April 2007

Brandon Wood vs. Mike Schmidt — Part Two

Mike Scioscia compares Brandon Wood’s high strikeout rate at a young age to Mike Schmidt.

Back on January 21, I wrote a column titled, Brandon Wood vs. Mike Schmidt.

I noted that Mike Schmidt had been about Brandon’s age when he was first called up, and that like Wood his strikeout rate had been atrocious but he later outgrew it.

Needless to say, I was amused to see the article today on MLB.com in which Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said that he saw parallels between the early careers of Schmidt and Wood.

Brandon was 0 for 4 in his big league debut Thursday, striking out twice. From what I saw on TV, the Tampa Bay pitchers were pounding him with breaking balls down and away, which often gave him troubles in the minors. Someone did their scouting.

The Curious Case of Robert Romero

Robert Romero was first suspended and then released by the Angels.

Robert Romero wasn’t considered a prospect, but the circumstances around his departure from the Angels organization may bear watching.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels issued a press release today which stated:

It was also announced today by Tony Reagins, Director of Player Development for the Angels, that RHP Robert Romero has been suspended indefinitely.

About four hours later, a revised press release arrived in e-mail which stated:

It was also announced today by Tony Reagins, Director of Player Development for the Angels, that RHP Robert Romero has been released by the Angels.

Hmmm …

The 22-year old Romero had made only four relief appearances this year. In 3 1/3 innings, he’d allowed three runs (two earned), seven hits, and had an average against of .389.

I’ve no idea what happened, so it will be interesting to see whether the local press in Cedar Rapids ferret it out.

On a personal note … People often ask me if I’ve ever been hit by a baseball while out on the field or in the dugout doing photography. I’ve been shooting photos since 1998, and so far I’ve escaped being struck by a batted ball.

Romero, however, holds the singular distinction of being the only player to actually hit me with a ball.

If you look at his photo, you’ll see he was a side-armer. In August 2005, I was in Orem shooting photos of the Owlz. The ballpark doesn’t have a camera well, so photographers either stand in the dugout, down the line in foul territory, or on a steeply slanted grass berm.

So I was down the third-base line just beyond the coach’s box. The Orem bullpen was further down the line, also in foul territory.

Romero began to warm up. I had my back to him. I’m looking through my camera lens shooting the game when … SMACK! right on my left ankle.

I turned around, and saw that Romero had thrown wild a warmup pitch, bounced it and hit my calf muscle. It started to well up pretty fast — and yes, you do see the baseball stitches on your flesh — but I figured there was nothing I could do about it so I went back to work.

A few moments later …


He’d done it again.

At this point, I figured that if he doesn’t have control in the bullpen, he’s surely not going to have it on the mound, but in any case I moved closer to the dugout and let the third base coach become the primary target.

Many have come close, before and after, but Romero is the only one so far to nail me.

Brandon Wood Gets the Call

Brandon Wood with Provo in July 2003.

Let’s get it out of the way now, because I guarantee you that after Brandon Wood strikes out for the first time in the big leagues some self-appointed expert on the MLB.com Angels Bulletin Board will declare that (a) it’s Mickey Hatcher’s fault so he should be fired, and (b) Wood was overrated so he should be dumped as soon as possible.

While the tinfoil-hat crowd sharpen their knives, those of us in the reality-based world know not to expect much from Brandon’s first major league stint.

All you have to do is look at what happened last year when Howie Kendrick got his first call. He struggled mightily, as does pretty much every other rookie when he gets his first promotion to the major leagues. The most difficult leap for any player is from Triple-A to the major leagues. The game is faster, more intense, the pitchers have pinpoint control, their stuff is nasty, and batters rarely see mistakes.

Mike Schmidt made his major league debut at age 22. In 34 AB, he had an AVG/OBP/SLG of .206/.325/.294. The next year, his first full major-league season, he hit .196/.324/.373. He struck out 136 times in 367 AB — or about once every 2.7 AB.

And yet, somehow, he turned out all right.

Chone Figgins starts his rehab assignment tonight with Salt Lake, where he’ll play third base, Wood’s position. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. When Figgins is ready, he and Wood will simply switch assignments. Chone will return to Anaheim and Brandon to Salt Lake. This way, Wood gets a few days of big-league experience, which he will take back with him to Triple-A. That experience a year ago helped Kendrick immensely, and it should do the same for Wood.

So let’s keep in mind that Brandon is all of 22 years old and not declare him a “bust” just because he isn’t quite ready for the Hall of Fame.

John Lackey Joins the Blogosphere

John Lackey pitches in an intrasquad game at Rancho Cucamonga on April 5, 2004.

The below press release arrived in e-mail today from Yardbarker.com.


Yardbarker.com, the premier destination on the Internet for unfiltered sports commentary by fans and bloggers, has launched an MLB blog with John Lackey, ace pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, it was announced today.

Lackey, a six-year major league veteran, will share his daily life experiences and answer questions from fans throughout the 2007-08 baseball season.

“I really like what Yardbarker is doing and I love the idea of connecting directly with the fans,” Lackey said. “Not everyone gets to experience daily life in a clubhouse or preparing to face the Red Sox or traveling to Milwaukee to play the Indians because the weather’s too bad in Cleveland. It will be fun to give the fans a little closer look at what I experience during the season.”

Lackey was third in the American League with 190 strikeouts in 2006 and his 389 Ks over the last two full seasons trails only Johan Santana among AL pitchers. In 2002, Lackey became only the second rookie in MLB history to start and win a game seven of the World Series, a 4-1 decision over the San Francisco Giants.

“We started Yardbarker to offer sports fans the very best sports content on the web and there is no better source for that than hearing from the athletes themselves,” Yardbarker Co-Founder Pete Vlastelica said. “Not only is John Lackey one of the best pitchers in baseball, he has a great personality and shoots straight from the hip. His blog promises to be insightful and entertaining.”

About Yardbarker Inc.
Yardbarker is a sports web site that allows fans, not editors, to post, rate and discuss the best sports content available daily on the web. Yardbarker’s sports bloggers are blazing the trail for a new kind of sports journalism: witty, interactive, multimedia, refreshingly biased, and generally able to talk about sports in the language that sports fans find most engaging.

The direct link to Lack’s blog is http://www.yardbarker.com/users/John_Lackey.

I have to wonder, though, how unhappy the Angels’ image-conscious front office management will be about Lackey posting a blog they don’t control …

What You See is What You Get

Monday’s Los Angeles Times had an article about modern technology used by ballplayers to help them see pitches.

I’ve written many times that ballplayers say the key to hitting isn’t brute strength, it’s hand-eye coordination. The results documented in the article reinforce that.

On the Road Again

Just cashed in my frequent flyer mileage so I can go to Arkansas.  I’m flying in on June 7 and leaving June 12, so airline willing I’ll see five games — two against Wichita (Royals affiliate) and three against Springfield (Cardinals affiliate).

Will Nick Adenhart still be there, or will he be in Salt Lake?  My guess is it’s 50/50.

I’m taking a risk, because in 2002 when I flew American Airlines to Little Rock they lost my camera lens and it didn’t show up until the last day of the shoot.  This time, because of the limitations with the frequent flyer mileage I have 40 minutes to transfer between flights at O’Hare.  So you’d think with five games, even if I miss the first game I’ll still have four more.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Springfield, given all the past history between the Travs and the Cardinals.

And of course, the new Dickey-Stephens Park.  Hopefully I can film enough footage to do an on-line mini-documentary similar to what I did with Ray Winder Field in 2003.

As mentioned earlier, I’ll be in Cedar Rapids May 12-15 to cover the Kernels. Two games at Clinton, then two games at The Vet.

(Oh, my poor bank account …)

Left-Handed Starting Pitcher Prospects

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It’s time for another poll.

Who is the Angels’ top left-handed starting pitcher prospect?

The options are to the right.

The results of the last poll … Which Angels minor league team will have the best winning percentage in 2007?

  • Rancho Cucamonga 31%
  • Salt Lake 26%
  • Tempe 25%
  • Orem 8%
  • Cedar Rapids 5%
  • Arkansas 4%

There were 217 votes cast.

Picture This

Brad Coon playing center field in today’s Quakes game.

As you probably know, the FutureAngels.com Digital Photo Gallery is filled with thousands of photos taken throughout the Angels minor leagues. These photos are available for purchase. Follow the instructions on the photo order page.

Some of you may be looking for 2007 photos. As always this time of year, it takes a lot longer to process the photos and place them on-line than it does to go shoot them. I’m working on them as time permits, but I have a lot less time than I used to since changing jobs last year.

Just to give you an idea of what’s ahead, here are the games I’ve shot this year:

  • Minor League Spring Training Camp — March 18, 19 and 20. I’m almost done with March 18; you’ll find photos in the gallery of Hank Conger, Young-Il Jung and many others who played for the Cedar Rapids and Rancho Cucamonga squads that day. But I still have plenty more to do, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t see your favorite player.
  • Rancho Cucamonga — April 8 and April 22. None of those are on-line yet, other than the Brad Coon photo I shot today which is to the right as a token of good will.
  • Salt Lake at Las Vegas — April 13, 14 and 15. I’ve posted on-line a couple photos of Brandon Wood, Matt Brown and Terry Evans for a rush special order, but these too will take a while.

Looking ahead, I’m going to shoot Cedar Rapids on May 12-15 — two games in Clinton, then two games at Cedar Rapids.

I’d originally intended to cash in some frequent flyer mileage to go to Little Rock in late May, but the airline blacked out that weekend, so now I’m looking at some June dates.

Combine that with the podcasts and I just don’t have much time to process photos. I may drop the podcasts for a while if that’s what it takes to catch up.

In any case, your patience is appreciated. I know there are some players’ parents out there I’ve met along the line who are awaiting their sons’ photos. Sooner or later, they’ll all show up on-line.

The Rematch

Randy Johnson faced the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on July 15, 2003.

It may be the most legendary game in the history of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

On July 15, 2003, Randy Johnson was assigned by the Arizona Diamondbacks to their California League affiliate, the Lancaster JetHawks, to make a rehab start. The JetHawks were in Rancho Cucamonga to play the Quakes.

Johnson’s opponent on the mound that night? Ervin Santana.

The Quakes won that night, 5-1. Johnson gave up five runs (four earned) on 11 hits in six innings with six strikeouts and no walks.

Several Quakes in the lineup that night will be in the lineup Thursday night when the Salt Lake Bees are in Tucson to face the Sidewinders, the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate. And once again, Randy Johnson will be on the mound.

Of course, Johnson took a side trip to the New York Yankees since the last encounter, and was traded back to Arizona last winter. But for several Bees, this will be another chance to test their mettle against a future Hall of Famer.

Jeff Mathis was the catcher that night. Mike Eylward was at first base. Nick Gorneault was in left field.

Missing the party this time will be Dallas McPherson, who homered off Johnson in his second at-bat. After singling off Randy in his third AB, in their fourth encounter he was nicked by the Unit with a fastball at the navel. Dallas took his base and promptly stole second.

If you have Windows Media Player and a fast Internet connection, click here to watch McPherson’s four at-bats against Johnson.

Dallas will be up the road in Tempe rehabbing after surgery to fix his bad back. He once told me (in jest) that he and Randy have "unfinished business," but it seems like every time there’s a chance they’ll cross paths again that one or the other has been on the DL.

But I’d pay serious money to see Dallas face Johnson one more time.

You’ll be able to listen to the game through the Bees webcast on the MinorLeagueBaseball.com web site at 6:30 PM PDT on Thursday.

Minor League Affiliates Winning Percentage

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It’s time for another poll.

Which Angels minor league team will have the best winning percentage in 2007?

The options are to the right.

The results of the last poll … How many bases will Brad Coon steal in 2007?

  • 20 or Less 3%
  • 21-30 13%
  • 31-40 22%
  • 41-50 13%
  • More Than 50 49%

There were 120 votes cast.