Gettin' Ziggy With It (vol. 18)

Hey, everyone! It’s been a frustrating week-and-a-half for me since I last posted. I’ve faced some serious adversity on the field, having my worst stretch of the season. It all started in Tucson, a place that seems to give any pitcher fits (we gave up 45 runs in a 4-game series). It’s a very hard playing surface (ok, we may as well have played on a concrete parking lot, as one of my teammates put it), meaning a lot of grounders get through that wouldn’t on most fields. Also, the Candlestick-Park-like wind blows out (which isn’t uncommon in the PCL) to right field. To make matters worse for me, and other right-handed pitchers, Tucson had 7 or 8 lefties in the lineup every single night we were there.

My Outings

Thursday, June 7@ Tucson
We were up 14-6 going to the 7th inning. In the 7th, Tucson hit a grand slam, and then got another hitter on base when I entered the game with two outs. The first batter lined a ball to our first baseman, but he wasn’t quite able to snag it, as it hit his glove and caromed away into foul territory, leaving runners at 1st and 2nd. I jammed the next hitter, a lefty, with a slider, and he hit it up in the wind to right. It seemed like it would be a routine fly ball off the bat, but the breeze carried it all the way to the fence, where our right fielder leaped in an unsuccessful attempt at what would've been a spectacular catch. The ball hit off the top of the wall and bounced back into right field, giving the hitter a 2-run triple.

Then in the 8th, winning 14-12, I got the first guy out. On the 2nd hitter, I threw a 3-2 slider that was called ball four...a pitch I thought was strike three. Then the next hitter, a righty, chopped a ball into the ground to 2nd base. It bounced WAY up in the air, and by the time it came down, he beat it out for an infield hit, making it 1st and 2nd with 1 out. The next hitter lined a single to left, scoring one with the other runners advancing to 2nd and 3rd on the play. I was pulled from the game at that time, having thrown only 2/3 of an inning. The reliever after me got a strikeout for the 2nd out, but then allowed a single to center, scoring both runners. We ended up losing 15-14, and I was credited with the loss after allowing 4 runs (3 earned).

Saturday, June 9 @ Tucson
I came in with our team trailing 7-1 in the 7th. I gave up 3 straight singles to score a run. Then I got a flyout and 2 groundouts to escape further damage. In the 8th, I gave up a leadoff single and a 2-out double to allow another run...a ball that I thought was foul as it passed first base, but it was ruled fair (and our catcher confirmed that it looked fair to him).

Monday, June 11 @ Fresno
All year, my slider has been my best pitch to go to for a strikeout, but on this particular night, I didn’t have a good one. Twice, I gave up base hits on bad sliders (slow-breaking and over the heart of the plate), and ended up giving up a run on 2 hits and a hit batter. The good news about this outing was that I regained the command and movement on my fastball that I hadn’t consistently had since my promotion to AAA.

Thursday, June 14 vs. Las Vegas
I entered the game with our team trailing in the 8th inning and a runner on 3rd with one out. We were playing with the infield back, so to keep the run from scoring, I needed either a strikeout or a shallow fly ball. Early in the count, I was pitching the right-handed hitter away in an attempt to get him to hit the ball to Jason Perry, our right fielder who has a great throwing arm. On the 2nd pitch, the hitter flied out to right, and Perry made a great throw, but it had been hit just a little too deep to keep the runner from scoring. I allowed a leadoff hit in the 9th, but that runner was erased on a double play.

Saturday, June 16 vs. Las Vegas
Maybe the most unfortunate night I’ve had since I’ve been submarining... My stuff was as good as it’s been all year. I was keeping my fastball down, it was sinking well, and I had a good slider. I came in to start the 6th inning, while we were trailing 6-2. The leadoff hitter chopped a ball to my right. If I had let it go, it would’ve been a routine play for the shortstop. But, out of instinct, I lunged for it and deflected the ball, allowing an infield single. After striking out the next 2 hitters, I made a good 0-2 pitch off the plate, but the hitter poked it softly into right field for a single, making it 1st and 3rd. The next hitter lined a single to right, scoring the runner on 3rd. I struck out the last hitter that inning.

Then, in the 7th, the leadoff hitter grounded out to 3rd. After a walk, the next hitter (a lefty) chopped a ball about 10 feet over my head up the middle, and it bounced into center field, leaving runners at 1st and 3rd. Then the next hitter, a righty, chopped a ball right in front of the plate that bounced clear over the 1st baseman’s head and down the right field line for a double. With 2nd and 3rd, we pulled the infield in. The next hitter grounded to short, and we got the guy on 3rd trying to score. Then I got out of the jam by using the fake-to-3rd-throw-to-1st pickoff move, nabbing the guy at 1st.

In the 8th, I struck out the leadoff hitter, and then retired the 2nd hitter on a slow bouncer back to me. I was pulled from the game, confident with the way I was throwing the ball, but frustrated with the final line.

One of the other relievers asked me after the game, "What did you do to tick off the baseball gods? Brutal luck, man." But, at the same time, there have been nights in the past when my stuff was terrible and the other team was crushing the ball, but it seemed as if everything was hit right at our fielders, and I ended up having a great end-result. Just part of the game...



I’m hoping that I’m passed the big rough stretch, and now I can get in a good rhythm, using the good stuff I’ve had the last 2 outings to translate it into better results. What’s most frustrating about the choppers is that hitters are actually closer to missing the ball totally than squaring it up on the barrel when they beat it straight into the ground, and they’re still getting hits on them. I need to talk to our grounds crew about softening the dirt up in front of the plate. :-) I’ve been doing a pretty good job getting ground balls, especially lately, but seems like a lot of them are finding holes, and there’s not much I can do about that...



On a side note, Midland completed the game I had pitched in that was suspended because of rain. So my AA stats got just a tad better since I last posted.



Since the last GZWI...
River Cats record: 5-7  
My stat line: 5 G, 0-1, 8 IP, 17 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 5 K, 3 BB

UPDATED SEASON STATS...
River Cats record: 39-32 (tied for 1st place with Tucson)
All-level Cumulative: 5-2, 1 SV, 3.24 ERA, 41.2 IP, 19 R, 15 ER, 46 H, 36 K, 10 BB

AAA stats: 1-2, 6.00 ERA, 18.0 IP, 13 R, 12 ER, 27 H, 18 K, 6 BB
AA stats: 4-0, 1 SV, 1.14 ERA, 23.2 IP, 6 R, 3 ER, 19 H, 18 K, 4 BB


Q&A:

I'm wondering how much credence you give to the underlying theory of DIPS, that pitchers don't really have much control of what happens to balls that are put in play, and that the result comes from positioning and luck? -- sarchasmic

I am not too familiar with the theory, but I agree with the statement you made (at least, after my outings that I described above). :-) I’ve been getting lots of ground balls, but they seem to be finding more holes here than they did earlier in the year. Hopefully that will turn around, but once the ball is thrown, there isn’t much the pitcher can do. You hope the hitter doesn’t make good contact, and you hope he hits it where your fielders are playing. But it doesn’t always work that way.



Have you ever faced a submariner? What was that like? As far as I know, there aren't any submariners who start games...why is that? Would it be possible? -- JJ

I’m assuming you meant back in the glory days when I hit. I don’t remember ever hitting off one. But I know from what hitters say, the more movement a pitcher has, the less hitters like facing him. And while submarining usually adds movement, that’s not always the case, so that’s something I’m constantly working on.

The only sidearmer/submariner I know who has started is Byung-Hyun Kim. It’s tough, because dropping down limits the variety of pitches you can throw. Overhand, you can use gravity to help your pitches move, but that’s not the case with some of the submarine pitches. In fact, sometimes you’re fighting AGAINST gravity, and that limits the effectiveness even more.



You mentioned that Jeff Coleman (a Midland reliever) retired, a 21st Round pick for the A's in 2001. I was wondering if you knew why he retired, and how such things affect the ballclub and you personally. He's a young guy, yet his baseball career is apparently over. How tough is it to see a guy quit who's actually a year younger than you?

Your description of the roster volatility is very interesting. Is there anything the coaching staff or the players do to help keep things cohesive despite the turnover? -- andyinfremont

I don’t really know why he retired. Some guys just get tired of the everyday grind, especially when they have family back home. I’m sure he missed being away from his wife and kids, and maybe that played into his decision some. Either way, I don’t think it was a knee-jerk reaction...I hope it’s something that he is content with, even though I’m sure it was tough to walk away at first.

Honestly, that type of stuff doesn’t bother me much. I feel like, in a way, my whole career has started over with the move to the bullpen and submarine motion. And there are guys much older than me in AAA, still living the dream.

As far as trying to keep cohesiveness in the clubhouse despite heavy turnover, I think the easiest thing to do is just laugh. Guys play cards, dominoes, etc...but nothing makes guys gather around like a hilarious story. And when you get to AAA, there are enough veterans that have seen some crazy things in this game...and this Sacramento clubhouse is definitely no exception. I think right now we have 7 guys on the active roster who were in Sac to start the year. But we’re still having a lot of fun being around each other, and we’re getting to know each other better every day.





I’ll try to answer a few more questions next time, as I had a lot of game-recapping to do in this entry. But we have an off-day tomorrow, and I’m playing in the River Cats golf tourney. Then we have a 4-game series at home with Tacoma starting Tuesday, followed by a 4-game road trip to Salt Lake City. Milton Bradley is rehabbing with us right now, and we've heard rumors of Mike Piazza and Bobby Kielty joining us in the near future. Come out and catch a game! See ya at the ballpark!

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