Results tagged ‘ Saves ’

Brewers Still Surprising Many With Formidable Play

It was a rather intriguing story line when the Brewers were leading the National League central division after the first full month of the season. It was somewhat of an impressive feat when they were still leading the division after the first two months had passed. But now that we’re just a couple of weeks away from the All-Star break and the Brewers are still on top, it’s beginning to become one of the most discussed topics in all of baseball.

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Predicted by many to do poorly this season (I had them finishing fourth), with the seemingly average team the Brewers have and the difficult division in which they play, the fact that the Brewers currently sit 5.5 games ahead of the second place Cardinals is incredible — especially after the Cardinals won the division fairly easily last year, with the Brewers ending up 23 games back.

But while most of the baseball world counted out the Brewers for 2014, their players felt they had just as good of a shot as anyone, which is proving to be true. “We felt good about our situation,” said Brewers’ second baseman, Rickie Weeks, on Thursday. “Obviously, a lot of the media didn’t. That’s one of the things that keeps us together in this clubhouse.”

Having achieved the most wins in all of baseball (only the Athletics have a better winning percentage), and holding the largest division lead of any other team over the second place opponent, the Brewers making the playoffs is no longer a long shot as it appeared to be at the beginning of the year. It has now become a really good possibility.

Off to the best start halfway through the season (81 games) in their franchise’s history, the Brewers not only have momentum on their side, they also have statistics. Since the Wild Card was introduced in 1995, 69 percent of teams (82 out of 118) in first place at the halfway point have made the playoffs, with 61 percent (72 out of 118) holding on to win their division.

One of the biggest reasons for the surprising performance by the Brewers as a whole has been their consistent game play by their individual players. Jonathan Lucroy, one of the game’s most underrated catchers, has done a fantastic job both defensively behind the plate as well as offensively. And despite a slightly down season for Ryan Braun (he’s still making a good contribution), Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez, and Scooter Gennett are all doing their share, with Khris Davis and Mark Reynolds providing a good deal of power, regardless of their low batting averages.

On the pitching side of things, Kyle Lohse has really stepped up his game this year, doing a great job of giving the Brewers opportunities to win ballgames, and with the exception of a couple of rough starts, Yovani Gallardo has been a valuable asset as well. With a closer like Francisco Rodriguez, who currently leads baseball in saves, coming on in the ninth inning to shut down games, the Brewers have a really solid team no matter how you look at it.

With just 14 games remaining until the All-Star break, the Brewers find themselves on the verge of making some more history by surpassing the old franchise record of 54 wins at the break. That would certainly be an amazing feat. But I’m sure the majority of the Brewers would tell you, having made the World Series just once back in 1982 (they lost), their main focus is on making it deep into October.

Q and A With Steve Cishek

Steve Cishek was drafted by the Marlins in the 5th round of the 2007 draft. Since the draft, Cishek has had a good deal of success, hi-res-149450835_display_imageposting stellar numbers over the past four years, finishing each of his big league seasons with an ERA below three.

Cishek made his major league debut in 2010, and began serving as the on and off closer for the Marlins in 2012, before becoming the full time closer for the 2013 season. Despite a rough start, Cishek finished 2013 with a 2.33 ERA over 69.2 innings pitched, striking out 74 while tallying up 34 saves.

With his consistency, Cishek should continue to serve as an effective closer for the Marlins for years to come. Regardless of his unconventional sidearm delivery, he has deceptive stuff that should lead him to more of the same success down the road.

Steve Cishek — closer for the Marlins — 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?

My Dad would always tell me that when I was a kid I always wanted him, or anyone capable of throwing a round object, to pitch to me. That’s all I would say – “Pitch to me.” So I have loved baseball as long as I can remember. I also really enjoyed watching the Red Sox, especially when Mo Vaughn was hitting. And then when Nomar became popular he was my favorite to watch.

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

My favorite player growing up was definitely Nomar Garciaparra. He was the best on the team, and it was like a rivalry with Yankees fans and Jeter. So I had to cheer extra hard when Nomar was playing the Yanks.

3.) You were drafted by the Marlins in the 5th round of the 2007 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The process was exciting/nerve wracking. I filled out a lot of player profiles for almost every team; it was like extra homework. But when it came to draft day, I was pretty nervous. When my name popped up on the draft board we all freaked out. We had dial-up internet then, so the draft board was loading sooo slow. I was losing my mind. But my name popped up, and I got a phone call soon after from the Marlins’ scout, and I realized I had a new and unique journey that was about to unfold.

4.) Why did you decide to pitch with a sidearm delivery versus a traditional delivery? When did you first begin using it?

I didn’t realize I threw from my arm slot until I got to college. Even today I feel like I throw over hand. But back in high school and college I was a low 3/4 slot, and I think when I got to pro ball and the big leagues my arm slot got lower because I was throwing a lot more often.

5.) You took part in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. What was the overall experience like? What did you take away from it?

The WBC was the best baseball experience I have ever had. It was so humbling to look around the locker room and see the caliber of players in there. I never imagined I would be wearing the same jersey as any of these guys, let alone be wearing a USA jersey. And the games — I hadn’t been that nervous in a game probably ever. There was nothing like playing against another country while representing your country (from a sporting standpoint). I got to pitch in high pressure situations, so I learned a lot about taking a step back and relaxing/calming my nerves. So I felt that it prepared me for high pressure situations during the season.

6.) As the Marlins’ closer, how do you prepare yourself mentally to come into the game in the ninth inning, knowing it’s your job to hold down the lead for the team win?

I prepare to close a game the same way I would prepare for any other situation. I go through my routine and after the 6th inning I like to stand for the rest of the game so I don’t get lazy. I get pretty fired up when my name is called to go in but what makes my job more stress free than the other person is that I am playing for Him, and not to please people. I pull a card that reads Colossians 3:23  ["Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."] out of my back pocket to remember that before every outing. And no matter what, if I do well or poorly, I know God still loves me and I am satisfied with that.

7.) Despite a rough start to the year, you pulled things together to have the best statistical season of your career thus far. What changed that enabled you to have success in the remainder of the season?

Baseball is so mental, and I went through a period where I was playing scared. We were not winning many games and when I went in it was only when we were winning. So I put a lot of pressure on myself to get the job done and that resulted in me playing scared. My coaches worked with me a lot, but ultimately it took two Christian brothers, Juan Pierre and Chris Coghlan, to come confront me and basically tell me I need to let it go and leave it in God’s hands. I asked God for forgiveness for playing to please man and I accepted His will.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?

I felt like the team showed flashes of being a great team. From late May to early July, we had the 2nd best record in the NL. We have great young talent that is so close to being ready for the big leagues; I can’t wait to see what we are capable of in the future. Our goals are obviously to win a championship, but I feel it is much more important to have smaller goals that lead up to that big goal. My goal is just to get better everyday and to try and be a light as much as possible on and off the field.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

My wife and I are really into a lot of TV shows. We enjoy suspenseful shows and ’24′ is on that list. When we have down time, especially after a long day, we may come home and watch an episode, just to relax and enjoy each other. My favorite food is definitely chicken parm. Anytime I go to a new restaurant, I have to try it if they have it on the menu.

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

I would tell them to leave the video games alone until night time and enjoy playing outside. When I was growing up we played every sport and we competed every day in our neighborhood. I am so thankful for the neighborhood we grew up in because we were always playing outside. You name the sport, we played it. So make sure you stay active and play other sports too. You don’t want to get burnt out playing baseball all the time. And when you are old enough to concentrate on one sport: (1) Play for His glory (2) Work as hard as you can at it (Col. 3:23), because someone else is probably working harder than you.

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Big thanks to Steve Cishek for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @srSHREK31

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