May 2007

I’m Not That Desperate

This e-mail arrived today …


Dear Webmaster,

Hi there! Forgive the intrusion…On behalf of Anheuser-Busch, we are the agency that handles Rolling Rock beer, and frankly, we need your help.

We looked at well over 1500 sites, and we’re inviting you to participate BUT, we can only work with 150 of you.  So, the first 150 who respond will become part of the Rolling Rock Webmaster Team (yes, you get something for helping).  Read on.

Foul Ball is the latest in a series of videos you may have seen.  The first two being Man Thong and Beer Ape. Foul Ball takes place at a baseball game where a foul ball ricochets all over the ball park, hitting a bunch of guys smack in the balls… Yes, it’s funny, and you WON’T see it on TV.  It’s for Internet only.

Participation is easy, all you have to do is place our Rolling Rock Foul Ball banner ads on your site for two months and we’ll give you a $50.00 Amazon.com e-certificate.  Down the road, we’d like to call on you again to help us with various marketing campaigns.

We’re already a little behind, and we need you to have the banners up as soon as the video is available.  So, you MUST reply to this email within 3 days with your name and email address.  We will send you an email with a link to watch the video, give you the details, and sign you up.

Yes, this is legitimate and we are really their advertising agency.  Look at our website at http://www.biginteractive.com. ; This is a great opportunity if you want to make easy money and gain more exposure for your website.  Let’s help each other out!

Looking forward to working with you.


FutureAngels.com needs your financial support to stay afloat, but I’m not so desperate as to take money for hyping a movie about baseballs drilling a man in the family jewels … although I suspect the slimier of the fan sites out there will be all over this …

Garret Anderson Rehab Update

Rancho Cucamonga beat writer William Martinez reports that "Angels OF Garret Anderson worked out with the Quakes on Monday, with hopes of beginning a rehab stint as early as Wednesday. Anderson has been on the DL since April 28 after tearing his right hip flexor tendon."

Nathan Haynes Gets the Call


Nathan Haynes got his first call to the big leagues.

The Salt Lake Bees’ web site reports that Nathan Haynes has been called up to the major leagues for the first time. Tommy Murphy returned to Salt Lake.

UPDATE May 28, 2007 9:00 PM PDT — Nathan Haynes made his major league debut tonight, a late-inning substitution for Reggie Willits after the game got out of hand. In the bottom of the 9th, Haynes singled, went to third on a single by Erick Aybar, and scored on a fielder’s choice.

Oh, Haynes is wearing #13. Given the history of injuries in his career, that’s gotta be someone’s idea of a joke.

Splitting Hairs

Fans have a fascination with statistics, of course, although sometimes they don’t grasp the true meaning of what they read because they fail to look at the context, or they don’t drill deeply enough.

So here are some random observations of the numbers behind the numbers for various Angels minor leaguers …

Nathan Haynes has had a remarkable season, a comeback from a career abyss.  His AVG/OBP/SLG to date are .391/.466/.586.  What’s the ***** in his armor?  Facing left-handed pitchers.  Haynes, who bats left-handed, is .233/.340/.395 against lefties, .444/.510/.651 against righties.  If Nathan gets a callup to Anaheim, don’t be surprised if other teams go to the bullpen for a situation lefty to face him.

Jeff Mathis, however, loves lefties.  Overall his AVG/OBP/SLG are .245/.293/.351, but against southpaws he’s .314/.352/.510.  His home/road splits are definitely in favor of playing at 4,500-foot elevation Franklin Covey Field — .298/.344/.440 at home, .179/.225/.239 on the road (yikes).

Chris Resop was acquired from the Florida Marlins over the winter for Kevin Gregg.  Chris has a 6.15 ERA, with batters hitting .287 against him.  But look at his home/road splits.  At home, he’s 9.19 with a .333 AVG (15.2 IP).  On the road, he’s 1.69 with a .214 AVG (10.2 IP).  His K:BB ratio at home is 13:4, on the road it’s 9:3 — a consistent 3:1 ratio no matter where he’s at.  So this suggests that Franklin Covey Field is contributing to his abhorrent numbers, although from my personal observation watching him pitch at Las Vegas in mid-April his mechanics were quite messy at the time.  There’s evidence to suggest progress on that front too, as his ERA in April was 8.56 with a .339 AVG, but in May he’s improved to 3.55 and .224 AVG.

Down in Arkansas, Nick Adenhart is a 20-year old pitching at the Double-A level where players are a good three to five years older than him.  After a 0.80 ERA in April, his May ERA is 7.13.  But let’s look at his stats by inning.  Below are his ERA, AVG and IP by inning:

  • 1st – 7.20, .257, 10.0 IP
  • 2nd – 0.00, .342, 10.0 IP
  • 3rd – 6.52, .333, 9.2 IP
  • 4th – 5.40, .258, 8.1 IP
  • 5th – 0.00, .043, 8.0 IP
  • 6th – 1.59, .304, 5.2 IP
  • 7th – 0.00, .333, 4.0 IP
  • 8th – 0.00, .000, 1.2 IP
  • 9th – 27.00, .500, 0.1 IP

Clearly first-inning jitters are part of the problem, although I suspect most of it has to do with (1) being a 20-year old in Double-A, and (2) mechanical issues.  Stuff that fools younger and inexperienced hitters will be ignored by players with more experience, and some of them (such as teammate Curtis Pride) have major league experience.

Travs teammate Sean Rodriguez is probably the top position prospect on the roster, but he has some interesting splits too.  Sean bats right-handed, but seems to favor right-handed pitchers instead of lefties.  Against RHPs he’s .268/.379/.455, against LHPs he’s .227/.346/.318 (when your SLG is lower than your OBP, something’s out of whack).  Overall, his AVG/OBP/SLG are .257/.371/.419, but it’s interesting to note his OBP his definitely respectable despite the slump in other numbers this month.  Last year, Sean hit 24 HR for Rancho Cucamonga and another 5 HR for Arkansas after his promotion, so we’re all curious to see whether the power numbers hold up in a full year of Double-A.  So far, five of his six homers in 2007 have been on the road, reinforcing the early impression that Dickey-Stephens Park is a pitcher-friendly ballpark.

In 2006, power-hitting prospect Jordan Renz whiffed at the horrific rate of once every 2.53 AB with Cedar Rapids.  This year at Rancho Cucamonga, he’s improved only slightly to once every 2.68 AB.  His walk rate has improved slightly; dividing AB by BB, the ratio in 2006 was 12.86, in 2007 it’s 10.88.  After a hot April with a line of .313/.368/.482, in May he’s slumped to .198/.260/.396.

Right-handed pitcher Brok Butcher, a 25th round pick in the June 2005 draft, has come out of nowhere to be the ace of the Quakes staff.  No holes in his numbers so far, although it’s interesting to note that at home he has a 1.04 ERA and .254 AVG while on the road it’s 2.59 and .216.  The Epicenter has become one of the more hitter-friendly parks in the league, so a 1.04 ERA in that park is really something to brag about.  Nor does he have a vulnerability against left-handed or right-handed batters — .240/.280/.272 against lefties, .231/.271/.314 against righties.

Kernels lefty Doug Brandt has been lights out, but check out his home/road splits.  At home, he has a 1.50 ERA and .247 AVG (24 IP).  On the road, he’s 0.82 and .200 (22 IP).

Teammate Tim Schoeninger is from the Greg Maddux school of pitching — only four walks in 56.0 IP.  He has a 39:4 K:BB ratio, nearly 10:1!  Left-handed batters are more successful against him — .293/.309/.413 against lefties, .254/.269/.357 against righties.

Christal Kotchman Update

On May 22 I posted an article about Christal Kotchman’s Chipola team winning the Junior College World Series.

Today’s St. Petersburg Times has an article on the relationship between Christal and her brother Casey.

Boys and Their Toys


This is the original film image taken of Pedro Liriano in March 2001.

This is the result after scanning, cropping and "cleaning up" the digitized negative image.

If you’ve looked through the FutureAngels.com Photo Gallery, you know there are actually two galleries — the film gallery and the digital gallery.

I shot on film from 1998 through July 2002, when I bought a professional digital camera. Since then, everything is saved as JPEGs, and all those old negatives sit in a closet slowly falling apart.

But thanks to technology, those negatives will have new life.

This week I bought an Epson V700 scanner. In addition to scanning documents, it can also scan film negatives, slides and photo prints.

It comes with a rack into which you load the negative strips. Align the rack atop the scanner glass properly (something I had to figure out, since the documentation is rather thin) and it will automatically recognize the location of each negative.

If you have Adobe Photoshop, you can use Photoshop to directly import the JPEG images from the scanner so you can remove imperfections. (If you don’t have Photoshop, the scanner comes with a "light" version.) The older negatives are starting to flake, so you use the Photoshop clone tool to place copies of pixels from one area atop another to fix the image.

Some of you might be thinking, "Hey, isn’t FutureAngels.com hurting for money?!" (Yes, it is.) "Why’d you blow $500 on this scanner?!"

For openers, this photo scanner preserves five years of Angels minor league history, shot from 1998 through 2002.

For collectors who buy the photos from FutureAngels.com, now I can digitize and enhance the photos so you get a much better product. The examples to the right show you what’s possible. Someone asked me for a copy of the Pedro Liriano photo in the film gallery from March 2001, taken at the old spring training camp in Mesa, Arizona. As you can see from the top image, it was pretty crummy. But by scanning and digitizing the negative, now it’s a pretty good photo.

I’ve had to digitize negatives before, but that meant taking the negatives to the lab where I had to pay for it. One former minor leaguer earlier this year asked for a copy of all his photos, which totalled about forty. Those were a lot of negatives to scan, but when I saw the results back from the lab I was stunned to see how good they were. And after using Photoshop to crop, enlarge and enhance — well, I was sold.

Photo scanners have become increasingly affordable. The lab says their equipment cost about $10,000. This Epson scanner, in the "pro-sumer" range, was a little over $500.

If you’re into multimedia, the best place to shop on line is B&H Photo-Video-Pro Audio. They’re based in New York City. All the professional photographers know about B&H. Their prices are extremely competitive, and so far their shipping has been 100% reliable.

They also carry stuff you can’t find in your local store. For example, a couple years ago I was asked to make VHS copies of the 2004 Provo Angels pennant videos I shot. That was about 20 minutes of footage, so why use two-hour tapes? B&H carries VHS cassettes that run almost any length you can imagine, so I ordered 30-minute cassettes from them.

You can’t find much selection any more in VCRs, so when mine died recently I ordered two of the same model I wanted from B&H. One is a backup for the other.

You’ll find real high-end stuff too, such as the new Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players. Are there equivalent recorders? Yep, although they’re very expensive. But you can find them through B&H.

Anyway, it’s a worthwhile investment, for no other reason than we’ll be able to preserve a critical period in Angels history that saw the rise of John Lackey, Scot Shields, Francisco Rodriguez and many others.

Who’s On First?

This video clip played on the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ video board between innings when I was there … Andy Pantini, who doubles as both media relations director and video board operator, said he got it from the Internet.  I found it in several places on-line, including here:

http://www.maniacworld.com/star_wars_whos_on_first.html

Pretty funny stuff.

What Mickey Hatcher Really Does – Part Three

As previously discussed, people with no knowledge of the game blame Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher for everything from global warming to the heartbreak of psoriasis.

Orange County Register beat writer Bill Plunkett tempts the wrath of the ignorant with an article today about some recent success stories.


Hatcher can point at two recent success stories in Mike Napoli and Shea Hillenbrand.

Napoli had been mired in a slump that stretched all the way back to midseason of last year. Three weeks ago, he was hitting .185 for the season — .142 over 66 games dating to last July.

After Hatcher finally sold him on making an adjustment with his hands, Napoli has taken off. He was not in the lineup for Thursday’s day game, but Napoli has a career-high 11-game hitting streak during which he has batted .359 with home runs in each of the past three games he has played.

"At that time, he was slumping so badly he was ready to listen," Hatcher said. "There was something in his mechanics I thought we needed to do, basically just simplifying his hands. He had that big loop in his swing, trying to hit the ball out. Where his hands were (high, with the bat wrapped behind his head), he thought he was Vlad Guerrero.

"I just talked to him about flattening his bat out and getting his hands in a better hitting position. I’d talked to him about it before. But it’s pretty tough to get guys to change when they’re going good. Sometimes you have to let a guy get to the point where they’re thinking, ‘Hey, I need to change something.’"

Hillenbrand had certainly reached those depths when he was benched for three games two weeks ago. At the time, he was hitting .225 with one extra-base hit (a double) and seven RBIs. He and Hatcher spent the three days studying videotape of Hillenbrand’s 2003 and 2004 seasons, when he averaged around .300 and 80-plus RBIs per season.

"A lot of that was just trying to get information. I hadn’t seen him much before this season," Hatcher said. "What we worked on had a lot to do with his setup, getting into a strong, balanced hitting position."


Elsewhere … Under the subject of people who think they know more about hitting than the professionals because they can work a four-function calculator, Los Angeles Times writer Bill Shaikin has this quote from Gary Matthews Jr. about how pitch counts work. Some of the more extreme in the sabermetric community claim the evidence proves a batter should never ever swing at the first pitch. Matthews, who works in the real world, counters that theory.


… Matthews says he focuses on a portion of the strike zone and swings if the pitch is there. It is too simple, he says, to automatically take a pitch from a pitcher struggling with his control. A pitcher searching for the strike zone might throw a fat strike, he says, and the first pitch might be the most hittable pitch he’ll see.

"There can be no rhyme or reason for a pitch sequence," Matthews said. "You can’t take a pitch and think he’ll give you a 1-0 fastball down the middle."


Another Trophy in the Kotchman Showcase


Christal Kotchman is the younger sister of Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman. Photo courtesy Chipola Junior College.

MLB.com reports that Casey Kotchman’s sister Christal was part of the Chipola Junior College team that won the College Softball World Series last Saturday in Plant City, Florida.

If there were no gender gap, Christal would be the target of professional baseball scouts. The running joke is that she got all the speed in the Kotchman family, although Casey leading the Angels with three triples gives him some short-lived bragging rights.

In Episode 8 of FutureAngels.com Radio, I interviewed patriarch Tom Kotchman about the state of female ballplayers in what’s been up to now an all-male profession. Kotch said that women wouldn’t be drafted into pro baseball because of the reality that physically they can’t compare to the male physique. But there are plenty of women out there whose mechanics are equal to that of men. It’s simply a matter of size.

Still, it would tickle my fancy if Angels scouting director Eddie Bane called Christal’s name with his final pick this year in the 50th round of the June draft.

Baseball Could Lose Venezuelan Players


Francisco Rodriguez arrives in Anaheim, September 15, 2002. The rest is baseball history.

Today’s Riverside Press-Enterprise has an excellent trio of articles by writer Jeff Eisenberg about Venezuelan ballplayers and how professional baseball in the United States may suffer if they’re forbidden from playing here.

The first article is about the rumor that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez may prohibit players from joining U.S. teams. The article focuses on Angel Castillo, a 17-year old outfielder currently in the Angels’ minor league training camp in Tempe.

The second article is about how established Venezuelan major leaguers have taken security steps in their homeland to protect themselves and their loved ones. Angels reliever Francisco Rodriguez says he’s built what’s basically an armed fortress.

The third article is about the language and cultural programs major league teams create for Latin players once they reach the United States to help them adapt to this country. It’s a subject we’ve covered many times on FutureAngels.com, but this article tells you what other teams are doing.

These are three great articles worth reading. Hopefully the P-E gets an award nomination somewhere for Eisenberg’s work.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.