the lineup - and we thank him for that. Now if the team could manage to be a bit more average rather than weigh in at a -3 as a team.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
CBS Sportsline's Scott Miller reports that San Diego should enjoy Milton Bradley before he wears out his welcome. We all know about Bradley's reputation, but San Diego might just be the place for Milton to turn things around. There may not be a more laid back stop in the Big League circuit than America's Finest City. After his acquisition, Michael Barrett was supposed to be a clubhouse cancer too, but he's fit in perfectly to date. Given that Bradley is feeling accepted, hanging out with pitchers and playing like a super star, FF is going to keep the faith. How couldn't we - the guy has hit 4 bombs in his last 5 games to go with a .375 average and 22 RBI over his last 23 contests.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
The Padres telecast has just reported that Marcus Giles has been placed on the 15-day DL as a result of injuries related to last night's bush league slide by Carlos Ruiz. Friar announcer Matty V reports that Giles had to obtain help from the Padres medical staff at about 4:30AM as his knee became swollen and made it difficult for him to move around. Diagnosed as a sprained knee, the new injury overshadows the hip pointer that forced Giles out of last night's game. Craig Stansberry was called up to fill Giles' spot on the Big Club and is uniform for tonight's game. Stansberry was recently mentioned by GM Kevin Towers as a likely candidate to join the Padres, partly due to his .820 OPS at AAA Portland this year.
Vasgersian also mentioned a questionable column in the Philly Inquirer today. The author, Phil Sheridan, suggests that Philly starter Jamie Moyer could have plucked Giles in response to his "histrionics". So let me try to understand this - the team that commits the egregious offense should be doing the plucking? He also says that Ruiz's slide wasn't "an outrage against all that is holy in baseball". Really? I don't know if the slide was intentionally dirty or not, but the bottom line is that it was far enough over the line to be called for interference. Oh, and now Giles may be lost for the season. Maybe the Padres are just being theatrical about that too...
Doug Brocail hit Carlos Ruiz on the thigh in the 6th inning of tonight's game. In case Mr. Sheridan is confused, this is the typical plucking relationship for an event of this nature.
Stansberry entered the game as a pinch hitter in the 7th and lined the first pitch he saw into right-center field for a base knock. Running out Brian Giles' fly ball, Stansberry look fairly fleet of foot. A little more speed can't hurt the Padre bench.
Friday, August 24, 2007
ESPN's Keith Law explained why Padres manager made a horrible mistake last night in opting for side winding Cla Meredith for starter Justin Germano in the 6th inning with the bases juiced and no outs. Law wanted to see Black go to a "killer lefty" to face Mets left handed struggling slugger Carlos Delgado, Mr. Law also points out that the Friars do not employ a pitcher who fits the description of a killer lefty. Law also states that Cla Meredith was the worst possible pitcher to face a left handed hitter due to the arm slot that he throws from. Let's see what FF feels about Law's thoughts.
I think we all can agree that the Padres had a 6-1 lead at the time of the pitching change. Bud Black, in the 6th inning, was willing to trade outs for a runs. Who in the Padres bullpen would one go to in to get a ground ball? How about Cla Meredith, I hear he throws a heavy sinker. As far as the Padres lack of the killer lefty ~ I think the last time they had that guy in their bullpen was in 1998 when they acquired Randy Meyers ,that sure didn't work out well. The Padres have long been known to have the best relief crew in the game with or without a lefty. Why do you need a lefty to call on when your right handed relievers have the ability to get the southpaws out?
In looking at the roster FF found that only Heath Bell and Trevor Hoffman are better against right handed batters (and these are the 2 best, most reliable arms in MLB's best bullpen). Doug Brocail holds lefties to a .180 clip,Kevin Cameron keeps them to .220, and lefty Justin Hampson holds LH's to just .196. As far as Cla Meredith is concerned, he too has faired better against lefties although the batting average against him is a plump .292.
Clearly, the article was meant to point out the Pads don't have a Billy Wagner type lefty, however in looking at the whole picture we can see that the Padres are doing well with the guys they have. I'm not sure what bothers me more: the lack of research, or the dismissal of the game situation. A ground ball would have been 2 outs and one run. Of course the maneuver did not work last night, but it has worked over the long haul of the season. I do agree with you that Bruce Bochy did perfect the art of mismanaging. I actually wanted to see Black stick with Germano in that situation, but understand he wanted a double play grounder in exchange for a run or 2.
Monday, August 6, 2007
FriarForum.com reader Travis recently commented on our post about Bud Selig's reaction to Barry Bonds tying Hank Arron's record. In his comment, Travis provides a link to an editorial alleging that Bonds' elbow armor not only unfairly gives him access to outside pitches without fear of injury, but also improves his mechanics. We haven't studied that massive elbow armor in detail, but the article does bring up another interesting angle that has been bantered about between myself and my father. Inexplicably, my father has become a Barry Bonds defender (in my estimation, his argument is that if Tony Gwynn says Bonds is okay, he's okay - but he can log on and attempt to explain himself). A popular theory aimed at protecting Bonds from asterisk status in the record books is that steroids weren't technically banned (and were actually passively encouraged) in baseball while Bonds (and others) were allegedly using them. This conversation turned into a debate about what's worse - performance enhancing drugs or outright cheating. I firmly believe that performance enhancing drugs are worse than cheating. For instance, throwing a spit ball seems much less of an transgression than sucking down Human Growth Hormone. What do you think? And how about that arm brace?
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