Archive for May 26th, 2008

A Bus League Roster in a Major League Park

Marco with Peroni

I spent part of my Memorial Day weekend at the ballpark, thanks to fellow blogger Marco (seen with beer above), who wanted to see the Washington Nationals’ new home, and invited me to meet him there.

Marco, OMDQ and I all are part of the Channel Four News Team that once upon a time filled the pages of Awful Announcing with live-blogs to shake the very foundations of the earth. We’ve scattered a bit since then, but we all still maintain a bond, and work together whenever possible – OMDQ and I here, and Marco and I at Storming the Floor during basketball season.

Even though this was an MLB trip, I can say with some certainty that some or all of these Nats will be seen in Columbus or Harrisburg soon, because I have never seen such a concentration of low batting averages and high ERAs in one place. We watched Elijah Dukes get his average down to .102 and double-clutch at least one fielder’s choice, and wondered what the heck he was still doing in the majors. His mates aren’t much better.

The game was as sloppy as one might expect, with the Nats jumping out by six runs and then promptly giving them all back. Going into the ninth, Marco and I were trying to decide if we could stand extra innings, since we both had three-hour drives to get to our respective homes. Fortunately, the Nats did the only thing one can do in such a situation – they called in Dmitri Young to pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth. Dukes had stopped swinging and walked himself to first base, and Da Meat Hook slapped a single that advanced the former Ray to third. Guillermo Mota uncorked a wild pitch that bounced high onto the backstop, and Dukes plated the winning run (Young was pulled for a pinch runner, which robbed us of the divine comedy of watching him try to get to second on the play).

One thing to know if you plan on going to Nationals Park any time soon: parking is scarce, and everything around the ballpark is under construction. The boarded up warehouses that made this area an eyesore in the past are being converted to million-dollar lofts now that the Nats have brought up the property values. We’ll keep an eye on Washington’s minor-league roster, since there will no doubt be room for some of the young guys later in the season.

 

Doesn’t Matter What Leagues You Played In: 330 Is A Big Number

A few weeks ago, after Russell Branyan hit three homeruns in one game for the Nashville Sounds, I looked up his minor league stats at Baseball-Reference.com.  The results were a little surprising: Branyan had more than 200 homeruns in his minor league career, highlighted by back-to-back seasons of 40 and 39 in 1996-97. 

By the time Branyan got the call from Milwaukee on Sunday, he had run that total to 210 homeruns.  Add in the 121 he has hit so far at the major league level, and we’re talking about a fairly impressive career tally, more than 330 roundtrippers in fifteen seasons as a professional (and a good chance of reaching 350, probably in 2009).

“I play for a love of the game, and the game’s not fun if you don’t produce and you’re not performing,” Branyan said. “I’m going to keep playing this game as long as I can, as long as I’m having fun and playing well.”

At Bus Leagues, we tend to focus on the prospects, the young guys striving to make the leap to The Show, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Some of the stories and players there are quite remarkable.  Sometimes, however, it’s pretty cool to take the time to reflect on a guy like Branyan, who has proven himself at every level, yet remains as hungry as ever to play – and be successful at – Major League Baseball.

The Minotaur and History

20-year-old Clayton Kershaw made his major league debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, limiting St. Louis to two runs on five hits in six innings.  He struck out seven Cardinals and walked just one.  In light of that impressive performance by one of baseball’s top prospects, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the best pitchers of the past twenty or so years and see how they fared in three areas: first batter faced, first game, and first season.

For Kershaw, we know two of those pieces – the first batter he faced, Skip Schumaker, struck out, and the pitching line for his debut is above – but only time will tell on number three. 

Roger Clemens (21)
First Batter: Brett Butler (groundout to first, unassisted)
First Game: 5.2 IP, 4 ER, 11 H, 4 K, 3 BB
First Season: 9-4, 4.32 ERA, 126 K, 133.1 IP

Greg Maddux (20)
First Batter: Craig Reynolds (groundout to second)
First Game: 1 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 1 K
First Season: 2-4, 5.52 ERA, 20 K, 31.0 IP

Okay, Maddux’s major league debut fascinates me because he didn’t make his first appearance as a pitcher.  Instead, he pinch-ran in the 17th inning of a 7-7 game against the Houston Astros – a game that had originally been started by Nolan Ryan and Jamie Moyer (did they supply the pitchers with water from the Fountain of Youth that day?).  Maddux took the mound for the first time the following inning, gave up a homerun to the second batter he faced, Billy Hatcher, and received the loss.  Five days later he made his first start, going the distance against Cincinnati (3 ER, 11 H, 4 K, 3 BB) for the win.  He also recorded two hits.

Is this common knowledge?  Am I the only one who didn’t know about this unusual set of circumstances surrounding Maddux’s first games in The Show?

Tom Glavine (21)
First Batter: Gerald Young (flyout to center)
First Game: 3.2 IP, 6 ER, 10 H, 1 K, 5 BB
First Season: 2-4, 5.54 ERA, 20 K, 50.1 IP

Randy Johnson (25)
First Batter: John Cangelosi (groundout to second)
First Game: 5 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 5 K, 3 BB
First Season: 3-0, 2.42 ERA, 25 K, 26.0 IP

Pedro Martinez (20)
First Batter: Reggie Sanders (foulout to catcher)
First Game: 2 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 K, 1 BB
First Season: 0-1, 2.25 ERA, 8 K, 8 IP

Save Us, Jamie D’Antona, You’re Our Only Hope

As far as transactions go, it’s not quite as big as Clayton Kershaw’s arrival on the big league scene, but the Los Angeles Dodgers made a second move over the weekend, calling outfielder Terry Tiffee up from AAA Las Vegas to replace the injured Andruw Jones.  Tiffee, a career .286 hitter entering this season, led all minor leaguers with a .422 batting average through Saturday.

Jamie D’Antona (AAA-Tucson) and Luis Maza (AAA-Las Vegas) are the two remaining minor leaguers with .400 batting averages. 

This will be Tiffee’s fourth stint at the major league level.  He previously hit .226 in 91 games and 239 at-bats with the Minnesota Twins from 2004-06.