Sunday, March 21, 2010

Buffalo's Leonard outduels OJ in swing-off for Derby crown

Leonard goes deep on first pitch of swing-off for the title

Buffalo Blue Cheese outfielder A.J. Leonard won the season 9 Home Run Derby in dramatic fashion and he beat a two-time Home Run Derby champion to do it.

After two rounds, this year's Home Run Derby came down to Seattle's Osvaldo Johnson and Leonard, who led Johnson in home runs after two rounds, 25 to 20. In the final round, OJ set the bar first with five home runs. Leonard got off to a hot start in the final round, hitting three home runs on the first three pitches he saw but he cooled quickly, hitting into outs on his next seven. He eventually managed to tie OJ's five home runs, sending the final round of the Home Run Derby into a swing off.

OJ got the first opportunity to put a crooked number on the board but could only manage a weak fly ball to center field. That's when Leonard pounced and lined a home run to center field on the first pitch he saw to seal the victory. The Derby title is the first for the second year outfielder from Buffalo.

A.J. Leonard
Blue Cheese
Age: 24B/T: S/R
Born: Verona, NJ
Position(s): LF/1B/DH
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Half Way Point

Here we are at the halfway point of the season and a look at the beginning of season predictions.

AL North

I still like the prediction of the River City Rage finishing the division in first place not by a landslide though. They sit in second place one game back of the Simpletons. My thinking is Buffalo could easily finish in 2nd place and the Simpletons very close behind in 3rd. Milwaukee needs a big win streak at this time to just catch up and that seems unlikely.

AL East

The Legends are trying to run away with the division. Boston is trying to stay close. New York is much better but the bench has failed them. Scranton still has pitching woes more than anything else. I don't see the Legends faltering which leaves Boston trying for a wild card.

AL South

Monterrey is in 1st place with Jackson in their hip pocket once again. Montgomery hasn't given up either and Charlotte is still in the running. This one may not provide an actual front runner until the after All-Star break division series and even then may go down to the wire. I still like Monterrey's chances with Jackson and maybe Montgomery fighting for 2nd and a playoff spot at the end.

AL West

Las Vegas is in 1st with Seattle right there. Boise has fallen off the pace a bit. Anaheim is better than their record indicates. Looks like Vegas and Seattle will fight it out to the end, sound familiar? The second place team could wind up with a wild card spot easily enough. Don't count Boise out either as they could easily pick up the pace and put themselves into the thick of things. Look for things to finish the same as last year IMHO.

Analysis: The AL is a wild and woolly bunch with every one really still in the mix for a wild card.

NL North

Fargo finds themselves in 1st place with a surprising Kansas City in their shadow. Philly was predicted to take 2nd but need to up their game. Pittsburgh is languishing in last as expected and out of the hunt after the early season sell off to reshape the team. Can Fargo hold on to the top spot is the question.

NL East

The fight here is between Atlanta and Trenton with everyone else pretty much out of it already. Will Atlanta hold on? Is Trenton glad they took my early season advice?

NL South

Austin is already printing playoff tickets. Egads 60+ wins and not even All-Star break. Huntington is still in the mix for a wild card with everyone else pretty much out of it.

NL West

Vancouver is in first with Salt Lake fighting to hang on at the moment. Not much fight from the two.

Analysis: The NL only has 9 teams in contention for the playoffs at the moment. Chances are that Austin has claimed one of the six already, so that leaves 8 teams fighting for the remaining five.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

72 games into the season

Highs and lows from the season thus far:


Best Team: Austin. They are proving that last season's rise to the top of the NL was no fluke. At 53-19, they are dominating not just the NL South but the entire National League.

Worst Team: Pittsburgh and Salem come in tied at 23-49. Both teams are in a similar position, having dealt their stars after past success and going through a rebuilding stage.

Biggest Surprise: Kansas City. Their win totals the past 5 seasons have been 69, 68, 75, 74, and 71, respectively. This season, they have started 40-32 and would make the playoffs if they started today.

Biggest Disappointment: Washington D.C. Last season's top wild card team looked ready to ascend to the NL's elite with a mix of veterans and young stars like Carter Leonard and Willis Biddle. They've struggled out of the gate with a 35-37 record.


Best Team: Louisville. They're a bit of an anomaly; a veteran laden team with past success that still somehow seems to be on the upswing. They lead the entire AL at 46-26 and at this pace could threaten their franchise record for wins at 105.

Worst Team: Again, we have two rebuilding teams tied; Milwaukee and Scranton are 29-43. Milwaukee has almost completely divested themselves of the veterans who helped fuel the runs to 4 straight AL championships and Scranton is still trying to build around former #1 pick Turner Dolan.

Biggest Surprise: Yet another tie. St. Louis dominated the AL North last season, winning by 46 games. This season, they find themselves looking up at Cincinnati and Buffalo (both 39-33), albeit by one game. In Buffalo, A.J. Leonard has already risen to stardom while in Cincinnati, closer Dave Stewart has turned back the clock and is having a lights-out season thus far.

Biggest Disappointment: Boise. Another trendy pick to contend in the AL West, their lack of pitching has finally caught up with them as they sit 34-38, 7 games off the pace set by Las Vegas and 6 behind the AL Champs in Seattle.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mark Ott Problem

After delving into the reports it didn't take me long to figure out the problem. All I had to do was look at the pitching reports. Does anybody look at these reports? They will tell you what is going on and what is wrong with your team in the pitching realm. If you do look at the reports and only the TOTALS section your seeing the big picture but it can be rather opaque. Delve deeper, HOME and AWAY will paint a bigger picture and EXTENDED will add to it. The reports for batting are the same way, just have to look at them to determine the problem, fixing them is another story. The Fielding report leaves a little to be desired because there are actually only two options available, Totals and Extended.

KC Home Pitching
Actually the entire pen is having a problem at home and that isn't evident on the road. The starting pitching at home is relatively fine except for Jonathan Lollar who probably doesn't have enough control. After looking at the Fielding reports I determined that it isn't defense. That leaves the real problem to park factors. KC is more or less an odd medium to low power hitters park, put the ball in play and there is a good chance for a hit. So the pen is getting eaten alive, with contact hitters.

For the most part after looking at the reports, it looks like the entire pen fears hitters at home. This is shown by the OAV, WHIP and ERA. If you want to know, I judge a pitcher by his OAV more than anything else, anything over .275 is bad and over .300 is real bad. Also, sometimes it is a pitchers role, some like to be a long reliever as opposed to a Setup type, some like to be a setup A, some Setup B and can change from year to year. The pitchers role has to be ferreted out and it isn't always easy. I only use Setup A and B for the pen, so I find out which role they pitch best in and leave them there. Starters actually pitch better in certain slots and I have never figured that one out as to why.

Even though the pitchers ratings look fine with the current setup. The only two things that I can think of that will help is a backup PC catcher or upping the Call Pen to a 4 for the entire pen except the closer.

The Call Pen at a 4 is the cheapest thing to try. When a pitcher runs into a jam, he will be given one chance (normally) to get out of the inning. If he fails, it is off to the showers. The down side to this, it could run through a pen pretty quickly. If you have a short pen, this could be bad if the starter doesn't make it to the sixth or seventh inning. This action is more advantageous to a long pen. For those that don't understand the concept of long/short pens, a long pen is mostly made up of pitchers that can pitch 2 innings or more while the makeup of a short pen is a bunch of 1 inning wonders with at least 1 and maybe 2 long relievers.

KC has two very good catchers at the ML level, unfortunately both are actually starters IMO. When the PC of one is 56 and the other is 60, the pen is not getting any help late in the game from this aspect. After looking at the minors, I came across two possibilities that could help, a 74 and an 85. The 74 would add 14+ points of PC, not exactly sure if is enough to help but could be a start, the 85 of course could add almost 25 to 29. The drawback of course, always one, it would cost a good part time hitter and maybe a little loss of arm defense behind the plate. Of course there is the chance that it won't help for some reason, I have had that happen also. The change won't be noticeable over night either as it will take a few games.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Sand Cat Draft

Wow, I think the Cats did a wonderful job in the draft. Well, the best that could be expected anyway. It could take up to three seasons to know for sure. I also thought it was a pretty weak draft from a college standpoint. When you only spend $10M in college scouting you are really limiting yourself in choices. It is that way because I am just not that into High School players that can take longer to develop. With the scouting budgets set the way it is, we watch more at the signs of development and their overall play more than anything else along with their current ratings which mean more than anything else.

We had Mark Ferguson pegged at being available as our first pick even though he was not the #1 pick on our board. So sad he went a couple picks earlier to Austin. A starting catcher was a big maybe but we saw a very good DH type potential player, something we have never been able to get our hands on in the draft.

Our first pick was Dick Milliard which was in out #2 slot on our board, it didn't really surprise us that he was there. Was it a good pick? I don't really know. The college scouting report said we would be happy with him in the pen in the future, he fit the criteria that we use there anyway. Advance scouting which I really don't rely on much shows something entirely different. Will just have to wait and see how the development goes.

We were not exactly set up to draft pitchers in the draft, that is why the cheap buying spree in the IFA Market. With nothing all that awe inspiring in the way of position players, we took our chances with pitchers in our many 1st and second round picks. Grabbing Kris Shea, Ken Fox, and Louis Hunter. We didn't put all that much emphasis on health like we normally do. Mainly because we really couldn't tell, a big drawback with the scouting budgets.

We drafted Rigo Olivo later in the 2nd round and was a surprise to us that he was still there. Drafted as a CF, he wants to play 2B. We have already decided that he look like a future COF, we liked his speed.

Topping off the second round was Ichiro Nakajima. At the moment we have no real plans for him other than 3B, so development will be a key point with him.

We were also surprised that we captured a couple top 25 picks on our board in the later rounds. As far as we can tell they will be good career minor league pitchers that should make it all the way to AA at least.

And it further confounded us that we were able to draft two players that was tagged just over our top 100 picks in the 17th and 18th rounds. That was cause for celebration.

All told with our 29 picks, we got 9 players in our top 25, 4 more in the top 50, and a total of 18 in the top 110. Furthermore we got 25 total picks that was on our board from the top 200. Most of them may not amount to much but not a bad haul if you ask me. May have been well worth the three hour War Room madness that Jamie described.

In other Cat news. With Will Weston and Tony Burnitz joining the DL at the same time, we were forced to call up Zeke McDonald and Johnny Guerrero to temporarily take their roster spots. We decided to give them as much playing time as possible while on the ML roster and have responded well IOE.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Draft Tomorrow

The Season 9 draft is scheduled for tomorrow, and 32 teams are looking forward to the new draft class. Charlotte has the first pick and rumors are going around about who they might pick, but nothing has been substantiated by our reporters. After that will be 1st place Buffalo at #2, Vancouver at #3, Cincinnati and #4, and Salem at #5. L.A. will have the 22nd, 24th, and 26th picks.
Trenton has the #25 overall pick and has announced their annual draft party will be at the Traffic Cafe located near Gate C at Waterfront Park at 1:00 P.M. GM gumbercules said his draft strategy would be "to get the best available player. Obviously some positions will be weighted heavier, but we won't turn down what we see as the best player available due to position". When asked to elaborate, he added, "We feel like we need to add depth at pretty much every position in our minor leagues."

James Dixon

James Dixon on the possible trade market? Wow, the firesign-O-Meter went through the roof on that one, forget the Bipser-O-meter. I even had a possible trade proposed and a pretty good one I think. I hesitated a long time before submitting it though. After a while and quite a bit of thinking I decided to pull the offer. Why? Because Dixon would have the same problems in Sand Cat land maybe even worse than in Anaheim, it's the ball park. Surely Anaheim isn't throwing the season away yet? So I decided to do a deep analysis of the team. I hope Anaheim doesn't mind.

C - Frank Martin: Maybe not the greatest, but decent enough for a starter. Has few starts and rarely plays though.

C - Cesar Trevino: Gets much of the work. Is good enough to be a starter or a backup as he is very good defensively though his stats don't show it. His hitting isn't all that bad either.

1B - Esteban Santos: Hits really well for a non-power guy but defensively I am not sure I would use him.

2B - Bob Stewart: 2B, really? Here is a problem, 5 year player that shows he can hit well but is no where near a 2B.

SS - Al Borchard: Not the greatest glove defensively but good enough. Doesn't hit well.

SS - Vic Mercado: Has the glove but not the range. Hitting has been disappointing this season so far.

3B - James Dixon: Great 3B in anyones mind. Hitting is a disappointment though. That could be because he is in the wrong batting slot or it's the park. That is why I am very hesitant.

3B - Gerald Stargell: Adequate backup to 3B. Doesn't get enough playing time.

RF - Dweezil Milligan: Good hitter but a very marginal RF and the defensive stats prove this. He can and is improving but will be very slow.

CF - Kyle Ramirez: Not a great hitter and a little disappointing at the plate to me. Defensively has the range but the glove isn't good enough but adequate.

LF - Pedro Candelaria: Currently the best player on the team for consistent play.

DH - Jim Adkinsson: Hard pressed to use him in other way.

How to fix this may not be viewed well but this is what I would do.

1. I would move Dixon to 2B, he has the defense to play the position very well. He might have problems at the beginning but I doubt it.

2. I would move Mercado to take 3B, defensively he should be fine also.

This is where things will meet with a little resistance I think.

3. I would move Milligan to 1B.

4. I would move Stargell to RF.

And this is where the big resistance will come in even for me.

5. What to do with Santos is a big problem. He doesn't play 1B well enough but hits well. So far he doesn't show any defensive improvement this season. Sending him to the minors will hurt him more than help. It would be dependent on whether or not I thought Bart O'Halloran would be a better player to have on my ML roster but not as a 2B, a 1B/RF/LF instead. Zip Capra is not an answer btw.

6. If Martin isn't going to be the starting catcher, then I would replace him with Pablo DeSoto and bring him in during the late innings (7th on). Or have Soto start for a while and use Trevino as the backup the same way to rest him a bit.

7. After all those moves there remains one little problem, no backup for SS or CF. The answer lies in Brian Dunston at AAA, but I would leave him there until he is really really needed or someone hits the DL.

Trevino's fielding stats are not matching his ratings IMO, so either he is tired or pitching has a problem or both. The SB vs CS ratio looks good but I think could be better. The errors are also a little higher than I would expect. Both could be caused by a weak 1B and 2B.

After checking out the pitching staff, some of them might be victims of circumstance from the fielding department. Though I might try Greg Nieman as a starter for one of the under-performing starters, he could easily get to the 5th inning plus as a starter but his MPC would be 75 at the upper limit. I see some control issues with a couple starters but they have enough ratings in other areas to cover the tracks. I don't see anything in the minors that would help this season in the pitching department as most are not ready for the ML. I really find the pitching staff able to do their job well overall.

Last thing I looked at were the last few box scores. Dixon batting first? I can understand why, but to waste a power guy in the 1st slot because of his speed. Your not a running team, so try him in the 3rd slot. Yeah, he does walk a lot, but if he walks, someone has to hit him in and that isn't happening. Leave that job to the remaining power guys. Might seem like a whacky idea, try Mercado in the 1-slot.

Overall analysis: I think the changes I suggested would stop the minus plays and the error rate will drop for this team. The defense would improve tremendously and help the pitching staff be better. Will it make them a playoff team, that is another question I cannot answer. Only being 8 games out there is still a chance. However, the run differential is 40 to the bad and we are 59 games into the season. So some of the give up bleeding has to stop to be better. Has the bad defense given up 40 runs? I kind of doubt it, but I can imagine 50 percent of them has.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cox hits for cycle

Monterrey 2B's cycle fuels 7-1 win over Boise

Monterrey Sultans second baseman Nate Cox put on quite a show in the 3/5 pm cycle game against the Boise Shadow Wolves. Cox hit for the cycle, going 4-4 with an RBI in the Sultans 7-1 victory.

Cox got in on the action during a three run first inning for Monterrey by lining a single to left field off of Boise starter Hector Manto. He then hit a solo home run one batter after teammate Tony Escuela did the same in the top of the third. In the top of the sixth, Cox led off the inning with a triple and scored when the very next batter, Reagan Aldred, drove him in. The 34-year-old second baseman completed the cycle in the top of the eighth when he led off the inning with a double to center. Cox also finished the game with three runs scored.

Nate Cox
Age: 34B/T: R/R
Born: Texas City, TX
Position(s): 2B/CIF/OF/DH
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Marin tells Fargo he's walking

3-time All-Star to test free agent waters after season

Fargo starting pitchers Sammy Pierce and Orber Marin are both scheduled to be free agents at the end of this season and the news coming out of Fargo is that at least one of those two doesn't plan on re-signing with the team.

According to sources, Marin has informed the Dirtbags' front office that he will not sign a contract extension with the team and that he intends to test the free agent market in the offseason. The 34-year-old 3-time All-Star is in the final year of a 5-year contract that he signed with Chicago before being traded to Fargo midway through season 7. Coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, Marin is having one of his best seasons with a 7-2 record and 2.89 ERA.

It is possible that Marin will command Type A compensation as a free agent and at 35-years-old, it will be interesting to see how many teams will bid for his service. The amount of suitors Marin has will likely depend on the length of the contract Marin will seek which, at this time, is unknown.

There's a much better chance that the 2-time Cy Young Award winning Pierce will re-sign with the team as both sides have expressed interest in getting a deal done. Fargo management and Pierce have both said, however, that they will wait until the end of the season before negotiating a new contract.

Orber Marin
Age: 34B/T: L/L
Born: Frisco, CO
Position(s): P (SP1)
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Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Cats Mewlings III

Time once again to put our best paw forward and tell you what is going on at "The Scratching Post" as we finish the 23 game stint. An 18-5 record in that time frame would seem pretty good, but the last 2 losses were actually hard to swallow. Both were caused by the injury to Glen Bush indirectly, got to put the blame somewhere. With him missing a start, it caused us to either move the rotation up a day or put in new guy, Felipe Cela, into his slot to start before we thought he was ready. We opted to start Cela, who pitched better than we anticipated, however the game went into extra innings where Coco Hines recieved his first blemish of the season. Coco was forced to try and pitch more than 1 inning which didn't turn out well in the end as expected. Luckily we were getting close to an off day. To compensate for a tired pen, we had to pull Wilfredo Redondo out of his starting rotation job to prop up the pen in the last game. That worked well but the offense took the night off for a 2-0 loss, at least it was better than the disappointing 3-2 extra inning loss the previous night. Maybe next time we put a six or 7 day injury on the DL anyway when it involves the pitching staff.

The pitching staff was further jumbled when we decided to move Adrian Hendrickson down a day to start at home instead of Monterrey. He has pitched better than his record indicates, but is pretty lousy on the road. I equate it to being rookie nerves more than anything at the moment. We are hoping that a home start and a start in St. Louis is just what the doctor ordered. By that time the rotation will be sorted out again.

The defense has been great for the most part. We are tied with New York having the fewest Runs Allowed at 199 in the AL, of course the pitching staff helped. We are second in the league in Plus Plays with 35 and the fewest minus plays with 3. The biggest black mark in this area is the fact that we have committed 28 total errors. Several of them have been caused by the pitchers inability to field or cover 1B properly. The defensive play of Paul Ingram has me baffled a bit though. Jay Hegan has played 3B like a man possessed and very well could be linked to Wally Harvey and Bob Koplove playing 1B this year.

The offense, while not a juggernaut, is getting the job done well enough to win. We have actually went from 1-7 in 1-run games to 7-8. A 6-1 record in this area is a cause for celebration. Though I am not exactly sure whether it is offense, defense or pitching staff that gets the actual credit. As many changes were made and any of them could have turned this facet around.

I looked at the schedule and I guess we will find out how good Austin actually is at Draft time. A three game set in Austin has been circled on the calender.

Speaking of the draft, the Bipster and I didn't put much into scouting because it looked like Glover was going to resign. When I found out that we had 6 picks in the top 83 I wish we had put more money into scouting. After a lot of thinking though and how the previous draft turned out and looking at the our draft board, it looks like money well spent in other areas. A rumor says there is a total beast in the draft, but after looking at my board, there are two possibilities in my opinion and neither is a HS player since there isn't any on my board. My board indicates that it is another HS draft. If that is the case and I see two beasts then I must be seeing something that isn't quite right. I have done the draft with a 20/20 setting and know that there are normally 70 to 80 potential players whose OVR (and I use that term loosely) is 70 and above. This season I have put $10M in college scouting and see a total of 24 possible candidates in this area. Out of those 24, only 15 would I even think about drafting which comparatively would be normal. So, if I see a third, another third is HS at least and there would be 4 to 5 that I wouldn't see at all. All that means is that I have about 15 or 20 potential candidates hiding on my board somewhere. The way I have my board configured, I know where 4 or 5 are hiding and probably 4 or 5 more that I wouldn't consider drafting in the first place. So that leaves me trying to find about 10 possible players and it is a daunting task as Jamie described. You would think they would be somewhere in the mid 60 range, but they aren't as far as I can tell. I am pretty sure I found them in the mid 50 to low 50 range. Talk about fuzzy.

Speaking of Jamie, hope you all don't mind. The wife wanted to give writing on a blog a try, so I let her write a couple articles about my exploits around the house dealing with this team in particular. Yes, I did clean up the War It was her idea to rename Cashman field to "The Scratching Post", I liked it anyway. Maybe it would make a better title also. After watching me navigate and has learned about the ratings and stuff she would like her own team, but she wants it in the same World as me to continue our somewhat friendly gaming competition. I told her that it would be highly frowned upon from several perspectives. She understood but walked away in a bit of a huff anyway. Not sure if she is going to write any more articles or not. She found it fun at first but it takes a lot of time and effort and I think she got a bit frustrated with the second one, though that may have been at me instead.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Problems in the Desert

Reporting live from Jackson is Jamie Bell. "With our favorite team moving into 1st place you would think things would be jovial around here! To popular belief GM firesign is at wits end even though the team being very hot as of late. A 23 game stretch between off days and most of them on the road will cause that. With two more games in Jackson and three at Monterrey and a starting pitcher on the blink, who will miss a start, you can understand his anxiety. To top it off the Amateur Draft looms big in Cat land with six picks in the top 83. The AL West appears to be a bit congested with everyone on the doorstep."

"I dared a peek in the War Room yesterday even though the sign said "KEEP OUT". Computer had four or more pages being switched back and forth, paper everywhere. During a coffee break I just had to ask what he was doing." "Have to get the top 25 right in the draft and it looks very weak to me!" he said with disdain. " Another HS draft on tap so it seems." He said furiously. "Then again if the Bipster had let me spend money in scouting it might be easier." he added. Oh well I thought, he can clean his own War Room!!!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Change in the Desert

Reporting live from New York is Jamie Bell! "How is my hair? Is my makeup ok?" "Oooops!" "At a New York press conference today the owner of the Las Vegas Sand Cats, Bip Yeager, announced the signing of Felipe Cela and the release of veteran pitcher Vic Chavez". "He said it was with a heavy heart and wishes Vic well and hopes he returns as a pitching coach." "Felipe is to join the team for tomorrows game with New York."

"It has been rumored that the deal had been in the works for a while as Vic Chavez's numbers have plummeted this season but was one of the teams best pitchers last season. Stoic GM and skipper, firesign, defended him for as long as he could but even he agreed the numbers were getting frightful."

"When it was announced that Dunwoody was available, the Bipster-O-Meter was said to have went ballistic, I garnered in a private conversation with an anonymous tipster. GM firesign had to once again put things in perspective for the spend happy owner. Also rumored was that firesign was looking heavily into a trade for Cap Herrera. In a conversation with his publicist however, those rumors could be true but Cap would refuse a trade that would put him in RF. It was a well known fact that the Sand Cats were actively pursuing Stephen Mills as their DH and backup 1B in the off season but with the season Willie Sierra has put together, it doesn't look like anything may happen on that front."

"Reporting live from New York this is Jamie Bell!" "Was that Ok? Did I do good? eh