All Things Bubba

Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Oh, what a night!

There's no baseball tonight...and I don't mind. I was rooting for the double tiebreaker scenario. I wanted to see both the Rays/Red Sox and Cardinals/Braves have to play a one-game tiebreaker today.

It was not to be. No tiebreakers were needed. But the games last night were so thrilling that I don't care. It was perfect. For pure drama, it might be the most amazing night of baseball ever.

The only game that wasn't a nail-biter was the Cardinals game. Chris Carpenter made short work of the Astros, pitching a complete game shutout. He gave up only two hits. (Lance Pendleton pitched the 9th for the Astros. He gave up two hits, including a home run.) The game was over before 10:30pm, but the Cards had to wait upon the outcome of the Braves game to know if they had made the playoffs or had to play a tiebreaker.

It looked like the Braves were going to win as well, but the Phillies manufactured a run in the ninth, and the game went to extras. The Phillies scored another run in the top of the 13th. It looked like the Braves had a chance to answer in the bottom of the inning, but Freddie Freeman grounded into a double play, ending their season and sending the Cards to the postseason.

Meanwhile, in the AL, it started out looking like a pretty dull night. The Yankees were kicking the Rays' butts. It was 7-0 by the middle of the 5th, and the Rays fans started to go home. The Rays are a team built on pitching and defense. They don't have a lot of offense. They're not the type of team that comes from behind to win, let alone from down 7-0.

In Baltimore, the Red Sox were leading the Orioles 3-2 in the 7th when the tarp went on the field. The rain delay lasted about an hour and a half. It seemed that the Sox had a good chance of making the postseason if they held onto their one-run lead, or playing a tiebreaker if they couldn't.

But in Tampa, the Rays staged an improbable comeback. They scored 6 runs in the 8th to tie the game. Then in the bottom of the 9th, Dan Johnson - .108 hitting, .335 OPSing Dan Johnson - hit a home run that tied the game. Free baseball!

The Yankees, assuming the game was in the bag (and not really caring if it wasn't) had been holding pitching tryouts for the postseason during the game. By the ninth inning, they were on their 10th pitcher. The last man in the pen was Scott Proctor. He had not pitched well since being called up, and fans expected him to serve up meatballs early and often. And didn't mind, since losing to the Rays would be bad news for the Red Sox.

But surprisingly, Proctor pitched pretty well. He got the last out in the ninth. Then pitched the 10th. And the 11th. And came out again for the 12th. There was speculation that the Yankees might have to put a position player on the mound, since Proctor had thrown around 50 pitches - a lot for a relief pitcher.

Then there was a buzz in the stands (among the fans who were left, anyway). People with smartphones found out that the Red Sox had lost. Papelbon had blown the save. He struck out the first two batters, then gave up two doubles and a single. The ball bounced out of Carl Crawford's glove, allowing two runs to score. There was a delay before the score was shown in the Trop, but when it finally was, there was a roar from the crowd.

A couple of minutes later, Scott Proctor gave up a walkoff homer to Evan Longoria. Rays win. Red Sox go home.

What a night. Three blown saves, two games going to extras, heroes both likely (Longoria) and unlikely (Dan Johnson), goats both likely (Crawford) and unlikely (Papelbon). People who went to bed are probably kicking themselves for missing it. This was one for the ages.

posted by BubbaFan, 8:40 PM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This & That

Former Yankee Mark Melancon pitched two innings last night for the Astros. He went to Houston as part of the Lance Berkman trade last year. Apparently, he's the Astros' closer now. He got the win in extra innings. His wife was in the hospital, giving birth to their first child, so at least he'll be able to tell the kid he was winning a baseball game when he was being born.

Another former Yankee, Octavio Dotel, was Melancon's opponent. The Cardinals ran themselves out of the game, making a couple of dumb outs on the basepaths. Also, Dotel is a terrible fielder, and the Astros seemed to know it. The Astros win prevented the Cards from tying the Braves in the wild card race. Instead, they're one back with two games to play.

I'm kind of hoping both the AL and NL wild cards go to a tiebreaker. The Reds Sox are already planning to start Jon Lester on short rest tomorrow. They'll really be screwed if they have to play a tiebreaker.

Joe Savery played last night for the Phillies. Fans who weren't familiar with his story were amazed that he started this year as in infielder in A-ball. Of course, it's not like he had no experience with pitching at higher levels. ;-) He seems to be doing well in his LOOGY role.

Paul Janish is starting at SS tonight against the Mets. Thanks, Dusty. I won't be able to watch tomorrow's day game, so I'm glad Janish is playing tonight instead of tomorrow. (I would guess Edgar Renteria will start tomorrow.)

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posted by BubbaFan, 7:06 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, September 26, 2011

Shoulda kept Pendleton

The Yankees lost in extra innings tonight. The ghost of "Everyday" Scott Proctor gave up 3 runs in the 14th.

Strictly speaking, it didn't matter. The Yankees have locked up the division, home field advantage, etc. They are just playing out the string and setting up the roster for the playoffs. And they might actually be better off if the swooning Sox make the postseason, instead of the hot Rays.

But I have to think it matters psychologically. When you've been playing to win for 14 innings, it's got to be deflating to lose. Especially to the Sox.

And I can't help thinking that the Yanks would have been better off keeping Lance Pendleton, lost via a waiver claim to Houston, instead of Scott Proctor.

Rays and Cards now both one game back in the wild card. The wild card races are wild this year. I'm a little envious. September of 2005 remains one of my fondest baseball memories. When the AL East went down the last day, and every game for a month was like a playoff game. It was nerve-wracking, but thrilling beyond belief.

UPDATE: Looks like Pendleton had a pretty rough day at the office himself. I'd still have kept him instead of Scotty.

posted by BubbaFan, 12:01 AM | link | 0 comments |

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Whither Janish?

Paul Janish had another start today, and another pretty good day at the office. He ended up 1 for 3 with a double, a sac fly, a RBI, and a run scored. The sac fly was almost a home run; it was caught on the warning track. (I'm still hoping he'll hit at least one home run this year.)

It was the ninth game in a row that Janish has gotten on base. He's looking a lot better these days, at the plate and in the field. He just seems a lot more relaxed out there. If he'd played this way all season, I think the Reds would have been content to have him as the starting shortstop.

But he didn't, and now it's uncertain whether the Reds will even keep him. He's arbitration-eligible this year.

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Reds beat writer, John Fay, is doing a series that's basically a position by position rundown for next year. Tomorrow's article, second in the series, is about what the Reds are going to do about the shortstop position.

Can Cozart be Reds' main man at shortstop?

Shortstop is Cozart's job to lose next year. But it's far from certain he'll stick. The article notes:

Before this season, Janish’s and Cozart’s numbers were not that different in the minor leagues.

Cozart had a breakout year in Louisville this year, OPSing .825. But I'm not sure I trust that. For some reason, the Bats were mashing this year. Even Janish OPS’d .750 in Louisville this season - despite starting out in a deep slump (1 for his first 22). His last ten games, he was hitting .303 / .400 / .455, good for a .855 OPS.

The Reds plan to contend next year, and the window may be short. (Joey Votto is only signed for two more years.) That being the case, they can't risk sending the inexperienced Cozart out there without a net. Not to mention the possibility of injury. Walt Jocketty is therefore planning to sign a veteran shortstop to back up Cozart.

Fay doesn't think the Reds will re-sign Renteria.

Renteria is 36 years old. His range is severely limited, so it’s unlikely that the Reds will bring him back.

But they'll sign someone; I don't think they trust Janish to back up Cozart.

So what happens to Soft-J? Fay says that Janish doesn’t hit well enough to be a bench player. Cozart has a solid glove, so they don't need Janish as a LIDR. Fay thinks Todd Frazier is a better option than Janish, but by my count, barring an unexpected trade or injury, there’s no room on the roster for Frazier, either. Assuming 12 pitchers and 2 catchers, you have room for 11 position players. That’s going to be:

Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, Juan Francisco, Zack Cozart, Yonder Alonso, Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce, Chris Heisey, Miguel Cairo, and whatever veteran SS they get.

My feeling is that the Reds will try to keep Janish. He won't get a lot in arbitration, if it gets to that. He has options, so they could stash him in Louisville in case of emergency. After what happened this year, I think Jocketty will be concerned about depth. There's no one in the upper levels of the Reds farm system who could reasonable step in, if something happened to Cozart and/or his backup.

Janish should try to get a major league deal, even if it's for league minimum. The Reds can afford that, and being stuck in AAA will be a more lot palatable if he's not making minor league money. And of course, you never know what will happen. One way or another, he'll probably get another chance.


posted by BubbaFan, 10:16 PM | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Winding down

Paul Janish got another start last night, and went 2 for 3 with a RBI. The first hit was a beautiful bunt single. The Pirates didn't have a chance; he beat it out easily. The second was a grounder to right that scored Todd Frazier; nice to see him going the other way instead of just pulling the ball.

Even the out he made was impressive. He hit the crap out of it - announcer Jim Day thought it was a home run, and it sounded like it - but it was caught at the warning track. It was a cool, damp evening; a warmer day and it would have been gone.

Here is a video clip of Janish's RBI single. The Reds announcers end up talking about what they think went wrong with Janish this year. They think he was working too hard this summer, spending so much time in the weight room, taking extra batting practice, etc., even on his days off, that he was tired during the game.

They speculate that he’s doing better now because the weather’s cooler. I dunno...I would think a Houston boy wouldn't be bothered by the heat. Maybe he's more rested now because he's playing less often. Or maybe he's eased back on his workout regimen. He himself said it was more mental than anything, and that I could believe. In any case, he's playing better now, and people are noticing.

Janish was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the 8th inning, which didn't seem very smart to me. And not just because Juan Francisco struck out. Despite the expanded roster, the Reds bench is actually short, because there are so many injuries. Miguel Cairo just had season-ending shoulder surgery. Yonder Alonso has a bone bruise that means he can only pinch-hit. Chris Valaika tore his ACL and is done for the year. Ryan Hanigan has swollen discs in his back and also likely done for the year. But Dusty was swapping players in and out like he’s still got too many players and not enough playing time for them all. The score was 2-3 at the time, so it seemed like extra innings were possibility.

Pinch-hitting for Janish meant there was no one left on the bench. In the top of the 9th, Todd Frazier was hit on the hand by a 98 mph fastball. That walked in a run and tied the game, but it also meant that Frazier had to stay in the game and play third in the bottom of the 9th, injured hand or no. Short of using a pitcher as an infielder, there was no other option.

He seemed to do all right, but it was ridiculous that Dusty created that situation.

Also, I suspect Frazier's hand won't be feeling too good today. The Reds bench might be even shorter now.


posted by BubbaFan, 10:25 AM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, September 23, 2011

A long, long time ago...

Slate has been running an interesting series this week, about the Manhattan School For Girls. A historian/journalist found a bunch of old report cards, and tried to find out what happened to the students.

Weirdly, there's a baseball connection. He went to Detroit to tour some of the abandoned buildings, and found more report cards. This time for boys that, unlike the Manhattan girls, might still be alive. He found the report card of one Carmen Fanzone. Who turned out to be a former baseball player for the Cubs.

He's still alive, and the reporter got in contact with him. His report card at age 10 already showed his interests. He said the most fun thing he did the previous summer was play baseball, and he also says he wishes he had a clarinet. After his baseball career was over, he became a musician. (He said the Cubs were perfect for him. Since they didn't play night games, he could play in jazz clubs evenings.) He now works for the musicians' union in Los Angeles, Professional Musicians Local 47. And participates in Cubs fantasy camp every year.

Also, his report card shows him to be two years older than his baseball card. I guess that was pretty common back then.

Fanzone had a pretty good life, for a guy who flunked Economics in high school. He succeeded in music and baseball, two fields that are notoriously difficult to break into.

posted by BubbaFan, 6:14 PM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pioneer League Top Prospects

Baseball America's 2011 Pioneer League Top 20 Prospects list came out today. Number 8 on the list is Tony Cingrani.

The full scouting reports are behind a paywall, but there's a brief summary here.

The fireballing left-hander went 3-2 with a 1.75 earned run average. In 51 innings and 13 starts, the former Rice Owl allowed just 35 hits, struck out 80 and walked six while holding foes to a .190 batting average. Cingrani led the league in ERA, K/9 (14.0), K/BB (13.3:1), opponents batting average and WHIP (0.80). BA's Matt Eddy wrote that he's impressed with Cingrani's 92-94 mph fastball, which is aided by deception in the hurler's delivery. Eddy wrote that Cingrani's changeup also is deceptive and that his slider has improved greatly during his first pro season.


posted by BubbaFan, 8:58 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, September 16, 2011

Two starts in a row for Janish

Dusty Baker is starting Paul Janish at SS again, making it two games in a row for the first time in awhile. I'm surprised Janish is getting the start tonight against lefty Randy Wolf. Dusty's been sitting Janish against lefties lately. Janish has struggled against southpaws this year (weirdly, since he's usually much better against lefthanded pitchers) while Edgar Renteria has been very good. But Janish has good numbers against Wolf, so perhaps that's the reason.

And Janish has been playing well lately. Last night, he worked a walk in a nice at-bat. He went first to third on a Drew Stubbs single - read the ball off the bat well, with good situational awareness. For a guy who's not especially speedy, he really is a good baserunner. He ended up scoring from third on a wild pitch - a run that turned out to be the one that sent the game to extras. (The Reds were eventually victorious.)

That was the fifth game in a row Janish has reached base. Two RBIs and a run scored over his last three games.

He's also looked better on defense to me. More relaxed. No errors lately (knock on wood).


posted by BubbaFan, 6:15 PM | link | 1 comments |

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Paint me a picture

One of the Reds giveaways last month was a deck of cards featuring caricatures of the players. I am nowhere near Cincinnati, but I love caricatures, so I bought a deck on eBay. Each player is on two cards, so with Dusty Baker, they have 52 cards. Reds mascot Gapper is on the jokers.

They did try to match up the positions with the card numbers. I wondered why Janish wasn't a 7, then I realized he was 6, because that's the number that means shortstop. Catchers Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan were the twos. Bronson Arroyo and Francisco Cordero were aces. Each player got either both red or both black suits for their card. (Edgar Renteria is on the two red sixes, Janish on the two black.)

Some of the likenesses are better than others, but all in all, they did a good job. A lot of thought went into this project.

I think Janish's caricature is so-so. He's recognizable, but it's not a great likeness. However, I can see where the artist was coming from. It's tough to do a caricature if you're not familiar with the subject. The artist was probably working from photos, and it's funny how sometimes photographs don't really look like the person they're taken of. Janish's face often looks very full and round in pictures - like he weighs 300 pounds. In person, you can see that softness, yet he also looks very thin and sharp-featured.

Janish is in the starting lineup tonight. He's been playing better lately. Maybe it's just chance. Or maybe he's relaxed a bit, now that the Reds are just playing out the string and he's no longer fighting for his job. He's gotten on base his last three games, gotten a couple of RBIs, and been solid - even spectacular - on defense.


posted by BubbaFan, 6:08 PM | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pendleton happy to be an Astro

Lance Pendleton says it's always been his dream to play for his hometown Astros. And apparently, they liked him, too. Though they didn't want to commit to keeping him on the roster all year after taking him via Rule 5, they did try to work out a trade with the Yankees. The Yankees preferred to keep him, but DFA'd him on Tuesday, and the Astros ended up getting him for free.

The article says Pendleton will pitch out of the Astros pen the rest of the year, but so far, he is not on the active roster. He's listed on the 40-man, but not on the active roster.

Good luck to you, Lance.

Here are a few photos I took of him at a SWB Yankees game on August 7.

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posted by BubbaFan, 8:01 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, September 09, 2011

Pendleton claimed by Astros

The Yankees DFA'd Lance Pendleton on Tuesday. Poor guy didn't even get a chance to play after being called up.

Some sources said he was DFA'd to make room for Ramiro Pena, but that can't be true. Pena was on the 15-day DL. He was already on the roster. No one had to be booted to make room for him.

Rather, it looks like Pendleton was cut to make room for George Kontos. I really don't get it. I suppose they wanted Pendleton "just in case," then called up Kontos once the AAA season was over. But why bother? If they wanted Kontos, why not call him up to begin with, and let Pendleton finish the season in AAA? It's not like the Baby Bombers were headed for the playoffs this year. If the idea was to give Pendleton a last look, well, shouldn't they have let him pitch?

Pendleton didn't clear waivers. He was claimed by his hometown Astros. I guess they really like him. They took him in the Rule 5 draft last year, though they ended up returning him to the Yankees.

Now they can keep him without putting him on the 25-man roster.


posted by BubbaFan, 8:37 PM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Giving the kids a look

Dusty Baker, after weeks of resisting the calls of fans and the media to play the young guys, suddenly posted a lineup that featured a bunch of young callups. I don't know if he's thrown in the towel or what, but it was a very un-Dusty-like lineup.

Perhaps most surprising was Chris Valaika at SS. Valaika was drafted as a SS, but hasn't really played there for years. Beat writer John Fay hints that the Reds might be looking for an alternative to Paul Janish for backup SS next year.

Poor Janish. He started the year hoping to be the Reds' starting SS for the next few years. Now he might not even make the roster next year. It must be something of a shock, since he had a lock on a roster spot as backup SS for a couple of years.

Still, my feeling is that the Reds aren't seriously considering replacing Janish with Valaika. Janish has the better glove, and while Valaika hit better in the minors, he's really struggled since reaching AAA. In fact, he's spent three years in Louisville; he OPS'd .650 this year. My guess is they're trying to decide whether to keep Valaika on the 40-man roster or risk losing him to waivers or Rule 5.

They may also be trying to decide if they have enough depth at SS for next year. Cozart's and Renteria's injuries left Janish the only healthy SS in the upper levels of the Reds system. Cozart will be healthy by spring training, but Renteria will presumably be gone. So that still leaves them awfully thin at SS.

In any case, Valaika didn't embarrass himself, but he didn't exactly set the world on fire, either. He did have a nice at-bat that ended in a walk, but was 0 for 3 otherwise. He didn't have many chances at SS, but handled everything hit to him. He looks more graceful than Todd Frazier at SS, but to my eye he seems slow compared to Janish.

And in the end, Dusty proved he trusted Janish. With a 2-0 lead in the ninth, he pulled Valaika and put Janish in as a LIDR. Janish easily fielded the first two groundouts, but Mike Leake, who looked like he was heading for a one-hit complete game shutout, gave up a dribbler to third, then a home run. Free baseball.

Dusty's decision to sub in Janish bore fruit in the 11th. Janish made a nice diving stop in the 11th that likely saved the game.

Valaika probably doesn't get that one.

Janish's turn to bat came in the 12th. I really thought Dusty would pinch-hit for him. Edgar Renteria was available. But Dusty let Janish bat. I don't know why. Maybe it was part of his "play the kids" plan for the day. In any case, it paid off. Janish hit a bunt single, finally snapping an 0 for 28 hitless streak.

In the end, the Reds prevailed in 13 innings, winning 4-2.

Janish has looked rather grumpy lately, but last night, he was all smiles.


posted by BubbaFan, 4:51 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, September 05, 2011

Rosters expand

Rosters expanded September 1, and today was the last game for most minor league teams, meaning a few more players were called up now that they're not needed in AAA.

The Yanks called up Lance Pendleton on the first, though he hasn't had a chance to play yet. Also called up: "Everyday" Scott Proctor. He signed a minor league deal in mid-August. He has gotten a chance to play since being called up, and hasn't exactly been lights out. Fairly or not, many think Joe Torre ruined his arm; he's struggled with injury the past few years.

Scott Proctor, of course, came over with Bubba Crosby from the Dodgers, in exchange for Robin Ventura. I liked Ventura, and was so upset when the Yankees traded him. (I was rather naive about baseball at the time, and didn't understand that Ventura had to go.) Everyone thought Cashman was a genius, getting both Proctor and Crosby for Ventura. I was heartbroken.

I got over it. :-)


posted by BubbaFan, 8:34 PM | link | 0 comments |