Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Series Report: Chico @ Reno (28-31 AUG)

There have been some interesting comments on the blog as of late. S.Sox, a Sox fan from the start and an anonymous poster who obviously has an inside track on Sox operations. To both, thanks for your comments. I always enjoy hearing from other Sox enthusiasts. I really am not sure how many people are reading anymore to be honest. Last year, the number was about 75-100. I got a lot of personal e-mails in addition to posts on the blog. This year, it has dropped off quite a bit. This kind of mirrors the drop in attendance at the ballpark. Not sure why so I put up a survey for you to post your thoughts. The last poll only got 27 responses so I know there are (were) at least that many readers.

GAME ONE: Say what you will about Sox pitching as a whole, but Jesse Hall and Steve Russell have found their grove and are putting up quality starts when their turn comes up. Kevin Frederick has show flashes of brilliance and may also finally be coming around after a very slow start to the season. Game one saw Hall have another 7 inning outing and he was in line for his team leading sixth win. Unfortunately, a 9th inning implosion and blown save by Mitch Arnold sent the game to extra innings. The Sox, however, were still able to recover and utimately win the game. The offense was solid again and all of the position players did their part to win the game. The Sox also introduced a new catcher to the home crowd, Adam Gerry, as well. He is not listed on the roster yet so when he is you can check out his background. He first played against Chico on Sunday. Maybe it is to give Dixon a break since they can still keep his bat in the line-up as the DH. Of course, that will probably eat into Ryan Brown's time since he and Steven Alexander platoon between DH and 1B. We'll see how that one works out.

GAME TWO: Despite the lopsided final score of 9-5, Derrick Landavazo actually pitched a good game before he ran out of gas and surrended 7 of the 8 runs in a huge Chico 8th inning. Up until that point, he held the Outlaws scoreless. I showed up to the park about 4:30PM for the scheduled double header but it was postponed to tomorrow. Because of other commitments, I had to leave but it was good to see that Ladavazo had a good outing. I am a little surprised that he was charged with zero earned runs despite the fact that there was just one error and it scored two of the seven runs. Again, I didn't listen but that accounts for three runs. Anyone know why the other four were unearned? Passed balls or something? Either way, it was a tough loss.

GAME THREE: Daniel Chafferdet started this game and continued his poor performance from his earlier start allowing 5 runs in the first inning before finally leaving after five having surrendered 7 runs and taking the loss, his second of the year. Doug Sanders, a middle infield, tried his hand at pitching again and was smoked for 4 runs in two innings as the first game of this double header went to Chico, 11-5. D.J. Dixon remained hot climbing to third on the team in homeruns (10) and continuing his team lead in average (.385), slugging (.650), and OPS (1.080). He is playing DH now so that may help the offensive numbers go up even more.

GAME FOUR: Errol Simonitsch, another reliever getting a start, was servicable giving up 3 runs in 4 innings of work. Unfortunately, Scott Navarro of Chico was better holding the Sox to just one run on the night. Lost in the mix was a good relief performance by Andrew Alvarado who went three inning surrendering just one run. I read in the RGJ that Scott Schneider was talking about how good the bull pen was. There is definite improvment there. If we can get some other guys besides Hall and Russell to keep us in games, we'll be dangerous.

GAME FIVE: Kevin Frederick must be injured or something because we haven't seen him pitch since the 24th. But another actual starter did pitch tonight and had an outstanding outing. Steve Russell pitched an amazing complete game improving his record to 5-7. The Silver Sox game report doesn't make this clear, but there were some VERY tense moments in the ninth inning. I was at home with the kids so I listened to guest announcer Chris Ciarlo call the game. He and Ben Deach have a great morning show and listening to them fawn over Kristen Remington was classic. They are right about one thing...she is the hottest newscaster we have in this town. But, I digress. In the ninth, after a man reached, Russell gave up a two-out homer to bring the game to 5-3. The very next batter took him deep too bringing it to 5-4. Finally, Steve closed it out with a big "K" and the Sox salvage the last game of this series. Tense moments but a lot of fun to listen to and I am sure probably a lot more fun to watch. One note to Chris...not sure if it was the guys in the pressbox or the fans but it was funny to listen to all the people in the background talk about how the game was unraveling.

So the Sox played Chico for nine straight games and were only able to win two games, both at home. That drops them to 5-9 for the second half and 23-35 on the season. They are in last place in their division and the league with 1 month to play. Calgary and Edmonton remain strong having the best records in the league so it will be a huge uphill battle for the Sox to make the post season. But it ain't over til it's over as they say so stick with it Sox Fans.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Series Report: Reno @ Chico (July 25-27, 2008)

I guess I spoke too soon. With a sweep of Long Beach and a trip to play league worst Chico, I though they were primed to shoot up the standings. Unfortunately, Chico had other ideas and swept the Sox in a four game series.

Game One: The Sox decided to go with the new pitcher signed on July 23rd (Daniel Charffardet) who promptly got tagged for 9 hits and 8 runs in just 4 innings. His compadre for the July 23d signing day, Errol Simonitsch, was also unable to close the flood gates giving up 2 runs in his two innings of work. I didn't listen to the game and there no information in the game report from the Sox to indicate why position players Doug Sanders and Ryan Brown came in to pitch for the team but the good news is that they only allowed one run between the two of them across two innings.

Game Two: The Sox decided to give Nick Ginsberg his second start of the year and he responded with yet another poor outing. Gisnberg pitched just 2.1 innings allowing 5 runs on 4 hits and 5 walks. His season ERA has risen to 11.88 and in his 8.1 innings of work, he has allowed 12 runs, 12 hits, and 13 walks. Obviously, he is not the solution to the Sox pitching woes, at least not as a starter. The game settled down from there and actually was a very close game before Chico won in the bottom of the ninth off our closer Scott Schneider in a non-save situation.

Game Three: Steve Russell, one of our "legitimate" starters, pitched a gem before losing a heartbreaking pitchers duel 2-0. He pitched all six innings of the double header shortened game and allowed just two runs in the bottom of the second before settling down for the rest of the contest. Unfortunately, Trevor Caughley and his league leading 1.98 ERA held the Sox to just two hits in six innings before Todd Galetka, last year's save master, shut the door for good.

Game Four: The Sox went back to another newcomer and got similar results. Billy Simon made his first start for the Sox since being acquired on July 23rd. He played with St. George before being released where he went 4-4 in 17 games (4 as a starter) with a 11.67 ERA. Simon pitched just 1.2 innings and gave up 6 runs. Simonitsch, who pitched in game one, pitched the next 2.1 innings and gave up another 6 runs. He has pitched three times in the past 4 days and has been getting progressively worse. 1 run allowed on the 23rd, 2 runs allowed on the 25th, and 6 runs allowed yesterday. Seeing that the game was lost, Ryan Brown, our first baseman, was put in to pitch for the second time in this series and was lit up for another 4 runs as the Sox dropped the final game 16-5. At least Ryan got homerun #7 during the contest so it wasn't a totally bad day for him.

If anyone knows what the pitching rotation for the Sox is, can you let me know? I am thoroughly confused as to who is supposed to start, if we are still trying guys out, or if the strategy is to simply have a bunch of relivers each pitch 2-3 innings rather than have a true starter who can go 6-7.

In any event, the Sox now come home to Peccole for another 4 games with Chico. Hopefully they can reverse their fortunes at home. Reno now has the second half's worst record in the GBL. We need some wins so there is no time like the present to get that done. Let's go Sox!

And one final note...it looks like Ryan Crespi is headed back to play closer to home. No announcement on the Sox website but maybe Ben Deach will touch on it in the radio broadcast. He was a really good player and will be missed.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Series Report: Long Beach at Reno (July 22-24)

For the first time this year, we got consistent pitching across the entire series and it resulted in a sweep of the Long Beach Armada who fell to 3-4 (second in the southern division) while Reno improved to 3-2 (third in the Northern division).

The pitching was not perfect but it is quite a bit better than earlier in the season. I realize field availability and money are a big part of the equation but I want to say again that I think there needs to be a longer spring training period with actual games played. Each of the past two seasons, I have seen it take too long for guys to get up to "game speed". Some guys come straight from college or from not playing for a while and then jump right into the season. And we all have heard that pitchers always take a little longer (at least that was MLBs argument on why the USA team got crushed in the World Baseball Classic but that is story for another day). The bottom line is that I don't like games where there are 15+ combined runs like we saw for the majority of games in the first half. Pitching was bad, errors were up, and the play was inconsistent to say the least. The quality of baseball in the GBL is key to making new fans so I want to see it be as good as it can. To me, the first half seemed like a warm up for this half, at least watching the initial games. Some guys did well (OC feasted on the poor pitching) and Edmonton and Calgary put good products on the field, but overall the level of play was not where it should have been.

But, anyway, it was good to see our starters finally start getting in a groove. Steve Russell gave us seven scoreless innings in game one and Jesse Hall and Kevin Frederick, doing the starter by committee thing, gave us a couple of wins thanks to a great effort by the bullpen. To Hall's credit, he got stung early and then settled down. I am concerned that both he and Frederick could only go about four innings each but the fact is they didn't let us get blown out in that period of time so they at least gave us the chance to win. Derrick Landavazo is becoming quite the workhorse out of the pen which is something we have needed all year. He is far from perfect (6 runs allowed in 2.2 innings during this series) but for the most part he can eat innings and keep us in the game.

Looking at the 'pen, I really like Mitch Arnold who has a 1.69 ERA in five appearances and is holding opponents to a .111 batting average. He is an imposing figure at 6'8', 235. He seems to have an interesting story too. Take a look at his profile on baseball cube: http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/A/Mitchell-Arnold.shtml. So he spent 4 years in Rookie Ball with 12 games in Low A. But then comes 2004 when they decide to promote him all the way to AAA for 4 games and then send him back to Rookie Ball. That is pretty weird to say the least. I am sure there is a great story there. But, being our best option out of the pen, I am not complaining.

I am still pleased with the offense and the coaches must be too since, unlike the pitching situation which has been likened to a revolving door, the offense is pretty much the same as it was in early June. I really think if the pitching can come around, the Sox can win the second half. It is going to be tough since the Canadian teams continue their dominance over the division but the Sox play league worst Chico 15 times over the final five weeks of the season and 24-29 St. George 10 times during that stretch. They also play Yuma 7 times (who is a .500 team) and Edmonton and Calgary three times each.

So what does that mean? Well, if they can dominate their games with St. George and Yuma (win 18 of 25 for example) and then at least pick up a game on Edmonton, they should be in great shape to win the division. The bottom line is, with Calgary winning the first half, Reno only has to beat Edmonton to make the playoffs--if Calgary wins again then the second place team goes to the playoffs.

One of the things I have never liked about indy baseball is that, to cut down on travel costs, you play a very unbalanced schedule. In our division we play Chico 22 times this year while we only play the Canadian teams 9 times each. Out of the division, we play St. George 18 times, Long Beach 11 times, OC 7 times, and Yuma 9 times. Of course, this year that helps since St. George is doing so poorly but you can see the obvious disadvantage it would put us in if St. George was doing as well as, say, Calgary. We would play way too many games against a non-division opponent. And the same exists in our division--what if Chico was as good as last year? And it makes it easier for some teams to make up ground...i.e. Calgary and Edmonton control their own destiny by playing each other. Reno and Chico have to win and hope that the Caandian teams lose to get into the playoffs. I don't have a solution since budgets are tight...just being more of a baseball purist that you can reasonably expect to be in the indy leagues.

Of course, Indy leagues do get some things right that even the affiliated guys don't in terms of putting the best product on the field. I have been to three CAL league games this summer (Modesto, Stockton, and San Jose). They all only use two umpires. The GBL (at least in Sox games) have put three on the field for those games. I have not seen nearly the amount of complaints with umpiring as we had last year so Kudos to the GBL for fixing that...and for fixing the the Tyler Ramsey thing. He was the worst umpire I have ever seen at the professional level and I haven't seen him at Peccole this year. Way to personal and Tyler is probably a great guy so I didn't mean it that way...but he caused way to much frustration with his rediculous calls last year for the Sox.

OK, the blog is probably too long at this point but let me do one more thing...Patrick Shabram e-mailed me with link to his blog discussing his thoughts for the future of the Sox. It is great and I posted some comments. You should too if you get a chance. Check it out at

Monday, July 21, 2008

Series Report: Reno @ St. George (July 17-19, 2008)

The Sox dropped the series 1-2. Pitching still looks to be the issues. None of the starters made it past the third inning and the game #3 starter, Kevin Frederick, who had been pitching great before the All-Star break only made it through two while surrendering six earned runs.

Another odd thing is that it is hard to tell who are the starters anymore. I have heard of teams having a closer by committee but it looks like the Sox are going with a starter by committee. Nathan Ginsberg got a start and (former?) starter Steve Russell came in in relief. Then Ginsberg relieved two nights later. Fields also has been coming on in relief. So other than Jesse Hall and Kevin Frederick, you really have to just show up to know who is going to take the mound to start the game.

Offensively, the Sox are in the bottom 50% of the league in most categories. Team totals are .307 AVG (6 of 8 teams), 62 HRs (#5), 301 RBIs (#6), 76 SB (#2) , and .379 OBP (#6). Hopefully the guys can step that up.

The Sox head home and will be here for 3 days before hitting the road again. So far the second half is shaping up like the first with the canadian teams in front and Reno and Chico in the cellar. Hopefully this changes or we will see an all-canada playoff (not that that is a bad thing) and, more important to Sox fans, the second straight season with the Sox out of the playoffs after winning the GBL championship in their first one.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

All Star Break Report

Sorry for the lack of posts. My laptop is really messed up. Basically when I push the "N" key it disables my WLAN and pops up a help window. So, needless to say, typing became really frustrating. I tried updating drivers and BIOS, running a virus scan, cleaning the registry, cleaning the keyboard, and ended up formating the hard drive. Still not fixed. So after a few days of pulling my hair out, it looks like I'll just have to take it in...unless someone out there has something else I can look at.

So here are just some random thoughts to take us through the all star game:

STRONG FINISH: The Sox turned it on as the first half ended with some really good pitching performance. In fact, their one loss in the last week was on a day when they let a group of pitchers who hadn't played for the Sox have what amounted to a real game try-out. I think that is fine since we need to right the ship for the second half. Kevin Frederick has had two great outings and may establish himself as the the team ace with a few more performances like that.

ALL-STAR CONTROVERSY: On the last Sox home broadcast, there was a controversy over whether or not Ryan Crespi should have made it. Without getting into the merits of each outfielder who actually made it, I think the GBL should publish who made the selections (team owners, the commissioner, outside sources?). There will always be snubs but right now the process is anything but transparent. D.J. Dixon is one of the hottest hitters in the league so he deserved to make it. But Kevin Frederick only had one good start before the All-Star rosters were announced and he made the team without even being the best player on his team let alone the league.

NEXT YEAR?: The Reno AAA team is moving forward on the stadium downtown. Here are some pictures: http://reno.mlblogs.com/. So what is up with the Silver Sox? Are they headed to Carson City, Tucson, or ceasing operations? Or, will they try to compete with the AAA team as Amit Patel suggested in a newspaper article a few months back? Granted, a lame duck team kills attendance but a perceived lame duck team can do the same. I know the GBL is adding four new teams in 2009. Not sure if that includes a Sox relocation. But hopefully we find out something soon so we can stop the guessing.

JOHN HATTIG: S. Sox asked if I knew anything about his injury. No, I don't. But that will be a question to ask next time I get a chance. He seems like a great guy--the players and staff like him so I wish him a speedy recovery.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Series Report: Reno @ Chico

There were some very good things to come out of the Sox trip to Chico. They won the series 2-1 and they did it with good pitching in addition to their solid offense. Granted, the third game was not as good as the first two but even the loss saw the pitching not give up the insane amount of runs we've seen in the past.

As for the first two, I want to first focus on the second game. Kevin Fredrick, who has been pretty inconsistent this year saw his best outing of the year pitching 8 solid innings where he didn't allow any earned runs. He went on to secure the win.

The first game also had the Sox come out on top behind a good start from Jesse Hall and a good relief appearance from Derrick Landavazo where the two combined to surrender just one earned run in the game. The night also saw a record attendance number from the fans at the Net as 4699 was the reported attendance. Without getting into the whole debate of actual vs. paid attendance, I still think whatever number was at the park was still a record setter. It is always good to see some great things coming out of Chico. The town really supports the club and the team is one of the best run from a fans perspective since the promotions are great, the giveaways are also good, and the game day experience and concessions are also some of the best in the GBL.

The Sox keep acquiring pitchers faster than the Sox website can keep up with. A new guy, Mitch Arnold picked up the save for Frederick with a scoreless inning of relief. Neither he nor the other new guy the GBL site says they signed (Andrew Alvarado) are listed so hopefully that gets updated soon so we can see some more info about them. Speaking of the website, Fuda has been released and Guilen is now inactive. And I don't think Reggie Leslie is 108 but, again, I am sure those things will be corrected soon.

The Sox get a day off before taking on the 23-16 Yuma Scorpions. Hopefully the Sox pitching continues to improve. Otherwise it will be a slugfest with the potent Yuma bats coming to town. They have the best batting average in the league (.340) and are 4th in homeruns (54). By contrast, the Sox are 5th in average (.308) and 5th in homeruns (50). Yuma and Reno are 6th and 7th repsectively in pitching with team ERAs over 8 and a half.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Series Report: Chico at Reno (July 1-3, 2008)

Ok, I just got back from San Antonio so I missed blogging about the first two games of the series. But, as a short recap, the Sox split the first two games and pitching continues to be an issue.

The day started off listening to Sox catcher D.J. Dixon give an interview on the No Name Sports show on Fox Sports Radio. It was a good interview and, to summarize, here were a few interesting points:

-- Jeffrey Leonard is the best manager he has ever played for. For independent ball where if you don't produce you are cut, Leonard has shown a lot of patience and given folks every opportunity to succeed

-- Peccole is a hitter's park but if you try to hit a homerun, you won't. You have to just let it come.

-- Dixon was coached by current Sox coach Reggie Leslie when he was 12

-- Dixon understands the psychology of the game and understands how to calm a pitcher down

Pretty good interview.

The third game of the season was a really good game. Unfortunately, there were only about 70 fans or so in the stands when the first pitch was delivered. The area was very smokey from fires in California and people with allergies or small children were advised to stay in. I was hacking a little and my clothes did smell like I was around a campfire when I was done but it was worth it. Hopefully the players won't have many ill effects from the smoke.

As for the game, pitching for both sides was pretty weak for the first part of the game but calmed down later. Reggie Leslie started and got tagged for 7 hits and 6 runs (3 earned) in just three innings. Leslie has been getting hit hard in his last few appearances so he may be getting tired. He was in trouble for all three innings so hopefully he can get back on track.

Doug Sanders pitched two good innings and Scott Schneider pitched well initially but after a multi-base error in center and a wild pitch, Chico went out in front 9-7 in the 7th.

Ross McCoy (who threw out a runner in the first on a laser shot to home) got on board and then D.J. Dixon launched his team leading 8th homerun to tie the game. D.J. is on fire and has a .492 batting average and 1.288 OPS (On base + Slugging). Speaking of homeruns, this looks like the year that the homerun record (20) falls. St. George and Orange County both have 2 players each on the leader board with between 12 and 14 homeruns. Since we are still about 10 games from the end of the first half, it is well within striking distance.

The Sox would score one more in the bottom of the 8th and would go on to win behind Derrick Landavazo. Unfortuantely, he is not listed on the GBL transaction page and there were no rosters distributed at the game so I don't have a lot of info on him. That plus still using the program that opened the season makes it hard to follow the players. It is even harder when I have my son who only wants to watch baseball after playing in the bounce house so I do miss a couple of innings throughout the game. But even standing out there is good. As you know, after the Army I want to work in baseball operations so I like talking to game day staffers too since it gives me a different perspective on the how the team operates.

I have an Army function tonight so I won't be at the game. Since fireworks always bring out a big crowd, it makes for a much better game day atmosphere. Hopefully that translates into a win!