February 2010

Splitting Brandon Wood

If you’ve followed my FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects reports over the years, you know that for Salt Lake players I’ll do an analysis you won’t find elsewhere.

You can find home/road splits for any player, but that doesn’t tell the whole story in the high-octane Pacific Coast League. Five ballparks — Salt Lake, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, and Reno — are all super hitter-friendly conditions due to high altitude or other conditions.

I retrieve a Salt Lake players’ game-by-game stats and separate out games played in those five ballparks against the rest of the league. Bees players, obviously, have half their games at home in Salt Lake City, so inevitably we have a larger sample with the “hitter-friendly” at-bats than we do with the “neutral/pitcher-friendly” at-bats. But I’ve found it gives you a more accurate picture of how a player is doing than the simple home/road split.

A sportswriter asked me to do Brandon Wood’s 2009 splits. I also looked back at 2007 and 2008 for comparison. Here’s what I found:

2009
OVERALL: .293/.357/.557 (386 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .318/.382/.614 (280 AB)
NEUTRAL/PITCHER-FRIENDLY: .226/.291/.406 (106 AB)

2008
OVERALL: .296/.376/.595 (395 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .296/.382/.577 (267 AB)
NEUTRAL/PITCHER-FRIENDLY: .297/.364/.633 (128 AB)

2007
OVERALL: .272/.338/.497 (437 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .279/.352/.472 (305 AB)
NEUTRAL/PITCHER-FRIENDLY: .258/.305/.553 (132 AB)

The 2009 numbers are of particular concern. In the prior two years, his slugging percentage in neutral/pitcher-friendly parks was actually higher than in hitter-friendly parks. But in 2009 his “neutral” numbers were significantly lower across the board.

As always with statistics, you have to look at context and sampling size. In each of the three years, we’re looking at a little over 100 AB’s for “neutral.” We would expect to see “neutral” numbers lower, but in 2009 they’re drastically lower.

Brandon has his best career opportunity in 2010 to win the Anaheim third base job. But those 2009 “neutral” numbers are a cause for concern.

Sticky Fingers

While doing Google research the other day, I ran across something I’d written — but it had been reprinted on another site.

This wasn’t a quote. It was my entire column. It was reprinted as if that individual himself had written it.

I’m not the only victim. If you look through his site, he’s copying content wholesale from everywhere, articles and photos, passing them off as his own work.

I attempted to e-mail the responsible party at the address provided, but it bounced back with the error message, “No such user here.”

The WHOIS entry for this site lists the same bogus e-mail address. It says the site is registered to a William Day out of Rialto, California.

I tried contacting GoDaddy.com, the registrar for this site, but they say they only control the domain name, they don’t host his servers. An I.P. search by domain name server suggests he’s hosted by ThePlanet.com. I’ve contacted them to file a complaint.

I’m going to track down this kleptomaniac and serve him with legal notice to stop the pilfering. In the meantime, if anyone knows who this person is and has a valid contact e-mail address I would greatly appreciate it. You can contact me at home@futureangels.com.

This ‘N That

It’s been a while since I posted, but I’m not one to post just to post.

This time of year, not much is going on in the world of the minor leagues. Spring training is nigh, pitchers and catchers report as we speak, remaining free agents scramble for remaining jobs.

Many of you know I run another web site, SpaceCoastBaseball.com, that covers professional and amateur baseball here in Brevard County, Florida AKA the Space Coast. That’s occupied much of my free time lately. I’ve been working with the two local college teams, Florida Tech and Brevard Community College, doing video and photos of their games.

Both have Angels ties.

2009 Orem Owlz reliever Mike Piazza graduated last year from Florida Tech. Many of his teammates returned to the 2010 squad. Coach Greg Berkemeier was MIke’s coach.

BCC head coach Ernie Rosseau has been around for 25 years. He’s as big a legend in local baseball as Tom Kotchman is in Angels baseball, and it turns out they know each other. Many of you have heard the tale of how Tom Kotchman found Howie Kendrick. He was tipped by a college coach about a young hitter in a small local community college. It turns out that tipster was Ernie Rosseau.

It’s hard not to think about Kotch as I watch the college kids play. I know he’s out there somewhere in this Sunshine State scouting these amateurs. I try to watch them through Kotch’s eyes, knowing he’s looking not just for the top prospects — everyone knows who they are — but also for guys like Scot Shields or Darren O’Day or Howie Kendrick, unknowns who might blossom given the opportunity. Kotch also tends to look for players who may not be legit prospects, but can help Orem by being an effective setup reliever, infield defensive whiz or backup catcher.

I still can’t quite wrap my head around the notion of a bat making a metallic “clank” sound instead of the wooden “crack” but that’s amateur ball for ya. Cheap hits abound.

At the other end of the baseball spectrum, former Angels minor leaguers are signing contracts for an opportunity with other organizations.

The latest Baseball America Minor League Transactions report has four former Angels properties signing minor league contracts with the Dodgers — Seth Etherton, Ramon Oritz, Corey Smith and Alfredo Amezaga. Corey played with Arkansas and Salt Lake in 2008. The other three played for the Angels in the majors.

And now comes word that Dustin Moseley has signed a minor league contract with the Yankees. The Angels acquired Moseley in a December 14, 2004 trade with the Reds for Ortiz.

Some people ask why they sign minor league contracts when they’ve been major leaguers. The answer is that to be in major league spring training camp, they have to be under contract for legal reasons. If it were a major league contract, they’d have to go on the 40-man roster, which means someone else would have to be moved off through waivers to a minor league roster. So they’re signed to a minor league contract, auditioned in spring training, and if they make the parent club they get a major league contract.

As many of you know, I’ve been unemployed since October 2008, so it’s unlikely I can afford a trip to Tempe in March. I will have the Nationals’ spring training here in nearby Viera, where I hope to cross paths with Joel Peralta, a former Angels minor league pitcher in camp under the aforementioned minor league contract.

Someone has figured out how to make a buck while blogging. Mark Zuckerman, a former Washington Times sportswriter, now runs a blog called Nats Insider. The Times eliminated its entire Sports department a couple months ago. Mark solicited his readers to donate enough money for him to cover spring training. He asked for $5,000. He raised over $10,000.

Mark’s due in town today. We’re going to meet soon and discuss crossover possibilities. I may do videos for him which will promote both our sites.

My hope is to save my pennies for an early May trip to Cedar Rapids. The Kernels have three day games May 1-3. Daylight is golden for photographers.

I won’t rule out a trip to Tempe for extended spring training, when lodging is cheaper, but right now it’s not financially viable. I may change my mind, based on who’s held back at extended and who reports to Cedar Rapids.

I’m not as brazen about soliciting funds as Mark is, but you can support FutureAngels.com through a $5/month voluntary subscription or a one-time donation. It costs me about $1,000 to do a road trip to an Angels minor league affiliate. I doubt there are enough interested people to raise $1,000 for a trip to Cedar Rapids, but every penny helps.

Coast to Coast: Lights Out

Click here to watch the video of the STS-130 Endeavour launch. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection are required.

STS-130, the final night Space Shuttle launch, took off at 4:14 AM EST today. As with other launches since we moved here last June, I videotaped this one for you folks in California and elsewhere.

With the Shuttle program scheduled to retire by the end of 2010, this is the last night launch on the calendar. I filmed STS-128, the last night launch, from Titusville across the Indian River from the launch pad. (Click here to watch the STS-128 night launch video.) With so few launches left, and this being the last night launch, the crowds at the best viewing points are huge now so I decided to film STS-130 from our driveway.

With both launches, you’ll see the amazing sunburst effect. Out of total darkness materializes this small little sun that rises into the air. Within a few minutes, it’s just one star of many on the horizon.

As you watch both videos, two minutes into the launch look for a couple of red dots falling away from the Shuttle. Those are the white solid rocket boosters falling away from the orbiter. They land in the Atlantic Ocean and are towed back to Cape Canaveral for reuse.

A reminder that sound travels much more slowly than light, which is why you don’t hear the roar of the Shuttle engines until nearly a minute after launch. We’re about ten miles southwest of the launch pad.

The NASA TV channel is on the local cable station. A minute or two before launch last night, the neighborhood doors opened and folks stepped outside to watch. I’m amazed by the people who don’t step outside to witness history. Manned or unmanned, every launch I see people who go about their business and not bother to stop and watch. To me, there’s not much more important than watching the future begin.

Baseball America’s Top 31 Angels Prospects

The Baseball America 2010 Prospect Handbook has shipped, listing who they think are the Angels’ top thirty prospects. As with last year, they also shipped a supplement adding one more player.

Click here to order the book and other BA publications.

The BA Top 31 are below. I do think it’s a bit silly, though, to publish such long lists. The BA Top 10 grew into the Top 20, then Top 30, and now Top 31. BA analysts admit privately that such long lists are meaningless, because once you get past twenty or so these players are so far on the fringe that ranking them really doesn’t mean much.

That’s why the FutureAngels.com Top 10 prospects list is limited to ten. Longer lists are really more an excuse to write about more players — which is fine, but I don’t see the point in ranking them.

BA studies a few years ago found that only 1 of 10 minor leaguers ever set foot in a big league dugout, and of those only 1 of 4 will last five years in the majors. Combine the numbers, and it tells you that only 1 of 40 players in a minor league system will be a major league regular. If in a typical year a minor league system has about 200 players under contract, the 1 in 40 rule means that only five will be major league regulars. The 1 in 10 means that 20 of them will get to the majors for at least one game. So I really can’t see the point in ad nauseam lists, other than to just talk about a lot of players who are unlikely to reach the majors.

And with that disclaimer, here’s the BA Top 31 list:

  1. Hank Conger C
  2. Peter Bourjos OF
  3. Mike Trout OF
  4. Trevor Reckling LHP
  5. Garrett Richards RHP
  6. Fabio Martinez RHP
  7. Randal Grichuk OF
  8. Tyler Skaggs LHP
  9. Jordan Walden RHP
  10. Trevor Bell RHP
  11. Mark Trumbo 1B/OF
  12. Pat Corbin LHP
  13. Jean Segura 2B
  14. Tyler Chatwood RHP
  15. Will Smith LHP
  16. Chris Pettit OF
  17. Alexi Amarista 2B
  18. Tyler Kehrer LHP
  19. Jon Bachanov RHP
  20. Carlos Ramirez C
  21. Ryan Chaffee RHP
  22. Rafael Rodriguez
  23. Bobby Mosebach RHP
  24. Mason Tobin RHP
  25. Rolando Gomez SS
  26. Bobby Wilson C
  27. Andrew Romine SS
  28. Ryan Mount 2B
  29. Clay Fuller OF
  30. Michael Kohn RHP
  31. Johnny Hellweg RHP

Cold Stove in Rancho Cucamonga


Future fans line up at the Quakes’ 2007 youth clinic. The Quakes won’t hold a youth clinic or Hot Stove banquet in 2010.

 

For the first time since their Angels affiliation began in 2001, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes are not holding a Hot Stove banquet this winter. Nor will they hold a youth clinic.

A Hot Stove banquet is a tradition in most minor league towns. The phrase refers to old days when fans might sit around a “hot stove” during the winter to stay warm and talk about baseball. Today we might call it “Hot Space Heater,” but it just doesn’t have the same charm. In any case, the Hot Stove banquet is an opportunity for minor league teams to get their fans thinking about baseball again as the season approaches.

The parent club often provides a speaker. This year, Angels manager Mike Scioscia went to Orem, second baseman Howie Kendrick went to Cedar Rapids, and farm director Abe Flores went to Arkansas.

The Triple-A Salt Lake Bees, owned by the NBA’s Utah Jazz, have never done a winter event to my memory, but the Quakes have always had a dinner. Among the speakers have been Scioscia and former pitcher Jim Abbott.

The Quakes were sold a year ago to Brett Sports & Entertainment. After the season, most of the prior owner’s staff were let go or left. Heavy turnover is not unusual for many minor league teams, but it is for the Quakes, one of the steadier operations in the California League.

In recent years, the Quakes have also held a youth clinic on a Saturday in January. This typically involved Angels minor league players, coaches, and former Angels pitcher Clyde Wright.

I asked Mike Lindskog, the new broadcaster and Public Relations Manager, for a statement I can release about why the Quakes would have no banquet or clinic this year. Mike’s response:

“With the recent ownership change, we decided that our efforts would be best spent focusing on reaching out to our season ticket holders and corporate partners, starting to build relationships in the community and planning to enhance the experience of Quakes fans when visiting the Epicenter in 2010. Kids Clinics during the season are currently being planned and we hope to have some details finalized very soon.”

In the current recessionary economy, I can understand why they wouldn’t host the clinic, because it’s free and just P.R., although it was certainly an opportunity to sell souvenirs and hawk season tickets.

The Hot Stove banquet, though, was always well-attended. Many corporate sponsors bought entire tables, and the core fans turned out to reconnect and begin plans for supporting the team in the upcoming season. The Quakes gave awards to local high school athletes, and recognized a “fan of the year” for service to the organization.

Organizing a Hot Stove requires a lot of work, but it’s one of those annual events that are considered a benchmark of an organization’s stability. It was an opportunity for the new ownership to show its core fans that they care. I’m sure they do, but I suspect a lot of those fans are wondering if the new management has its act together. Core fans often judge success by continuity, and when that continuity is broken, questions inevitably arise.

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