September 2012

Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown Chances

Miguel Cabrera is currently leading the American League in RBI’s (133) and batting average (.329), while sitting just one back of Josh Hamilton in the home run category. (Hamilton has 43 dingers on the year.)

Obviously, for Cabrera to win the Triple Crown he’ll have to be leading the A.L. in home runs at the end of the season. In order to do so he’ll need to muscle together some power in the coming days to pass Hamilton in the home run category, and I just don’t see that happening. Sure, Cabrera is a power hitter and could certainly pull it off, but going against Hamilton I’d say it’s an uphill battle at best.

It seems like Hamilton hits a homer every other night, and it doesn’t help that Cabrera has been struggling somewhat at the plate lately. Home runs asside, if he doesn’t start hitting better, Cabrera’s at risk of falling into second place on the batting average list behind Joe Mauer, who (as I’m writing this) has a current batting average of .324.

While there’s a good chance that Cabrera will lead the league in RBI’s and batting average at the end of the season, the odds that he’ll crank out enough homers to pass Hamilton–who’ll more that likely hit a few more in the final stretch of the regular season–aren’t good, in my opinion.

So in conclusion, while I’m rooting for Miguel Cabrera to pull it out and become the first player to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski, in 1967, I feel he’ll fall just short. Which will be a real shame, as Cabrera has had one heck of a year.

As always, feel free to leave a comment below.

2012 Triple-A National Championship Game

The forecast for this game was rain; and rain it did–up until around 5:00, when I left for Durham, NC. Luckily, when I arrived to the ballpark at around 5:45, the dry spell continued, and I was able to grab a spot near the front of the line without having to get soaked.

Gate 1 already had tons of people lined up behind it when I arrived, so I headed over to Gate 2. Behind Gates 1 and 2 there were two lines (normally four) in which you could enter the ballpark, and just my luck, I picked the wrong one. The lady that was scanning tickets had no idea what she was doing. Heck, she couldn’t even figure out how to get the gate open, as she had to wave down an orange shirt employee to come help her out. (As you can kind of see in the left portion of this photo posted by the Durham Bulls):

I was able to cut my way into the other line, but it really didn’t help. I was stuck outside Gate 2, as people filed in through Gate 1.

All I could do was watch as dozens of people entered the ballpark–many of which I assumed were headed down to the dugouts (just like I was planning to do) to get autographs. Finally–after what seemed like an eternity of waiting–I made my way into the ballpark and down to the extremely crowded Pawtucket Red Sox dugout.

Going into this game I had made the decision that I wanted to go for autos from Pawtucket Red Sox’ players such as Danny Valencia, Bryce Brentz, etc., instead of Reno Aces standouts like Trevor Bauer, A.J. Pollock, etc. Unfortunately for me Danny Valencia didn’t sign, and Bryce Brentz signed for everyone BUT me. Meanwhile, I watched as the entire Reno Aces team (or so it seemed) signed for everyone who wanted an autograph.

It was one of those days.

After it became evident that I had failed in getting autos from the players I wanted, I made my first logical decision of the day. I knew American Idol Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery was going to be throwing out the first pitch, so I made my way over to the Reno Aces dugout where I predicted he would come out from. Sure enough, after a few minutes of waiting, Scotty emerged from the clubhouse:

He signed autographs for ten or so people that wanted it. Thankfully, I was one of the ten.

McCreery then proceeded to make his way out to the mound to throw out the first pitch:

After firing a strike, Scotty posed for a picture with the Bulls’ mascot, Wool E. Bull:

But enough about Scotty. Let me get back to the game….

The starting pitchers for both teams–Trevor Bauer, for the Aces, and Nelson Figueroa, for the Red Sox–had both been great so far in the post season…:

…but in the end only one could be crowned Triple-A National Champions. It was going to come down to which lineup performed better on this particular day, as you had to figure the pitching was going to be stellar.

My view at the start of the game (from my ticketed seat) was this:

Not bad for a game that’s the MiLB equivalent of a World Series game 7.

Did you notice how empty the outfield seats were in the picture above? Well, the desire to snag a home run ball got the better of me, as this soon became my view:

Check out the view to my left (1) , right (2) , and behind me (3):

Had a ball of been hit anywhere near me I would’ve been all over it. But to keep with the luck of the day, nothing came close.

I sat out there for a few innings, but around the 6th inning it began to rain so I headed back to my original seat (which happened to sheltered). On my way back I was surprised at how many people were making their way towards the exits. I mean, come on. I realize the Red Sox were getting killed—the rain didn’t make it any better–but this was the Triple-A National Championship. How could you leave early?! I don’t get it.

By the time the ninth inning rolled around there weren’t that many people left:

Soon after taking that picture I decided to move down a little closer to the field. My view of the final out (and the victory celebration by the Reno Aces) came from the first base side of the ballpark…:

…but my view of the trophy presentation came from the third base side:

I don’t know if you can tell, but it was raining fairly heavily. I stuck it out long enough to see A.J. Pollock received his trophy for M.V.P:

Shortly thereafter, however, I made my way out of the ballpark.

I want to take a second to say congrats to the Reno Aces. They were extremely impressive in their 10-3 victory. I had a feeling that they would come out on top–as they had top prospect Trevor Bauer on the mound, backed by an impressive lineup–but anytime you go up against a team that had gone 6-1 in the playoffs up to that point, you never really know what the outcome may be.

As stated in my last blog entry, this was my final baseball game of the year. This is not, however, my last blog entry of the year by any means. There’s still a couple weeks left in MLB’s regualr season, followed by the play offs, and the World Series, so I’ll have plenty to blog about in the weeks/months to come….

My Last Baseball Game of the Year

If you’ve followed this blog for awhile you’re aware that although this is a Major League Baseball blog for the most part, I tend to throw in entries on the Minor Leagues every now and then. Well, get ready for the biggest MiLB blog entry I’ve ever put together, as I’m set to attend tomorrow’s Triple-A National Championship game in Durham, NC.

The Championship game will see the Pawtucket Red Sox (International League) and the Reno Aces (Pacific Coast League) squaring off in a winner-take-all game in front of a sellout crowd. Trevor Bauer, of the Aces, and Nelson Figueroa, of the Red Sox, are due to take the mound for their respective teams. If you can’t make it to the game you can still watch it all unfold on NBC Sports Network at 7:05 EST. It’s sure to be a great game.

And….that’s pretty much it. Not much else can be said about it. Check back on Wednesday* for a recap of my time spent at the ballpark, and the game itself. With the kind of storms we’re supposed to have around here tomorrow, who knows; I might have a story of what it feels like to be struck by lightning. (Fingers crossed that I don’t.)

*The game is set to be played on Tuesday, however, there is a good chance of rain so it may not be played until Wednesday. If that occurs, my blog entry on the game obviously won’t be able to be posted until Thursday, as the game wouldn’t have taken place yet by Wednesday afternoon.  

Stephen Strasburg Not As Vital As You Might Think

Since the beginning of the season the Washington Nationals have had a plan. A plan for their Ace, Stephen Strasburg, that they hope will ensure a healthy arm in the many years to come; as this is his first full season since having Tommy John surgery, in 2010.

But the decision to play it safe, by placing Strasburg on a 160-innings limit–combined with making him a starter out of the gates, on Opening Day–is proving to be a somewhat questionable one. As now that the Nationals are pretty much guaranteed a playoff spot, they won’t have Strasburg to mow down hitters in those all-important October games.

Had the Nationals taken the approach to Strasburg, that the Braves have taken with Kris Medlen–in this his first full season since Tommy John–by pitching him out of the bullpen to start out the year, they wouldn’t be in this situation. Strasburg would be nowhere near his innings limit, thus he could continue pitching on into the post season. Instead, the Nationals took the opposite route, and it’s costing them. (Though I truly don’t feel the Nationals will be hindered too much by the loss of Strasburg. They’re too good of a team as a whole.)

The thing that sets the Nationals apart from nearly every other team in the Majors is the fact that they not only have a heavy duty line-up–consisting of guys like Danny Espinosa, Michael Morse and of course, rookie phenom, Bryce Harper, who’s been heating up as of late–but they also have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. A lot of teams vying for a spot in the post season have one or the other, but very few have both. That’s what makes the Nationals special. And that’s what I think will enable the loss of Strasburg to be more of a speed bump, rather than a road block.

While it would be impracticle to say that the loss of Stephen Strasburg will have absolutely NO impact on the Washington Nationals, I also find it rather ill-informed to state that the Nationals have little chance to win in the post season without Strasburg. They certainly have a chance. (An extremely good one, at that.)

What it really comes down to is whether or not the Nationals pitching staff can step it up without Strasburg in the rotation. The key three to their staff, being Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson, can’t let it get to them. The line-up shows no signs of slowing down–thus they should perform well come crunch time–but if the starting pitching isn’t there, it’s a lost cause.

In the end, anything short of a World Series title, come November, and the spotlight will be immediately bestowed upon Mike Rizzo and Nationals, with the question forever being: “What if?”

Stephen Strasburg is 15-6 on the year, with a 2.94 ERA. He’s set to make his final home start of the season on Friday; with his final start of the season coming September 12th in New York, versus the Mets.

UPDATE

Stephen Strasburg was officially shut down for the season after his start on September 7th. He finishes the year 15-6, with a 3.16 ERA.

Q and A With Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 12th round of the 2007 draft. Since the draft, Vogt has been able to steadily work his way up through the ranks of the Rays’ system, all the way up to AAA Durham; where he currently resides. (This year with Durham, Vogt has posted a .269 batting average, with 9 home runs and 43 RBI’s.)

Earlier this season Vogt received a taste of what it’s like to play in the big leagues, as he spent 10 games with the Rays. Things didn’t go as planned for Vogt, however, as he went hitless in all 17 of his at-bats; though he did put the ball in play in all but 2 of them.

Although his short stint in the Majors didn’t go all that well, Vogt still has a good shot of making it back to the big leagues in the near future, if he can continue to post decent numbers. (Something he’s been able to do fairly consistently throughout his baseball career.) He certainly has the work ethic, and determination to make it happen.

Stephen Vogt–utility man in the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I was always interested in playing baseball from a very early age.  I loved playing anytime, all the time.  My father and brother helped me the most at a young age.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Barry Bonds was my favorite player because I was a huge Giants fan and [he] is one of the greatest hitters of all time.  Every time I went to watch him play it was the most exciting moment, whenever he stepped in the box.

3.) You were drafted by the Rays in the 12th round of the 2007 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you found out? Initial thoughts?

I was a senior in college and was hoping to just get a chance to play.  I was at my parents house with some friends and my wife just waiting to see my name pop up on the computer and fortunately it did.

4.) You made your MLB debut on April 6th of this year. How did you receive the news that you’d been called up? What do you remember from that game? 

I was told by our hitting coach in AAA, Dave Myers, that I was going up and I immediately began to shake and just have an overwhelming excitement come over me.  I remember getting my name announced with all the great players of the Rays and Yankees and thinking how honored I was to be there. My journey through baseball had so many twists and turns that I was just humbled and honored to be there.

5.) After spending 10 games with the Rays you were sent back down to AAA Durham. What aspect of your game are you currently working on most to hopefully help speed up your journey back to the big leagues?

I am working mostly on my quality of at bats.  I learned a lot about hitting in my short stint in the big leagues to know how much more detailed everything has to be.  At bats are much different than AAA.

6.) Playing at the Triple-A level, do you feel any more pressure to perform well in every game then you did in the lower ranks of the Rays’ organization, when you weren’t just a phone call away from ‘The Show’? 

The only pressure you feel is the pressure you put on yourself.  I have to just relax and play the way I know how.

7.) Favorite thing to do on an off day during the season?

Nothing! Honestly the pool and a nice BBQ’d steak for dinner are what make me happy on off days.

8.) Favorite food?

Steak and potatoes.

9.) Favorite TV show?

White Collar and Saved by the Bell.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

You have to love the game and be dedicated to working everyday to be the best you can be.  In a professional season you will get worn out and tired and the love of the game and hard work will get you through any tough times you may have.  Also, family will keep you focused on the goal.  Without my wife Alyssa’s support I would never be where I am today.

——————————————————————————————————————————————

Big thanks to Stephen Vogt for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @SVogt1229

Latest MLB Leaders (March 28th-August 31st)

With the first five months of the 2012 MLB season in the books I thought I’d take the first day of the September to recap the season thus far.

Instead of talking about the events that have taken place so far this year, I decided to make a list of different categories and beside them name the player(s) that leads that particular category. I’m planning on posting an entry like this on the first day of each month. (That would make 1 more of these if you’re keeping score at home.)

The following lists are categorized into hitting and pitching, but NOT AL or NL:

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL)- HITTING

Most games Played-Michael Bourn and Chase Headley. (132)

Most At-Bats-Derek Jeter (553)

Most Hits-Derek Jeter (177)

Highest Average-Melky Cabrera (.346)*

Most Runs-Mike Trout (106)

Most Triples-Dexter Fowler (11)

Most Home Runs-Adam Dunn (38)

Most RBI’s-Josh Hamilton (112)

Most Base On Balls-Adam Dunn (94)

Most Strikeouts-Adam Dunn (190)

Most Stolen Bases-Mike Trout (42)

Most Caught Stealing-Jose Tabata (12)

Most Intentional Base On Balls-Prince Fielder (17)

Most Hit By Pitch-Carlos Quentin (16)

Most Sacrifice Flies-Mark Teixeira (11)

Most Total Bases-Miguel Cabrera (300)

Most Extra Base Hits-Miguel Cabrera (67)

Most Grounded Into Double Plays-Miguel Cabrera (23)

Most Ground Outs-Derek Jeter (256)

Most Air Outs-Ian Kinsler (185)

Most Number of Pitches Faced-Adam Dunn (2,488)

Most Plate Appearances-Michael Bourn (608)

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL)- Pitching

Most Wins-Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez and R.A. Dickey. (17)

Most Losses-Erik Bedard, Ubaldo Jimenez and Tim Lincecum. (14)

Best ERA-Felix Hernandez (2.43)

Most Games Started-Seven players tied for most. (28)

Most Games Pitched-Shawn Camp (68)

Most Saves-Jim Johnson (41)

Most Innings Pitched-Felix Hernandez (196.2)

Most Hits Allowed-Rick Porcello (194)

Most Runs Allowed-Ricky Romero (105)

Most Earned Runs Allowed-Ricky Romero (99)

Most Home Runs Allowed-Tommy Hunter (32)

Most Strikeouts-Justin Verlander (198)

Most Walks-Edinson Volquez (91)

Most Complete Games-Justin Verlander (6)

Most Shutouts-Felix Hernandez (5)

Most Hit Batsmen-Gavin Floyd (14)

Most Games Finished-Alfredo Aceves (54)

Most Groundouts Achieved-Clayton Richard (277)

Most Double Plays Achieved-Henderson Alvarez and Clay Buchholz. (26)

Most Wild Pitches-Ubaldo Jimenez (15)

Most Balks-Franklin Morales (5)

Most Stolen Bases Allowed-Ubaldo Jimenez (28)

Most Pickoffs-Clayton Kershaw and Ricky Romero. (8)

Most Batters Faced-Justin Verlander (784)

Most Pitches Thrown-Justin Verlander (3,084)

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