Thursday, May 21, 2015

Grape Jelly Series 2015, What to Look For, Stat Madness


The weary Biscuits return to the oven just in time for a holiday homestand. Thirsty Thursday, three fireworks nights and a Memorial Day Monday Noontime contest make for a busy five game series. Its also one of those series with four different start times, which makes it harder for teams to get into a rhythm.

Its been a tough stretch for the Montgomery nine as it faces the two fiercest Southern League squads in back to back series - Chattanooga and the Tennessee Smokies. It wouldn't be so tough if the Biscuits liked home cooking, but so far they have shown no more love for the Gump than the road.

The Chicago affiliate Smokies are often loaded with prospects, and this roster is no different. Topped by pitcher Carl Edwards and catcher Kyle Schwarber, there is an array of top talent on the Smokies team.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

The home team will score runs, but Montgomery is among the league worst in allowing runners to tour the pillows. Ten times in the last two weeks the Biscuits have allowed five runs or more, winning just once when the opposition scores often.

Look for the Biscuits to test their new bullpen arms and shuffle their starting pitchers as Brady Williams searches for the right combination.


Look for Smokies swagger. The Cubs affiliate has been teaching its players to win every pitch at every level and it shows in their attitude.

Also, be sure to look for the Smokies flow. Perhaps the best team in the minors in terms of locks, the Smokies have manly tresses that give them strength along the lines of Samson or viking invaders.

On the topic of hair, look for Mustache May to be in full effect for both teams.

We should look for the Biscuits to open a can of whupass at some point, plating seven runs or more in at least one game in each series this month.


Look for the Smokies to keep pace with run scoring, on paper the two teams have comparable slugging and power stats. This series will rest on the pitching staff strength, especially the bullpens.






STAT MADNESS - Richie Shaffer
hits vs rhp
Keep an eye on Richie Shaffer, if he figures out how to hit the ball to right field, he will be a truly dangerous hitter. A first round pick, Shaffer is having a good season in his second tour with the Biscuits, and we look at his stats and splits for more info on the Montgomery third sacker.

For the most part he is wearing out the left side of the field against right handed pitchers, as seen in his spray chart above. Most of his success is against right handed pitchers, batting a solid .272 against them.

Against lefties Shaffer only has four hits in 18 at bats, but two of his hits vs LHP are home runs.

He has fallen off a little after a strong start to the season, but Shaffer is one of the few Biscuits who don't flake out at home. His home/road batting averages show that he loves Riverwalk, hitting over .300 at home.

Shaffer is yet to hit a home run anywhere else this year, all his bombs coming while wearing Biscuit home whites.

Shaffer has not been caught stealing, with his three attempts all coming in the month of May.

Shaffer has just six no-strikeout games this year, but Thursday has a chance to be Richie's first three-game streak with no K's this season, if he can avoid the whiffs.


GONNA LEAVE A MARK

I'm not sure dudes arm should have a lump like that.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Contenders/Pretenders, Our Favorite Biscuit, Sulphur Dell


PRETENDERS or CONTENDERS

When a team makes a habit of losing series, its tough to prop up pennant hopes.

Glum Headlines lately
Such is the case in Montgomery, where the arrival of Jimmy Paterson and Bryce Stowell likely comes just a little too late to help the Biscuits win the first half.

Don't get me wrong, we love Patterson and Stowell, the bullpen will surely be better with them. Also its good to see the parent club send reinforcements.

However, as we have seen too often in the past, the cavalry doesn't always arrive in time to save the settlers. The Biscuits are seven games out of first and would need to vault the Smokies and Barons before challenging the division leading Lookouts.

Barring a twenty game win streak we can probably stick a fork in our Biscuits.

NO WHAT-IFs
Where would we be if there hadn't been a division change? Right where we are in the current standings. The team that loses more than it wins doesn't move up, no matter what the teams around it are.

A tough month of May for the Biscuits so far, losing games no matter what the score. In the games the Biscuits scored four runs or more this month, they are 5 wins and 6 losses.

When you score four runs or more, you expect to win those. You have to win those. For the Biscuits, its been the difference between contending and pretending.

THERE IS STILL JOY IN MUDVILLE...
For the first half of the season, we may be done, but things looks good for the second half. If the recent changes keep the bullpen from leaking so many runs there is much room for optimism. It's always better to finish well than to peak in May.



BISCUITS POLL QUESTION
I noticed the team website had a poll for readers. My favorite all-time Biscuit? Of course this list has some great names, but the list is kind of short. Many folks that come to Biscuits games now have no idea that these guys ever played here, there aren't many recent appearances.

Other than a rehab stint by Longoria in 2011, we haven't seen any of these guys in the past five years. Evan did play in 131 games from August 2006 to July 2007.

Alabama native Desmond Jennings in 2009 was second on this poll list in time served, appearing in exactly 100 games for Montgomery. His 37 steals is still a Biscuits franchise mark.

Outgoing David Price is often listed among Skitz greats, his dominant month of service consisted of nine games in 2008. His infectious smile is long remembered by loyal fans from eight seasons ago, which is one more year than wins David had as a Biscuit (7).

Matty Moore, who I have hopes of seeing in Montgomery for a couple rehab starts in June, is also listed. A great guy with a boyish face and smoking fastball, he was a Skit in 2011 through mid-July. He logged 18 starts, including the first Biscuit no-hitter, winning 8 games.

BRING ON THE BISCUITS

But where are the REALLY great Biscuits for this list?
Where is franchise stalwart Gabby Martinez? Where is Championship Series MVP Chris Nowak?

Where are the great catchers, John Jaso & Stephen Vogt? Where is Win-A-Date stud Henry Wrigley? Powerhitting 1b Matt Fields?




Shields
Where are the pitchers we loved - guys like postseason hero Mitch Talbot? Popular lefty Mike Prochaska? Quick pitching, hair dyeing Chris Mason?

What about pitchers James Shields, Wade Davis, Chris Archer? 

Kiermaier
And what of our MLB success stories - Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, reliever Gene Machi, catcher Jose Lobaton and pitcher Jeremy Hellickson?

So many candidates left off this list, feel free to let me know if your favorite Biscuit isn't listed on the "official" poll.

I will have to think about this one, we have had so many great players!



ADIOS JOE
The Joe will see the sun set soon, having given up its team to Biloxi.

The fans there could have gone to see the homeless Shuckers, but they simply stayed away in droves.

With attendance totals like 302 and 148 during the "homestand", Huntsville showed its disappointment in the ownership's lackluster promotions and losing records over the past seasons.

Attendance 148? And we thought the Biscuits over-estimated the crowd!




HISTORY TIME!
 

MacCormack
May 18, 1979 
Southern League: Frank L. MacCormack of the Montgomery Rebels had 4 wild pitches in the second inning v the Memphis Chicks.
 No word on how the chicks felt about his tuxedo, but I am told they really go crazy for a sharp dressed man.




MAY 18 1920 
Grays star Sam Streeter
"Montgomery Negro Team Tops League - Grey Sox Meet New Orleans Again Today; Jacksonville is Runner Up

The Montgomery Gray Sox, now hold first place in the Negro Southern League with Jacksonville, a close second. The Gray Sox, however, have a hard schedule before them for the next ten days, which schedule includes a series of games with Jacksonville and Nashville. The Greys are confident that their ascendency will be maintained, and are counting upon adding even further to their winning average during the present week.

This afternoon, the Grays will meet the New Orleans aggregation at South Side park, leaving this evening for Jacksonville for a series of three games returning here Sunday for a game with Nashville Monday. The Sox will go to Atlanta for another series of three games.

Sunday's game will be called promptly at 3 p.m. The seating capacity is being greatly enlarged to accommodate white persons, it is announced."

site of South Side Park, home of the Gray Sox



SULPHUR DELL
I came across a few pics of Nashville's great old ballpark, and while I don't have a story to go with it, I couldn't help but share a few of the fantastic images of this lost gem.
View of the front of the park shows exhibition game Vols vs Dodgers

Awesome view from centerfield shows grandstand
262 down the line and lots of hill in the outfield!




Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sinky McSwingerton/The No-Seamer, Seitzer Pitches

Autograph day is always a nice time to catch our fave players for a question or two and this past week was no exception. I had a topic in mind and wanted to get the opinions of our pros.

FLASHBACK....
When I was a kid my dad showed me all the pitching grips that he had learned from guys like HOF pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm. While watching the Giants-Padres game I heard the broadcasters use a term I hadn't heard since those early pitching lessons with dad - the "No Seam Fastball".

lefty Johnny VanDerMeer shows his 4-seam grip
The No Seamer is a grip like that of the two-seam or four-seam fastball grip, with the index and middle fingers curled together across the plane of the ball. However, instead of the usual grip position either along or across the balls seams, the No Seam fastball grip is located in the center of the horseshoe shape of the seams. No contact is made between the fingers and the string seams, just fingers on leather.

Its a very subtle nuance, but does influence the motion of the thrown ball, causing it to sink and move away from right handed hitters.

Andrew Cashner was tossing it effectively for the Padres and relying on it more than just an occasional show-me pitch for a different look. He was getting enough swings and misses that the Giants announcers talked about the pitch. Jered Weaver also throws a no-seamer, Orel Hershiser says Scott Shields taught it to Weaver sometime before 2013, as a way to get sink or movement for a swinging strike.

So I asked our guys - "Do you throw it, does anyone in our organization throw it, and if not, why not?"

Parker Markel
My first victim was relief pitcher Parker Markel.
I am not sure he really believed me when I started talking about it but I was able to convince him it was a real pitch.
"That sounds like an old-time-y thing" was his first reaction.
He said he didn't know of anyone who threw a no-seam fastball in our organization, or maybe anyone anywhere.
I mentioned Cashner and the movement he was getting with it, causing swings and misses.
Markel replied "Then I may start throwing it!"




Colton "Wild Thing" Reavis
Next up was Colton Reavis, who had a surprise for me. Seeing a couple relievers at a table singing baseballs and pictures, I brought up the No-Seamer. At first it was kind of a laugh for them, until I talked about the grip and Reavis says "Oh, you mean Sinky McSwingerton! Thats how I throw my fastball!"

As we talked, he described his two seam fastball grip and said it was how he had always thrown it. "Most guys just throw a straight two-seamer, and I use that grip but I move it deeper into the horseshoe".

So there ya go, Colton Reavis throws the No-Seam Fastball, aka Sinky McSwingerton.



BILOXI GAMES ARE ON
or
Shucks, No 20-Game Homestand
The Biloxi Orphans may soon have a home to go to, as their box office starts selling tix wednesday. That would give them time to host the Biscuits, who have booked a hotel in Biloxi and haven't even had discussions about contingencies. They expect it to happen.

I had a nice conversation with the GM, and should have a post about the convo in an upcoming blog. One of my fave aspects of the Biscuits is that the staff are always available to talk baseball, and Scott Trible is no exception. He works hard to keep the fans happy and always has an honest answer. Lots of teams don't get to see their owners or upper front office people, we are indeed fortunate to have down-to-earth folks at all levels.


Kes Carter was released by the Rays in spite of being on base in every game he appeared in this season. Bummer about the team photo, thats two years in a row someone has been cut after the pic was taken but before it was handed out. A curse brewing perhaps?

With moves being made to shore up the bullpen, we have to wonder if Brady has been on the phone to the parent club asking for help.

Dropping the series to Bham proves this years Skitz are no strangers to bad homestands and fall into line with past teams that are better on the road than at Riverwalk. Nobody has a good answer as to why. Hitting coach Ozzie Timmons said last year that there was no reason for it, basically just a fluke. However seeing that it happens year after year, there must be something to it. Teams just aren't better on the road than at home!

On the subject of stats here is a link to a list that is of interest to statheads and those with deep Biscuits math interest. The always-useful Baseball America people put this out there last year, a look at all 120 full season baseball facilities stats concerning park factor. Its great for comparison to other ballparks and leagues to our own home stadium in Runs, Home Runs and BABIP.



CAMERON SEITZER - RELIEF PITCHER

Not sure how many fans noticed, but 1b/DH Cameron Seitzer appeared in relief for the Biscuits on Monday.

The third year Montgomery bats lefty but throws right handed, he came on with two out in the 8th inning and threw one pitch to end the inning. The Skitz were down 4-0 and failed to score the needed five runs to secure Cameron his first victory, though he did log the Game Finished. In his career Seitzer has now appeared at 1b,3b, Shortstop, Left Field and Pitcher.

He has 135 RBI in just over two seasons, reminding me I need to compile a career RBI leaders list that includes both Rebels and Biscuits!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Biscuits vs World, Stats/Standings & Crabs + History!


So I'm watching this Montgomery baseball team and wondering - whats happening here? This is more than just a place to get $1 hot dogs on tuesday, we are seeing some nice play on the field, both at the plate and with the glove.

And the trend continued in the first game vs Birmingham, a sweet welcome to the rival Brummies in the form of strikeout artist Jaimie Schultz. The Skitz have been scoring more runs a week than we have seen in an entire month of games in years past. Its a pleasant change!


NORTH DIVISION
It may soon be time to take the Skitz for real, yet there is no easy guessing who the opponent to beat is - every team in the division has a nearly identical record. With less than three games separating first team from the worst, it will be Biscuits vs World to win the first half. Punching the playoff ticket early would be a first, its well known the Skitz have never won the first half.

IN THE SOUTH
The newly-minted Biloxi team has played its way into the top spot, a mere one game above perennial contender Mobile.

Its a two horse race early for the Southern Division, as the third place Braves are five games behind and treading water to stay afloat. Jacksonvile is six games off the pace and Pensacola has seen the wheels come off and is now almost ten games back.



WHATS COOKIN IN PORT CHARLOTTE

We should be keeping an eye on the StoneCrabs, who send us players at what seems a much slower pace than the rate we ship them to Durham and there are a couple candidates for future promotion.

Don't expect a power bat to arrive midsummer, as Charlotte guys don't crush. Of their teams eight home runs, half have been hit by a 19yr old. You gotta be 21 to be a Biscuit.

Joey Rickard - he was here last year before being injured, hes now in Port Charlotte hitting .254 in 23 games. Not tearing it up, but he could return soon enough. He may find it tough to grab any playing time as a Biscuit, but if one of our outfielders should struggle or be injured, he is the man to look for.

Juniel Querocuto - ss/3b has been hitting .289 at PortC, likely to be a Biscuit at some point in the next 12 months. Many fans want to see Adames in Montgomery, but likely we will roster Juniel before the teenage prospect Willy Adames arrives.

Maxx Tissenbaum - Catcher could step in once O'Conner proves he is ready to move up. Maxx played Australian League with Coyle, Fields and other Rays prospects this past year for Brisbane Bandits. Currently he is working on that .200 batting average, but it will come.


WHAT NUMBERS SAY

Austin Pruitt gets alot of ground balls, the most on the Montgomery staff at 55%

Boog Powell and Tyler Goeddel lead the Skitz in BABIP at .377, meaning they could be living lucky right now.

Daniel Robertson has 19 RBI, tied for the league lead.
Johnny Field has 18 RBI, tied for third in the league.

Recently-promoted Leonardo Reginatto led the team in Contact with a whopping 93.9% Contact Percent, likely the reason he is now in triple-A.

Shortstop Daniel Robertson leads the team in foul balls with 109 fouls in 108 plate appearances. That is essentially one foul per trip to the plate! By comparison, Boog Powell has 68 fouls in 92 PA.

Montgomery is second in the league in total attendance, firmly entrenched at 64K. In per-game average, the Biscuits are fourth, drawing just over 4 thousand a night on average.



MAY 8 1906 
Pitcher Harry Sallee of Bham 2 hits Montgomery but loses due to his own wildness.

SABR has his bio which describes his funky lefthanded motion...
Harry "Slim" Sallee
"Sallee had a rare and unique delivery known as the "cross-fire." Placing his right foot to the third base side of the rubber, while keeping his left foot on the rubber at the extreme first base side, Sallee cranked his arms straight up behind his head, leaning far back as he threw his right leg skyward to a set position.

 He would then step or plant the right leg at a 45-degree angle between first base and home plate, finishing his follow-through on the extreme first base side of the pitching mound, delivering the ball at one of many possible arm angles. Batters constantly complained that it looked as if Sallee's ball was arriving from first base."

Sallee is still among franchise leaders with StLouis, was a 20 game winner and pitched in two world series for Cincinnati, including two World Series starts against the 1919 Chicago "Black" Sox.


MAY 8 1920 
SP Moss
"Jacksonville Stars Lose to Montgomery - Grey Sox Win Before Large Crowd; Moss is in Fine Form - In one of the prettiest games played in the city this season the Montgomery Grey Sox team defeated the Jacksonville Stars by the score of 4 to 2, Saturday afternoon before a large crowd.

Both Moss and O'Neal pitched good ball, the latter after the third inning had the Grey Sox batters at his mercy. Moss allowed only six scattered hits and was given almost perfect support by his team mates. Williams was the batting star for the game, his long double with two on bases clinched the contest for the Grey Sox. After the third inning, it was three up and three down for both teams, players on both clubs making several beautiful plays.
The two teams will clash again today, the games starting at 3 o'clock."