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
http://www.caproparks.com/index.cfm/blog_61.htm

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

If Calgary were to win the second half, doesn't the team with the best overall record in the North go to the playoffs?

Keith said...

You are correct. "If the same team wins both halves in their division, opponent in the division championship Series shall be the team with the next best record across the entire season within their division." So I stand corrected. Assuming they have to beat Edmonton (since Calgary is already), they have to have 4 more wins than then since Edmonton went 22-22 while the Sox finished the first half at 18-26. So, yes, as convoluted as it may seem, the Sox could conceivably be better than Edmonton in the second half and still be out of the playoffs.