Fishin' with the 'Dads

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

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The Hickory Crawdads were treated to a Bass Fishing Tournament on their rare day off where they weren't on the road to some far-away city for a game.  I tagged along with them and made some photos throughout the day...

Fishin' with the Crawdads

Ashby Knack (Director of Community Relations) and Jake Kaase (infielder) were on a boat with Stacey Richards... Ashby and Jake took first place in today's tournament with a total of five fish weighing a combined 18.51 pounds...

Fishin' with the Crawdads

Jake Kaase hauled in the biggest fish of the day weighing in at 4.81 lbs...

Fishin' with the Crawdads

Manager Hector Ortiz and Pitching Coach Brad Holman were on a boat with Matt Goins... Hector and Brad turned in third place with a combined weight of 9.55 pounds and 5 fish...

Fishin' with the Crawdads

Mike Bianucci and Matt West with boat driver Darin Sigmon turned in second place with a combined weight of 10.8 pounds and five fish...

CLICK HERE if you would like to view a short slideshow of all the photos from today's fishing tournament...

John M. Setzler, Jr.


Quick Crawdads Thoughts

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

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(pictured, Carlos Pimentel)

I've been a bad Ranger's minor league fan lately. When the Rangers are 10 games over .500 and your job in public education is in jeopardy, it becomes too tempting to stay home and watch the big league game on TV.

How about some quick Crawdads thoughts!? That's what I thought...

-How much longer is Mike Bianucci going to be around? He's second in the league in hitting (.340/.402/.610). The RF has 7 HR's, 18 doubles, and a respectable 18% strikeout rate in 159 AB's. After starting slow, then going on a tear, Mike is becoming much more consistent at the plate. I don't know what else the organization wants him to prove.

-On the day Joe Wieland was promoted, his best friend Clark Murphy got sent back to Arizona. Murphy hit well in a small sample size during rookie league ball last year. Hopefully he'll be able to get the instruction he needs back in Surprise. Look for him in Spokane. I don't know that he'll ever be a legit first baseman defensively.

-Richard Bleier, the first Hickory pitcher to be promoted has been up and down. In 5 starts for Bakersfield he's had his doors blown off twice. To his credit, in Richard's last outing he threw a complete game shutout. Bleier has great secondary stuff but an average to slightly below average fastball. In my mind, you gotta have both. Bleier will have nice outings in the minors where he can get by on his slider and curveball, but I don't think that will translate to the big leagues.

-Christian Santana, a catcher/outfielder that Ranger fans are familiar with finally got assigned to a pro squad. Santana has 4 hits in 31 AB's with a 3/13 BB/K ratio.

-Martin Perez is sporting an ERA of 2.96 in 45.2 innings pitched. 54k's, 13 BB's. I have seen Perez 6 times now and I get the impression he can do anything he wants out there. It's just not fair to have a guy like this pitching in a league where batters can't touch a curveball.

-Carlos Pimentel, who gets much less ink than Perez, has an almost identical ERA (3.02) while pitching more innings (53.2). I said earlier in the season that Boscan was the horse of the staff, but since the injury to Boscan, Carlos has taken that mantle.

-Yoon-Hee Nam continues to maintain his magical line. Nam's ERA is .79 and he's sporting a WHIP of .67. It baffles me that I still haven't seen this guy pitch.

-The South Atlantic League has 19 pitchers (who have met the minimum requirement of .8 IP/team game) with an ERA under 3. There are only 11 hitters in the league with batting averages over .310. It's my observation that any pitcher with a plus offspeed pitch is going to cruise through this league.

Mike W.

Back to .500....

Friday, May 22, 2009

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(pictured, Matt West)

.... again

After winning the first two games of the series against Delmarva, Hickory managed to drop the last two to return to the .500 mark for what seems like the 15th time this season. Hickory has not been more than 3 games over .500 or 2 games below .500 in the 2009 season.

As opposed to Wednesday night's loss to the Shorebirds' Nathan Morneau, the offense really did not have much of a shot at Rick Zagone, the Orioles' 6th round pick in 2008 from the University of Missouri. Other than a minor control blip in the 5th inning, the 6'4" lefthander pretty well had things under control. He threw an OK fastball, but changed speeds enough to keep the Crawdads hitters off balance all night. Zagone gave up two hits, one was a high hopper that perhaps a 6'5" Zagone would've fielded with an outstretched glove.

Carlos Pimentel did himself proud, allowing just the unearned run in the 6th inning. His undoing-- his failure to field a dribbler by Joe Mahoney between the mound and first base. Mahoney eventually scored the only run. Pimentel threw 95 pitches in 6.2 innings and pretty well controlled the Shorebirds' offense. Tyler Tufts was outstanding, setting down all 7 batters he faced.

Have to give props to Shorebirds' shortstop Greg Miclat, Baltimore's 2008 5th round pick out of the University of Virginia. Very strong arm, can flat out track down a baseball. Made several plays in the hole at short, including a very impressive sliding stop of a ball deep in the hole, before firing a strike to retire Mike Bianucci in the 2nd inning. Miclat put on a defensive display throughout the series.

So now, its on the road to Hagerstown as the team bus left after the game Thursday. Still anyone's division, but with 30 games to play and 3.5 out in 5th place, its time to make a move or wait until the second half.

Clark Murphy was sent to extended spring on Thursday with Leury Garcia taking his spot on the roster. Garcia started at short on Thursday and looked quite smooth with the glove and displayed a strong arm.

Matt West managed to collect the hat trick on back-to-back nights as he struck out 6 times in 2 games. He looks lost as to where the strike zone is-- taking lots of pitches!

Mark P.

Mark Parker

And the 0-2 pitch.....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

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(pictured, Mike Bianucci)

..... there's a drive!

Crawdads lost 6-2 on Wednesday in a game they probably should've won-- on paper, and with the opportunites presented to them on the field.

Hickory faced the Orioles 2008 11th round pick, one Mr. Nathan Morneau, who entered the game with an 11.81 ERA in two starts totalling 5.1 innings pitched.

The left hander presented a very hittable fast ball, an OK change, and a curve ball that refused to bite all night. To his credit, Morneau threw what he had for strikes-- in 4 innings pitched, he threw 85 pitches, 60 for strikes, 7 strikeouts, the final four looking. This was a hitable pitcher who labored, but the scoreboard said he gave up only two runs. Here's how it happened:

First inning: David Paisano and Mike Hollander lead off with singles; they never moved again as Erik Morrison and Matt West struck out, sandwiched around a Mike Bianucci popup to third.

Second inning: Timmy Rodriguez leads off with a bloop single to right, Hogan follows with a screamer to the wall for a double, leaving runners at 2nd and 3rd. Jake Kaase gets a run home on a grounder. Hickory hit into some bad luck, as with the infield drawn in, Edward Martinez hits a sharp, low liner to 1B Joe Mahoney, who dropped the ball, but still had time to record an out at first and hold the runner. Paisano then ended the inning with a liner right at CF Xavier Avery.

Third inning: Hollander leads off with a double, then scores an out later on a Mike Bianucci double. After Bianucci moves to third on a wild pitch, West and Rodriguez strike out.

Fourth inning: A lead off walk comes to no avail as two of the three hitters are caught looking, the other lines out to right.

Delmarva relievers then retire 15 of the final 18 Crawdad hitters, one reached on an error, a second a bunt single. In the final 5 innings, Hickory saw only 49 pitches, only 2 of those innings had double digit pitch counts.

For the most part, it appeared to be a selfish, undisciplined night for the offense, who let a struggling pitcher off the hook and paid for it.

On the pitching side of the ledger, Martin Perez never really got in a groove. It appeared he reverted back to his love for his off speed pitch; the one exception was the fourth inning when he appeared to muscle up for a 1-2-3 inning, the only one of the night, with 2 Ks. Otherwise, Perez, too, was very hittable and just didn't look comforable at all. Seventy-eight pitches: 27 balls, 51 strikes.

Perez gave up only 2 runs, one earned as Bianucci misplayed a single allowing the runners 2 extra bases (doubtless a low sun shining into rightfield at sunset had something to do with it, as he also misjusdged a fly ball into a single in the first.)

But the nail in the coffin was the 2-run homer in the 8th allowed by Jake Brigham to Elvin Polanco. The pitch: an 0-2 FAST BALL RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE. From then on, Brigham struggled to retired the side in the 8th, allowing a 3rd run, with Delmarva missing a chance for more.

The Shorebirds hit a flare shot to RF to plate another in the 9th and that was it.

A very winnable game, but Hickory did not take advantage.

One more night until Hickory takes an 8-gamer to Hagerstown and Delmarva.

Mark P.

Mark Parker

Joe Wieland and Dealin'

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

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(pictured, Joe Wieland)

My wife, who is a third grade teacher in Hickory, scored me some free tickets to the Crawdads game last night; only one potential problem—my seat was surrounded by 9 year olds.

Around lunchtime yesterday I was given word that Joe Wieland was flown in and was going to get the ball for his first start in an official, pro game. Needless to say, I was ready for some baseball.

There were maybe 500 people scattered across a sea of empty red seats. It’s taking a while for word to get out that the local team isn’t an absolute joke these days. The terrible teams fielded by the Pirates all but eliminated the local’s taste for baseball. 16% unemployment doesn’t help attendance either. You folks in Texas need to go buy furniture and put some boys here in the foothills to work.

It was a surprisingly cold night, cold enough to make me head to the car early. When I left after the 7th inning, the thermostat was dipping below 50 degrees. I woke up this morning to learn that we only watched half of a game that ended up going 14 innings.

All eyes, well at least mine, were on Joe Wieland. The talk during spring training was that hall of fame pitcher and Rangers team President, Nolan Ryan, had taken Joe under his wing. So, the question is “why Joe?”

The first thing you notice about Joe Wieland is his size. He’s every bit of 6’3” and looks bigger than his listed weight of 175 lbs. Joe has a big lower body. I told my baseball buddy, “The guy’s got linebacker calves.” It’s commonly said that Nolan’s leg strength is what allowed the strikeout king to have such a long, prolific career. Perhaps this is part of Ryan’s attraction to Wieland.

The stadium radar gun only functioned about 20% of the time. I saw Joe touch 92mph but due to the pitch speed board frequently firing blanks, I didn’t look to it often.

During the first inning, Joe was leaving the ball up a bit. Luckily a couple line drives flew directly to RF Mike Bianucci. Wieland settled in nicely and started working the lower half of the zone. Joe’s fastball has good downward sink that led to 5 groundball outs over his last 3.2 innings. Over 4.2 innings, the big righthander induced 5 groundball outs, 5 flyouts, and 5 strikeouts. One of those strikeouts came on a nice changeup away from a right-handed hitter.

The wheels started flying off a bit in the 5th. Joe’s curveball was his best friend and his worst enemy during this inning. Wieland struck out the first two batters of the inning on curveballs that bounced in front of the plate. After making the first two batters look silly, the next two batters singled on a line drive and a groundball that found a hole in the infield. The 5th batter was struck out by another curveball that bounced in front of the plate, unfortunately for Wieland, catcher Zach Zaneski couldn’t block this one. As the ball skittered towards the backstop, Jerome Hoes ran safely to first base.

With the bases loaded, Joe gave up another single resulting in 2 RBI's before being pulled from the game. The 19 year old has nothing to be ashamed of. He was a wild pitch away from going 5 scoreless innings with 5 K’s.

Here’s some video from the third. Listen for Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls” when the chunky Delmarva catcher Victor Castillo comes to the plate. While playing this song every time Castillo came to the plate borders on being bush league, it still made me giggle.

When I left the game, Hickory had not yet scored a run. It was a pretty boring night from the offense up to that point.

Another 4-error night for the Crawdads. While 1B Clark Murphy was not charged with an error, all three of the throwing errors hit Clark’s glove before racing towards the stands. It’s likely that catching these balls would have pulled Murphy off the bag, but man, when this happens at least twice a game I begin to question the first baseman’s stretch.

Finally, you asked and I provide. Reliever video! Enjoy some tape on Fabio Castillo. I have seen Castillo 4 times now, and to me, he’s not a command guy nor is he a guy with overpowering stuff. Fabio trusts his pitches and keeps the ball around the plate. Castillo frequently allows base runners but always seems to wiggle out of trouble. The cold caused me to miss Nam, again. 5 K’s in three innings?! Wow. Anyways, enjoy watching Castillo.

Read Mark's observations below!

Mike W.