Thursday, June 30, 2011

Game Reflections - #82 vs Royals

At least I tried.  What's your excuse?
Apparently I can't count - the last Game Reflection was game 79, not 78.  See the cashier for a full refund.

Kansas City is tired of coming to San Diego.  Yeah, it's got bright sunshine and beautiful women, but they can't win a game here - now 0-6 lifetime after yesterday's loss.  Some thoughts (and apologies for the late afternoon posting, duty called):

- Rizzo stole his first base in the majors, and oh my goodness did he get a huge jump.  He'd taken 3 steps before Royal starter Bruce Chen delivered the ball to the plate.  It's not often you see the catcher make no throw to third on a stolen base attempt.

- Bruce Chen - 52-51 (going into yesterday), parts of 13 major league seasons.  I was stunned to realize he'd hung around that long.  Teach your sons to throw left-handed; they'll be gainfully employed until they're 50.

- The game's key play ended up being Tim Stauffer's pop-up to start the third.  You'll read that an error was charged to Royals 3B Mike Moustakas on the play.  What you won't read is that he had the ball pop out of his glove twice while trying to corral it ALONG THE FIRST BASE LINE.  Neither the Royals second nor first basemen wanted any part of that ball.  Way to bag your teammate fellas.

Charging Moustakas with the error was unquestionably the right decision but a very tough error given how far he ranged, how close he came, and how tough the sun was yesterday afternoon.

Even so Chen faced Ludwick with two on and two out, eventually with a 2-2 count.  Ludwick lined that pitch into the corner for the double that tied the game.  The next 5 Padres reached safely, including a line shot off Orlando Hudson's bat that Moustakas couldn't hang onto, and a tough high chop from Rob Johnson that Moustakas tried to short-up and missed.

- The Royals employed a shift against Rizzo when he batted in the fifth (bases empty).  I'd not seen that strategery before.  Rizzo popped to third on the first pitch.

- Brett Butler got 6 at bats in this series (0-for-6).  There was a great story on ESPN recently about why the AL has the advantage over the NL in interleague, which made this fair point:  No NL team has a 20-HR guy sitting on their bench when they go to an AL park.  The converse is also true - AL teams must take a potent bat out of their lineup to play baseball the way God intended.  By OPS+ Butler is the second-best hitter on Kansas City's roster.  Advantage Padres.

Of course, trying to get all those big bats into the lineup can be fun too.  Witness Adrian playing RF for the Red Sox in Philadephia.

- The Padres used Spence and Qualls to negotiate the eighth.  I don't believe manager Bud Black declared Mike Adams unavailable yesterday, but that's how he managed the game.  Interestingly Heath Bell worked his fourth consecutive ninth, and got his fourth consecutive save for the second time this season.

- Eric Hosmer (Royals 1B) is going to be good.  Really, really good.  Everything that guy hits has pace.

- Tim Stauffer was nowhere as sharp as he was on Friday.  Didn't matter.  Royals threatened in the second, broke through for 1 in the third, and posed no serious threat to him the rest of the way.  Many consider Mat Latos the Ace of this staff, based on how he pitched from May to September when he was the Ace.  Latos hasn't really pitched like that in 2011 (yet), but Stauffer sure has.  For my money he's the Ace of this staff.

After losing 7 straight to the AL, San Diego has won 5 in a row.  They travel to Seattle to close out their interleague schedule for 2011.  It'd be nice to see them win 3 more.  After that, 8 games with San Francisco over 14 days.  Here we go.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Game Reflections - #78 vs Royals

The most ridiculously cool first pitch you will ever see.
 The Padres appeared to be cruising along until Brayan Pena's 2 RBI single in the sixth inning.  I blame 'the wave' that started around the same time the Royals put two runners in scoring position.  Last night's game entertained, with all sorts of action.  To the reflections!

- The Royals are hit-and-run fools.  They executed two perfectly and sent the runner on numerous other occasions.  There was a slightly comical sequence in the third inning when Chris Getz got the 'green light' to go on like 15 straight pitches.  Both successful hit-and-runs directly led to Kansas City scoring.  Maybe it's me and my old eyes but one does not see much hit-and-run anymore.

- Jeff Francis is a ground-ball pitcher (1.47 GB/FB ratio).  Ryan Ludwick is a fly-ball hitter.  They seemed to be a bad fit, but Ludwick had a HR and double in two at-bats off Francis, staking starter Mat Latos to an early lead.

- Ludwick would have had a third RBI last night on his double if not for a textbook relay play by the Royals.  Alex Gordon, who is a converted third baseman, expertly played the carom off the left-field wall and threw a strike to the cutoff man Alcides Escobar.  Escobar then threw a 180' pea to Pena, nailing Chase Headley.  The collision was merely pro-forma.  Headley was out by 6 feet.  I said it on Twitter last night and I'll say it again here - that was a great baseball play.

- That relay to end the third inning was the first of three great throws from the outfield grass.  Melky Cabrera almost got Chris Denorfia tagging from second to third in the sixth, and Denorfia almost turned the trick on Pena's tag play in the bottom of the same inning.

- Another one of those searches I wish I could do - the last time a Padre pitcher scored on a wild pitch.  Baseball-Reference's search fields don't appear set up to support that (If any of you readers knows how to do it, please pass your secret on to me so I can learn how).  Latos did it in the bottom of the fourth.

- The winning run in this one scored without benefit of a hit.  Escobar air-mailed the ball to first on Jesus Guzman's grounder; it landed about 15 rows back.  Guzman took off for third on Hudson's grounder to third, forcing a throw from Royal first basemen Eric Hosmer which was not caught by Escobar.  Guzman trotted home.

I love aggressive baserunning like that.  Because Moustakas (Royals 3B) had to come in to field O-Dog's ball, there was no one to cover the bag, so it became a footrace between Guzman and Escobar.  Escobar correctly anticipated needing to cover the bag, but he, the throw, and Guzman all arrived at about the same time, and Escobar couldn't make the play.

- Guzman started at first last night and did OK.  I thought he should have been charged with an error on Gordon's ground ball leading off the sixth - it looked like it went through him from my vantage point waaaaay out in LF - but admittedly I didn't have the best angle to make that determination.  Anthony Rizzo came in as a defensive replacement the next inning.

- The other interesting substitution was removing Ludwick in favor of Will Venable for the ninth.  Ludwick's defense is not as bad as some would lead you to believe, but he does occasionally look just awful trying to go back and corral balls hit to left.  On the substituion Denorfia took over in left and Venable, who had pinch-hit in the eighth, stayed in to play right.  FWIW, Ludwick's plus/minus (from Bill James Online) is +5 (LF), Denorfia +6 (RF), Venable +6 (RF).  On the defensive spectrum LF is considered a less difficult position than RF, so Denorfia's +6 can be considered more than just 1 point better than Ludwick's +5.  Maybin clocks in at +14 in CF.

Podcast tonight at 10pm PDT.  It'd be nice to have another victory to crow about.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Karmic Payback

After leaving 11 runners stranded it felt like the Padres were doomed to fail again. After Orlando Hudson and Will Venable played hot potato with the ball on consecutive plays int the eighth, the groan from 24000+ in the ballpark was audible.

Here we go again.

Then a funny thing happened. "It seems Destiny has taken a hand," ; Richard Blain would say. San Diego loaded the bases again in the bottom of the inning, weathered a bunt lineout by Venable that thankfully was part of a safety squeeze, then exulted when Johnny Venters deflected Jason Bartlett's ball into no-mans land to drive in Denorfia.

Seven pitches later the Padres had three more runs off Venters. It should be noted Venters was the stingiest relief pitcher in baseball at the start of the day; he had allowed 3 earned runs to the league.

Destiny took a hand indeed.

Two other non-game action notes for your consideration:

- What were the odds I'd put a post up about squeeze plays, and Bud Black would call for one in the eighth? It also means my stats are wrong; Black's Padres had successfully EXECUTED 307 sacrifices prior to last nights game; he may have tried many more. I'll have to go back to the data.

- On the post-game show Ted Mendenhall suggested maybe the Padres should send Rizzo back to AAA and try out Jesus Guzman at first. His rationale: Guzman is hitting .308 at the moment, Rizzo .175. Personally I didn't think there was a need to rush Rizzo to the majors, but now that he's here the Padres should take a long look at him to determine if he is the first baseman of the future.

The kid is 21. He tore up a hitter friendly league in AAA. There's a reason guys pitch at AAA - they ain't good enough for the Majors. The jump from AAA to the Majors is the biggest improvement in talent Rizzo has experienced during he advancement through the minors. Only one guy in my recent memory went right from the minors to being a great Major League hitter, and he may well turn out to be the greatest right-handed hitter ever. Rizzo is good, with ML-caliber power, but he's not Albert Pujols.

An adjustment period was inevitable. Rizzo will figure it out. Let's not panic after two weeks of plate appearances.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Roster Moves

Padres recalled Anthony Bass from AA San Antonio and sent Evan Scribner to AAA Tucson.

From Padres press release.

Squeezes and Suicide Squeeze calls by Bud Black

Everth Cabrera from 2010.  The Bunt can be an effective weapon.
In the bottom of the sixth last night, with Padres on first and third, one out, down two, the inevitable 'why not squeeze here?' question got posted on Twitter.  I do not think there's a single manager in the Majors today who would call for a squeeze attempt by their 5-hitter in any inning or game situation.  Bud Black did not in this situation; Anthony Rizzo struck out looking.

For teams that struggle scoring runs though, the squeeze can be an effective weapon go bring the runner in from third.  At the bottom (or sometimes, the top) of the order, NL teams typically have position players that can handle the bat well enough to make the squeeze possible.  San Diego has struggled to score runs for 2 seasons now.  So the Twitter question raised a larger one for me:  How often does Bud Black bunt with runners on third?

Off to Baseball-Reference we go.

Since becoming the Padres manager in 2007, Black has called for 303 sacrifice bunts. Only 11 of those plays have come with a runner on third (9 with runners on first and third, 2 with a runner on third only) - 3.6% of the total.  Seven of those squeeze attempts have been by pitchers, four by position players (Oscar Robles, David Eckstein, Everth Cabrera, Chris Denorfia).  Here's the interesting thing - on 7 of the 11 occasions, the Padres had the lead when attempting the bunt.  In fact, before 2011 Black had attempted only one sacrifice bunt with a runner on third, less than 2 out, and his team behind - 5/13/2009 - and on that occasion the run did not score from third.

This year Black recognized the difficulty his team has scoring runs.  Going into Friday's game the Padres were hitting .225 with RISP (133-592, and they went 0-7 last night.  In 2011 he has already called for a bunt with a runner on third three times, the most since 2008, all with his team either tied or behind.  San Diego has scored the run on two of those occasions, once to tie, once to take the lead.

One other nuance.  Black virtually never calls for a sac bunt with just a runner at third, when it is most obvious the bunt will be a squeeze attempt.  He's made that call twice - once in 2007, and once last year.

What conclusions can we draw?  Black likes to let his hitters hit regardless.  He will only try a 'squeeze' play with guys hitting 8th or 9th in the order (8 of the 11 attempts have come from those two positions), and only early in the game (only twice has he called for a bunt in this situation after the fifth inning).

Giving the team's continued struggles getting runners home from second and third period, the squeeze play should be something Black considers.  Granted, using it all the time significantly detracts from its usefulness.  Only using it 3 times a season keeps runs off the board.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Game Reflections - #77 vs Braves

"I got ALL of that one!"
Last night's game was a treat.  Easily the most complete game I've seen the Padres play in person this season.  Now that you've digested the SDUT writeup, and game summaries on your favorite sports website, allow me to add some thoughts.

- Lots of aggressiveness early.  Venable going on an 0-2 count kept San Diego out of the double play. I really liked him going on that pitch because Lowe threw over 3 times during the at bat; kind of an F-U steal attempt.  Additionally the Padres successfully moved runners over on ground outs 3 times in the first 2 innings.  Many folks disdain situational hitting, but it is an important part of the game - especially for this team that struggles to score runs.

- Ludwick is flailing at the low and away pitch again.  Looks like his hot hitting is done.

- Heyward's single through Stauffer, and Jones' soft single to left, but Stauffer in immediate trouble.  Bartlett made a real nice play on McCann's ground ball.  It was hit hard, and Bartlett was blocked by Heyward's body.  He still picked it on one hop and started the 6-4-3 twin killing.  That was the start of 16 up, 16 down for Stauffer.

- Padres got their second run courtesy of a great take-out slide by Orlando Hudson.  Without that play Ludwick is doubled at first and the score is still 1-0.  Again, more fundamental baseball. Could it be the Red Sox rubbed off on these guys?

- The Braves pitched out in the third with Bartlett going, and he still stole second base.  It helped McCann's throw was high and on the first base side of the bag.  I cannot remember the last time I saw someone successfully steal on a pitchout.

- After San Diego made it 5-0 I was a little surprised Stauffer went back out for the seventh inning.  Schafer's line out to end the sixth was well struck, the best contact any Brave hitter had made since McCann's double play ball.  It seemed to indicate Stauffer was tired.  Sure enough, the three balls put in play were smoked.  Freeman's HR cut the lead to 3, but stauffer was able to strike out Uggla for the second time to retire the side.

- Speaking of Uggla, he almost got hit in the head by a Freeman foul ball in the fifth inning.  Freeman was late, hit it off the end of the bat, and it hit the screen with a thud right next to where Uggla was standing.  He moved into the dugout for the rest of the at bat.  The next time he came on deck, he stayed in the on-deck circle.  Visions of Juan Encarnacion flashed through my head when I saw how close that ball came to Uggla.  Glad he was not struck.

- When Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell visited Lowe in the sixth, Jorge Cantu's entry music blared over the PA system.  Somewhere Avenging Jack Murphy went into convulsions and could not understand why.

-On Alberto Gonzalez's single to drive in 2 later in that same inning, Heyward fielded the ball and threw to... third.  Not sure I understood that.  Maybin was the runner at second when the play started, but Gonzalez stuck the ball well and Heyward got to it in a hurry.  Plus, as he showed off on that play, he has a cannon for an arm.  Hundley (who was at first) was not going to try for third.  An interesting choice of bases to throw to.

- Guzman's HR sounded like a rifle shot.  Literally.  First Padre pinch-hit HR this season, and first Padre pinch-hit HR since Sept last year (Stairs, against STL).  You've never seen a happier guy rounding the bases and sitting in the dugout after a big hit than Guzman on that one.  Love the energy.

- Josh Spence came in with Peavy's number (44).  He topped out at 85 on the gun with his fastball.  You're typical soft-tossing lefty.  For his ML debut, he only had to face Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones, and Brian McCann.  You know, the three best hitters on Atlanta's roster, two All-Stars and a Hall of Famer.  He retired the side in order.  Well done kid.

Towel night tonight. Not sure I'll make the game.  I will make tomorrow's, and am looking forward to Cory Luebke's first start of 2011.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

AA vs AAA Pitcher Call-ups

Nice win for the Padres last night.  Latos battled through 6 tough innings.  The offense sputtered again but broke a 4-4 tie in the eighth inning, and the bullpen shut down Boston late.

Couple of things to discuss.  During last night's Podcast I mentioned that it seems the Padres have dipped into AA more often than AAA for pitching help this year.  Looking at their transactions for this season that's not quite accurate.

  • AAA pitching callups:  Wade LeBlanc (4/24, 6/14), Evan Scribner (4/25, 6/9).
  • AA pitching callups:  Anthony Bass (6/13), Joshua Spence (6/21).
Wade LeBlanc being called up twice this season is not surprising; he spent significant time with the big club in 2010.  Scribner's a big righty but has been used exclusively in games the Padres trailed by at least 3 runs.  That's it for AAA pitching promotions.  Until recently the Padres pitching corps had been pretty healthy save Joe Thatcher.  With Harang and Gregerson on the mend, and Moseley ailing but pitching through it, I find it interesting that San Diego's front office is willing to dip into their lower level minor league team for help.

I just don't remember that happening a lot before.  It might be I haven't paid as close attention to where the callups come from as I am now.  Or it might be the PCL is such a hitters league this season it's hurting Jeremy Hefner and Will Inman's (to name two) chances of making a big league start.  Bass won his ML debut so there won't be any second-guessing here.  We'll see what Spence brings to the table in upcoming days.

We also talked last night about Wade LeBlanc's chances of making another start.  He was sent down after his Monday start, so that talk is kind of moot; who gets the start instead?  Harang won't come off the DL until 28 June at the earliest, meaning he'll miss his next start (which would be Saturday).  If I was a betting man I'd bet Cory Luebke will get the ball this Saturday.  Luebke has been the lone left-hander in the Padres bullpen this season, however the call-up of Joshua Spence (who's left-handed) had to be designed with covering Luebke's bullpen slot in mind.

I really like Luebke getting a start. He dominated the Red Sox lineup for 3 innings on Monday, and I believe Black would have left him out there longer if the seventh inning had been the fourth inning; he might have been able to pitch out of it.  At least he could have done no worse than Frieri did.  Atlanta will be a challenge and I'm looking forward to seeing him battle.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why The Ludwick Hate?

So many things to talk about from last night.  So, so many things:
  • Why the Padres didn't try to squeeze in the fourth inning.
  • Why Ernesto Frieri can't find the strike zone.
  • Why Wade LeBlanc continues to get starts and Cory Luebke doesn't.
I was going to write about any number of these (and probably still will in the coming days).  On the drive in this morning, however, I was distracted from that by Scott Kaplan (of Scott and BR fame on XX1090).  Naturally it makes sense this morning, after a nightmarish 7th inning which saw 10 consecutive Red Sox reach base with 2 outs, that the first Padres player Scott Kaplan decides to hammer is Ryan Ludwick.  To paraphrase: 'If I have to watch one more Ludwick dive...'.

Why all the Ludwick hate?  Why does Kaplan have a hardon for Ludwick?

Since May first, Ludwick is hitting .295/.348/.416.  He's one of only two guys on this team (the other being Chase Headley) hitting consistently, and he's the only real power threat the Padres have.  I've documented here that his defense is not as bad as most believe.  So why the continual Ludwick bashing?

Because of his diving attempt to catch Kevin Youkilis' double in the seventh inning?  Let's analyze that sequence for a moment.

When Youkilis stepped to the plate for the second time, the Padres were on their third pitcher of the inning.  There had already been 4 walks (one intentional) and 2 hit batsman in the inning.  After Frieri retired Youkilis for the second out (on a fly to Ludwick no less), the Red Sox hitters went: intentional walk (Ortiz), walk (Drew), HBP (Scutaro on ball 4), HBP (Varitek), single (Reddick), single (Ellsbury), walk (Pedroia), and single (Gonzalez).

That's a long inning.

Youkilis' second fly ball was the first ball (since his previous at bat in the inning) where a Padre fielder even had a whisper of a hope of making the play.  Ludwick, tired of standing in LF watching the carnage, tired of his team getting its brains beat in, tired of not being able to do anything to stop it - ran flat-out down the warning track from where he had been positioned (more in LC than LF) and tried to make the play to get out of the inning.  He missed.  Youk ended up with a double.

That's the play.  This isn't Ludwick diving under a ball which led to 2 runs and the loss like he did on 11 June against Washington (although that play happened in the first inning, so the Padres had the entire game to score three).  This was Ludwick trying to get his team out of a nightmare of an inning.  That's the play Kaplan decides to make fun of at the start of his show this morning?

People who hate Ludwick because he flopped down the stretch last season need to get over it.  People who hate Ludwick because he started this season hitting .098 need to look at what he's done lately.  Ryan Ludwick is not the problem here.

Come on, Scott Kaplan - you're better than this.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rizzo vs Headley - first 10 games

Three brutal losses this weekend.  Five unearned runs enroute to a 6-5 loss, shutout for the 12th time this season, then losing a game they led 3-1 in the sixth.  Now we go to Boston to play the other hot AL team.

"Nice to see you, Adrian.  Can you sit these 3 games out so we have a 10% chance of winning?"

Speaking of Adrian, how's his replacement holding up?  After a double, triple, and HR in his first four games, he's struggled a bit:  .148/.361/.370 in 36 PA.  The best think we can say about Anthony Rizzo is the slow start on balls in play has not affected his batters eye.  His OPS+ still sits at 112, which on this Padre team is 4th best.

Here's something interesting - how does Rizzo's first 10 games compare with Chase Headley's?  Rizzo's line is above.  Here's Headley's: .250/.250/.525 (40 PA).  Headley hit 3 HR in his first 10 games with the Padres (hence the high SLG), but had not walked in 40 PA (and had struck out 15 times) which drove his OBP down.  Padres were 1-9 in Headley's first 10 games, 2-8 so far in Rizzos (appropos of nothing).

People soured pretty quickly on Headley, which I at the time thought was inherently unfair.  He did not lift a bad team out of being bad by himself, and it was unrealistic to expect he would.  People's expectations of Rizzo seem much more reasonable; this is also a bad team, Rizzo is not going to lift them out of being bad by himself.

It might also be helping to manage Rizzo expectations that he's only played 4 of his first 10 games at home.  Headley played 7 of his first 10 at Petco.

I thought that'd be more interesting than rehashing this weekend's series.  Ugh.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Game Reflections - #63 vs Rockies

Padres lost a winnable game today to the Rockies, and dropped their first series in 2 weeks.  That's a bummer.

I'm not going to do my usual recap of the whole game.  Instead, I want to make two points about the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth.

The bottom of the eighth starts with a leadoff single from Ryan Ludwick.  Bud Black immediately pinch-runs for him with Chris Denorfia.  Taking Ludwick, his cleanup hitter and really his best hitter in the lineup, out at this juncture is risky, but figure Black thinks if the run scores he only needs to get 3 more outs.  It's worth the risk.

Brad Hawpe has a good at bat, then flies out to the track in RF.

During Nick Hundley's (and welcome back Nick) at bat Denorfia steals second.  A passed ball later and he's at third.  Colorado brings the infield in.

Point Number One:  The Contact Play Sucks

San Diego puts the contact play on, meaning that as soon as the ball is put into play Denorfia breaks for the plate.  Except that Hundley grounds weakly back the pitcher and Deno is out by 20 feet.  Which begs the question:  why?  In this situation, Denorfia's run gives the Padres the lead.  If the ball gets through the infield he scores.  If Hundley lifts a fly ball to the outfield he scores.  If Hundley makes an out without the contact play on - and this is critical - THE WINNING RUN IS STILL 90 FEET AWAY.

Teams play the infield in specifically to cut down the run at the plate.  I don't care if Usain Friggin' Bolt is taking a lead off third, on a ball hit right to an infielder playing in he's out at the plate if he goes.  So why would any team ever put the contact play on, especially with the infield in?

Hindsight is always 20/20.  Alberto "Hacker" Gonzalez singled to center (which would have driven in Denorfia), then Cantu made the third out.

So on to the top of the ninth.  Heath Bell is in, which seems odd considering he's the only guy in the bullpen that pitched Tuesday.  However, since there will be no save opportunity once the game goes extra innings (where essentially it is at this point anyway), and the top of the Rockie lineup is due, why not.

Carlos Gonzalez leads off with a single.  Jonathan Herrera, pinch hitter, attempts to bunt but pops it up.  In his eagerness to turn two, Jorge Cantu kicks the ball.  Hundley picks it up, has no play at second, slips while throwing the ball to first but retires Herrera.  Bud Black then decides to walk Todd Helton and face Troy Tulowitzki.

Point Number Two:  The Intentional Walk

In this game, Helton was 4-for-4 with a single, home run, and 2 doubles.  On deck is Tulowitzki, the Rockies best player.  Helton is 5-for-12 lifetime against Bell, Tulo is 0-for-14.  Actually seemed like the correct move.  Bell eventually uncorks a wild pitch during the Tulo at bat, so both runners move up 90 feet.  On Deck is Seth Smith.  If you're willing to walk Helton, why not walk Tulowitzki at this point to set up a double play? 

Pitching to Tulo initially with runners on first and second at least has the double play in order as a potential benefit, but that's gone courtesy of the wild pitch.  And the maxim that you don't want to put the go-ahead run in scoring position does not apply.  The winning run was already in position thanks to the "successful" (read: botched) sacrifice bunt.  Walking Tulo would not put another run in scoring position either; he was already there courtesy of the wild pitch.

Black was willing to be aggressive in taking Ludwick out, and in putting the contact play on.  Why did he go in to a shell at this point?

Tulo doubles in two, Huston Street works his second 1-2-3 ninth inning, and the Padres lose 5-3.

A wise man once said, every team wins 40 and loses 40; it's how you manage the other 80 that makes your season.  This game was one of the 80.  San Diego gave this game away.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Off-Topic: USC Sanctions

The Padres got shut out for the 10th time this season 3-0 (although this one was different. they didn't lose because they could not hit; they lost because they could hit with RISP).  The First Round of the 2011 MLB Draft was yesterday.  I'll discuss those items a bit on tonight's Podcast

This post is about the Sanctions handed down by the NCAA against USC.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Game Reflections: #59 and #60 vs Astros

The mood in the ballpark the day after a win at home is so much more positive than after a loss.  It's tangible.  It was not so noticeable on Saturday but it was blatantly obvious Sunday afternoon.  Nice to see the Padres carry their road roll with them on the plane for the first time this season.

By taking 3 of 4 from Houston the Padres won their first series of the season at home.  Some thoughts from the weekend's games (which I was happily able to attend):

- Padres scored in the first inning on both days.  Their 2 runs in the first Saturday matched the number of runs they had scored on Saturday at home all season.  Then they jumped on 20-year old Jordan Lyles for 3 Sunday.

- Hunter Pence has got to be in the top 5 of 'best players no one knows'.  He only had 2 hits in the 2 games I saw but hit several balls hard.  Pence left town with a 17-game hitting streak, the longest of his career.

- Chase Headley won't make that list but he is locked in at the plate right now.  He had a single on Saturday and 2 doubles Sunday.  Headley also has a hit streak in progress (15 games).  There's been a mild debate on where he should hit in the order.  With his high OBP and low power numbers I'd begun to think leadoff or #2 were the best spots, however, so long as he's hitting #3 is fine.  He's getting on in front of Ludwick, and that's essential for this offense.

- Logan Forsythe hammered a double in the third inning Saturday to drive in his first ML run.  Well done, kid.

- Aneury Rodriguez pitched pretty well for the Astros but Aaron Harang was better.  Ernesto Frieri tried to make things interesting in the ninth (although in my opinion he got squeezed big time by Todd Tichenor; the 3-0 pitch to Sanchez was a strike, as was the first one to Downs), but Bell recovered in time to strand the tying runs in scoring position.

- The interesting thing about Saturday's game was how many late swings the Astros had.  By my count they hit 11 balls to right (2-for-11 on those balls) off him.  Harang must hide the ball real well, or at least was hiding the ball real well Saturday.  Eric Patterson played very well in RF on the night; I thought he gave up a little bit on one foul ball near the Astro bullpen, but his running catch in the third inning (slamming into the wall) was a big play, as was his throw to the plate in the second.

Good game Saturday. And garden gnomes to boot!

- Ryan Ludwick got applause when he walked to the plate for his first AB Sunday.  It marked the first time I can remember him getting that reception here this season.

- When Alberto Gonzalez got hit Saturday the fans booed.  When Ludwick got hit Sunday they didn't.  Either Saturday's fans were looking for a reason to boo, or they realize the difference between taking a ball off the shirt (midsection) and taking one off the shoulder (on a ball headed for Gonzalez's head). Ludwick got pounded inside Sunday in all his AB.

- After Latos struck out in the second, Astro catcher Robinson Cancel chucked the ball into RF.  Funny.

- Astro 3B Chris Johnson got hit leading off the second Saturday night, then Ludwick and C Rob Johnson got hit Sunday.  Lyles was wild, so I don't think there was intent to retaliate.

- Not in the box score, but Brad Hawpe maed a fantastic play on an errant pickoff attempt by Rob Johnson in the fifth inning Sunday.  Otherwise that ball's in RF and the Astros have (minimum) runners on second and third with 0 outs.  Pence's hit would have then made the score 4-3 and the rest of the game is very different.  Big play by Hawpe.

- Jason Bourgeois is hitting .407.  That is not a misprint.  He's the 4th outfielder on that team.  I'm thinking he's trade bait in July.

- Bourn and Bourgeois are base stealers and they really ran on Johnson Sunday.  Remember the troubles Padres pitchers (especially Chris Young) had a couple of years ago holding runners on?  Seems those slow times to the plate have never quite been corrected.  Some of it might be on the catchers, but to my eye most of it is on slower than average delivery times to the plate.

- Speaking of steals, Rob Johnson stole a base in the sixth inning Sunday.  It's actually his 4th career stolen base (he's also been caught stealing twice).  Johnson's last successful steal was April of last year, off Matt Wieters (FWIW, besides Robinson Cancel he's burned Kelly Shoppach and Victor Martinez). 

The big key in these 2 games?  The Padres played good defense, and they've hit with RISP.  They were 4-for-50 through the first game of the Washington series; they were 21-for-56 going into Sunday's game (where they went 2-for-17.  the .117 average is bad, but the had SEVENTEEN at bats with a runner on second or third yesterday.  Wow).  The law of averages really does work.

Next up is the scuffling Colorado Rockies.  San Diego could be in third by mid-week, and wouldn't that be nice.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Just How Bad is Ludwick's Defense?

Actually he usually catches these.
You've heard it.  You may have said it:  Ryan Ludwick is a lousy defensive outfielder.  Well with 35% of this season's games played, we have enough data to ask:  just how bad is Ludwick defensively?

Let's use Dewan's plus/minus metric as our measuring stick.  Ever wondered how that stat is calculated?  Here you go:
A player gets credit (a "plus" number) if he makes a play that at least one other player at his position missed during the season, and he loses credit (a "minus" number) if he misses a play that at least one player made.
Simple, and effective.  Here's the leaderboard through last night:

Thirteen names on the list.  Ryan Ludwick is not oe of them.  Oh gee whiz he really does suck, I mean he's not even in the top 13! 

Well maybe not.  Ludwick is actually fourteenth at +4.  Thirty teams in the league, he sits in 14th, that means he's spectacularly average in left.  Let's take it one step further:  how does he stack up against the rest of the NL West?
  1. Parra (AZ) +23.  Statistically he's the best defensive LF in the game today.
  2. Ludwick (SD) +4.  Surprised?  He ranks 14th overall as we mentioned previously.
  3. Sands (LA) 0.  He's a rookie; ranks 25th at the moment.
  4. C. Gonzalez (COL) -2.  This surprised me a bit.  Everyone knows CarGo (probably the stupidest nickname I've seen recently) has blossomed into a force at the plate, but I had no idea he was inept in the field.  Gonzalez is ranked 27th.
  5. Ross (SF) 0.  He spent a month hurt and is still rounding into shape.  Dewan assigns him no rank based on a lack of data.
We will revisit this again as the season wears on, but I think complaints about Ludwick's poor defense are overblown a lot.  He may not be exceptional, but he's good enough.