August 2007

This ‘N That

Ervin Santana pitching for Rancho Cucamonga in July 2003.

Just checking in …

I’m going to be rather scarce in the next few days trying to get the Tempe photos processed.  The photos from Day 1 of the trip (July 20) will be on-line tonight in the Digital Photo Gallery.  Two more games to go, July 21 and July 22.

At the same time, I’m working with my mortgage lender and a property broker in Florida on a possible transaction next month.  My wife and I have long-range plans to retire and move to somewhere in the Cape Canaveral area, which is known for obvious reasons as the "Space Coast."  We’ll be flying out for a couple days in mid-September to look at properties.

I’ve noticed on some fan boards that certain people are trying to dismiss Ervin Santana as just another Ramon Ortiz, as usual without bothering to do their homework.  So I’ll do it for them.

I’ve preached many times that PCL stats have to be taken in context because of the many high-altitude ballparks.  You can’t just look at home/away splits.  Even though Salt Lake is at 4,500 feet altitude, there are other notoriously hitter-friendly parks — in particular, Colorado Springs, Las Vegas, Tucson, and Albuquerque.

So far in his Triple-A assignment, Ervin has made two home starts and three on the road — but one of those road starts was at Albuquerque, at an elevation of 5,300 feet.

Here’s what you get when you combine the three high-altitude starts (two at Salt Lake, one at Albuquerque) and compare them to the two "normal" elevation starts (one at Sacramento, one at Round Rock).

In the high-altitude parks, Ervin has a 7.36 ERA in 18 1/3 innings, giving up 15 runs on 31 hits including three homers.  His SO:BB ratio is 16:6, which isn’t bad especially when you consider he’s whiffing batters at a rate of 7.8 per 9 IP.

In the "normal" parks, Ervin has a 1.93 ERA in 14 IP, giving up three runs on 8 hits including one homer.  His SO:BB ratio is 16:4, or 10.3 Ks per 9 IP.

Hmmm …

I didn’t see much value in sending him to Triple-A for this reason.  The high-altitude parks would distort his numbers, and he’d dominate in the "normal" parks because his stuff is better than Triple-A.

On the other hand, it was clear his lackluster performance in the majors was hurting the ballclub, so he had to come out of the rotation.  Going to the bullpen wouldn’t do him much good, because right now he’s in that #6 starter role occupied most of the year by Joe Saunders.  (Let’s not forget that the high-altitude parks distorted Joe’s Triple-A numbers too.)

So all sending him to Triple-A would accomplish is taking him out of a death spiral.  Going to Salt Lake is the equivalent of giving a child a "time out."  Ervin needed a mental breather, and the chance to work on his stuff without the pressure of a pennant race (well, a major league pennant race — the Bees are in their own playoff hunt).

In any case, my point is not to get all hysterical when Ervin gets lit up at Salt Lake or other high-altitude parks.  Look past the runs and hits to see (1) where he’s pitching, and (2) what are his SO:BB ratios.  That’ll tell you more about how he’s progressing.

Juan Rivera was supposed to start a rehab stint tonight at Rancho Cucamonga, while Howie Kendrick has moved on to Salt Lake to continue his rehab.  Hopefully the Angels can survive the rest of the season without any more catastrophic injuries, but that isn’t likely.  They’ll be in a world of hurt if Vlad Guerrero goes down.

Finally, watch the clock through Wednesday, August 15.  That’s the deadline for major league clubs to sign their 2007 draft picks.  This is a new wrinkle in the annual draft.  Under the old rules, high school graduates and college junior/seniors could be signed until they attended school.  Junior college players could go to school and were still eligible until one week before the next draft, hence the phrase "draft-and-follow."

But no more hanky-panky.  It’s much more straightforward now — sign by August 15 or go back into the draft next year and hope you don’t hurt yourself in the mean time.

I guess this means college graduates who don’t sign have no choice but to go to independent ball.

The Angels are hoping to snag third-round pick RHP Matt Harvey, who would have gone in the first round except his advisor is Scott Boras. But the Angels have had good luck in the past negotiating with Boras clients, e.g. Chris Bootcheck and Jered Weaver, so I’m optimistic.

The Post-Season

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It’s time for another poll.

Which team is most likely to qualify for the playoffs?

The options are to the right.

The results of the last poll … Which Angels affiliate is closest to you?

  • Rancho Cucamonga 45%
  • Arkansas 14%
  • I’m not near one 14%
  • Orem 12%
  • Cedar Rapids 6%
  • Salt Lake 5%
  • Tempe 4%

There were 203 votes cast.

Orem Owlz GM Resigns

Orem Owlz general manager Zachary Fraser has announced that effective immediately he is resigning from his position.  The reason given was “personal and family health issues.”

As the season has progressed, it has become more and more apparent that the time that I need to dedicate to these issues and to maintain the dedication and quality of work that I expect of myself and my employees is not possible. If I have learned anything in four years with Tom Kotchman it is that your health and happiness and that your family’s health and happiness are the two most important things. Baseball must take a back seat for the time being.

I recorded an interview on July with Zach. Click Here to listen.

No word on who will run the Owlz for the remainder of the season. Next in line would be assistant general manager Sarah Hansen, which might make her the only female GM currently in the affiliated minor leagues. Details when available.

Angels Release Josh Davies

Josh Davies at Fitch Park against the Mesa Cubs on August 1, 2004.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels have issued a press release announcing that Aussie infielder Josh Davies has been released by the Angels. Rancho Cucamonga Quakes infielder Tadd Brewer has been reassigned to Cedar Rapids.

Part of the fun of doing all these years is documenting the progress of a young player from the moment he begins playing professional baseball.

I first saw Josh Davies play in 2004 minor league spring training camp. He was 18 years old, halfway around the world from home and in the other hemisphere. When I returned to Mesa in August, I filmed his first professional home run, hit on August 1st at Fitch Park against the Mesa Cubs. Click Here to watch Josh’s first professional homer.

After the game, I returned to the hotel and posted the video on The next day, I received an e-mail from Josh’s father. He wrote that he’d watched the video in Australia over the Internet, and that he never would have seen this if it wasn’t for and Internet technology.

Moments like that make all the time and expense worthwhile.

Slam Dunk

Maicer Izturis with the Edmonton Trappers in July 2004.

Maicer Izturis just hit a grand-slam to give the Angels a 6-1 lead over Minnesota.

Every time I see him succeed, I’m reminded of a doubleheader I saw at Salt Lake on July 18, 2004. The Stingers were hosting the Edmonton Trappers, a Montreal Expos affiliate.

Maicer was Expos property at the time, and played shortstop in both games. The records show he was a combined 6-for-10 with a double.

Also in attendance that day was Angels GM Bill Stoneman. He was kind enough to chat with me while we watched Edmonton take batting practice.

When asked these days about Izturis, Stoneman often cites that day as when he saw Izturis and was impressed by him.

That winter, Stoneman traded disgruntled outfielder Jose Guillen to the Expos (now the Washington Nationals) in exchange for Izturis and outfielder Juan Rivera.

(Of course, this transaction is always ignored by the cranks who claim “Stoned Man” never makes a trade …)

Izturis was listed back then in the records as 5’8" 150 lbs. The Angels 2007 Media Guide lists him as 5’8" 165 lbs. Regardless of his stature, he somehow finds a way to hit, and hit with occasional power.

Entering 2007, here are Maicer’s career AVG/OBP/SLG at the minor and major league levels:

Minors: .283/.349/.374 (2,374 AB)
Majors: .265/.335/.377 (650 AB)

The Angels are truly blessed to have Izturis and Erick Aybar as infielders to back up Howie Kendrick and Orlando Cabrera — and that’s not including Chone Figgins, who can also play 2B and SS in addition to 3B.

As Brandon Wood matures, the Angels will find a place for him, either 3B or SS. Orlando Cabrera is a free agent after 2008, and will be 34 in November that year. Cabrera has emerged as such a leader and is having such an excellent year that it’ll be hard for them to let him go, even with Aybar and Izturis ready to play every day.

All that depth is due to Bill Stoneman building the farm system, and he can be given personal credit for Izturis.

Web Site Woes – Part II

Despite an e-mail from Network Solutions stating that the problem is solved, I still can’t access the site.  When I try to log in, I get an "Access Denied" error.  The customer support still won’t say anything other than "We’re having problems with our Windows platform" and won’t give an ETA.

So feel free to keep this total absence of service in mind should you be looking to do business in the future with Network Solutions.

Web Site Woes is still suffering from technical problems. My hosting service, Network Solutions, won’t tell me what’s wrong and won’t give me an ETA. All they’ll tell me is that they acknowledge there’s a problem and their engineers are working on it.

Adding insult to injury is their customer service representative trying to sell me additional products while refusing to elevate my service call so the problem gets fixed. Particularly cheeky was asking whether I wanted to renew their hosting services for another year.

As of this writing, the problem has been occurring for about 36 hours and counting.

Occasionally it’ll let me in to update the home page, and occasionally the site itself comes up, but then it goes down again or displays bizarre behavior. Today, the site was prompting visitors for an account and password.

Anyway, if you found your way here, I wanted to assure you that I’m leaning on them to solve the problem.


I thought you might like to see what a typical lineup card looks like.

Click on this link and it’ll download a JPEG file of a photo I shot before the July 9 game between the Orem Owlz and the Casper Rockies. The file is huge — 2.8 MB — but that’s because I wanted you to have the opportunity to examine the detail up close. If you right-click on the link and select "Save Target As …" (or "Save Link As …" if you have Firefox) then you can copy the file to your computer where it’ll be easier to view and resize.

Note in particular the detail that Owlz manager Tom Kotchman gave to the Casper lineup. Below the lineup card is a printout of the Casper stat sheet. He color-codes cross-references between the stats and notes on the lineup card. On the card, Kotch wrote each batter’s average, hits, at-bats, strikeouts and walks.

Also note on the stat sheet that he highlights players with a lot of stolen bases and a lot of errors. The latter is part of the Angels’ philosophy to pressure the opposition. If the 3B has made many errors, why not drop a bunt on him and see what happens?

Separate from these are individual spray charts that Kotchman tapes onto the dugout wall above the bench. There’s one chart for each opposition batter. Kotchman keeps binders on every opposition hitter they face, and keeps them from year to year. Who knows, maybe that detail has been passed up the line when the parent club has faced that particular player.

Anyway, just another little insight into how Kotch runs his team.

Cranks and Kranks

From time to time I refer to the constant complainers on Angels fan boards as “cranks.” These people act as if they know more about the game than professionals in the business for decades, that they know the most intimate details of trade offers and player contracts, that the owner has an infinite sum of money to spend, etc., ad nauseum.

Occasionally, I’ll see one of those people post (on another board, apparently lacking the courage to directly respond here) that they object to my use of the word “crank.”

Reading an article today, I ran across the term “krank” which was defined as a term used to describe baseball fans around the turn of the last century.

So I did a Google search on krank and came up with this:

Once the favored term for spectators at sporting events, a term latter supplanted by “fans”. By implication, the “kranks in the bleaching boards” think they know more about the sport than do its participants.

“Crank” was given as an alternate spelling and used as an example in this sentence:

“A crank is defined as a man who cannot be turned.” —Nature, 8 Nov 1906

Hmmm …

A Wikipedia entry has this to say:

The term "krank" (or crank) is a now-obsolete term for baseball fans in particular, and also carried much the same connotation as both "fanatic" and "fancy", of devoted attachment to something, in this case a team.

So that’s where the term came from.

And it certainly seems legitimate for me to use it.