Thursday, July 30, 2015

Putting Things in Order, Biscuits/Southern League News

Look for the 2016 Southern League Schedule to be released as soon as today.  It has been approved by all the affiliate farm directors and is ready for public consumption.

I spoke with Biscuits GM Scott Trible and he was very optimistic about next year's schedule with the exception of one item in the month of June. Or rather, the lack of. The Skitz only get one Saturday game in the entire month!

The Biscuits drew Sunday July 3rd for their Independence Day celebration next summer - teams in the Southern league are assured a home game on either the 3rd or the 4th of July.

Star Wars night was very popular and will return in 2016. "Pretty much a permanent thing" on the calendar for the Biscuits, said Trible. It seemed a very popular theme and even the players got to have some fun with it. How popular? We may see a Biscuits version of the themed jerseys worn by other milb teams for their Star Wars promotional nights.
Mark Sappington engages the dark side

No word yet of the Biscuits appearing in the Rickwood Classic. After being rained out in 2006, Montgomery has yet to return to the scene of the annual throwback game to end all throwback games.
Montgomery v Birmingham, July 4 1906

The Bham team/Friends of Rickwood own the classic Montgomery uniforms that could be used, so its just a matter of getting the timing right for a recreation of the inaugural game played at the oldest ballpark in America, Rickwood Field.

Next summer when we are enjoying a southern sweet tea or perhaps an Arnold Palmer - a half-and-half mix of Lemonade and sweet tea from the Lemonade Stand, we can thank Dr.Miraculous for suggesting it.

Gm Trible said he was kind of surprised they hadn't offered it on the concourse already and calling it "a really solid suggestion" that should happen.

The Biscuits will be announcing their promotional schedule in the very near future and one of the big events that it includes is a "Fauxback Day" with a Biscuits throwback-style jersey. Of course the uniform tops will be auctioned for charity following the game.

In a clear nod to the Tampa Rays fauxback uniforms, this could be a recurring thing on the calendar if it draws fans attention. I am pretty excited about it, as it could be a great looking themed jersey that would return in the future.
Matt Moore in Rays fauxback uniform
The Biscuits front office have yet to finalize a decision on the Sherry Myers bobblehead giveaway.

The team will not be wearing "Miss Gravy" themed jerseys next year, in spite of me starting rumors to the contrary.

special edition

Look for me to make an appearance on the field at some point during the next week or two. I had asked around if I could help drag the infield and must have been convincing, I have been told it will happen!
 Its always cool to get a chance to get out onto the diamond, even more so if its during a game without security guards in pursuit (no that hasn't happened, at least not yet!)

Dayron Varona
When Dayron Varona batted second in the lineup Wednesday, a discussion erupted about the Biscuits and who should hit where in the lineup.

Roster sheets were passed around and an informal poll was taken, assigning numbers to each player as to where they should hit in the batting order. It was pretty much easily agreed, a consensus not hard to reach among the informed fans surveyed.

Here then, the results of the fan poll:

1 Rickard/Goeddel
2 Reginatto
3 Varona
4 Bauers/Seitzer
5 Leonard
6 O'Conner
7 Field
8 Coyle
9 Querecuto

The maths* seem to disagree with the fans choice in many instances, as we shall see!
*small sample size caveat 

Top of the Order

Joey Rickard
1 - Leadoff Man
Rickard/Goeddel - both getting votes for batting first and with good reason as both have spent time in the leadoff spot this year.

While enjoying the "Blanco Suave" nickname and having a great season, Joey Rickard's average is almost 15 points lower when leading off an inning. He is often employed as the Skitz leadoff hitter, but Joey Rickard has better numbers when batting second, hitting fifteen points higher than when he bats first.
Tyler Goeddel

The other popular fan choice for leadoff hitter, Tyler Goeddel hits .375 when batting either sixth or eighth in the order.

Voters love the speed from both these guys, but the digits indicate they both have better at bats when hitting lower in the batting order.

2 The Number Two Hitter
Leonardo Reginatto
Reginatto  - Reggie hits just .259 when leading off an inning, his batting average rises the lower he hits in the order from .250s batting second all the way to .368 when hitting seventh.

Decent speed and decent pop make fans want to see him hitting higher in the order but the Brazilian obviously prefers hitting in the second half of the lineup.

Dayron Varona
3 Third Man Up
Varona - as mentioned, the inspiration for the poll was Dayron Varona, who has been inserted up and down the batting order and hit everywhere. Varona was the nearly unanimous choice to hit third, though one informed voter was adamant that Dayron should be in the fifth spot in the batting order.

Batting .297 for Montgomery, the Havana Biscuit sees more time in the three spot than anywhere else. It looks like Brady Williams agrees with the crowdsourced batting order on this one, and so does the mathematics as Varona hits a robust .316 when batting third.

Heart of the Order

Jake Bauers
4 CleanUp Man
Bauers/Seitzer -with a pair of left-handed slugging first basemen, its tough to find at bats for both of them. Often one will be in the lineup at first base, with the other acting as the designated hitter while Brady tries to get them both on the field in some way.

Hot swinging Jake Bauers hits .322 batting sixth and hasn't occupied any other spot but that one since the start of the second half. With the StoneCrabs, Jake only batted 4th and posted a .267 average in the cleanup role.

Cameron Seitzer
The other cleanup hitter choice, Cameron Seitzer is a guy who can hit just about anywhere in the batting order, but the stats say he is best hitting third, where he posts a .341 average with six of his eight homeruns this year.

After skipping high-A, some high-expectation fans seem a little down on Cameron this year, but he is having a fine season hitting near .300 with eight homers so far. He would have higher totals but has had to share playing time first with Leonard and now with Bauers.

Patrick Leonard
5 The Protection Guy
Leonard - Patrick Leonard has turned it on of late, batting to a .367 clip since the AllStar break. Usually penciled in 4th or 6th in the batting order, we picked him as a good number five guy to drive in runs.

While Leonard does hit well in the five spot (.344) he has the best stats batting seventh where he posts a whopping .379 average in more than 15 games. If that ain't enough, his OPS when batting 7th is a very stout 1.046, so there.

6 The Six-Hitter
O'Conner - the catching prospect has played well and in the second half Justin O'Conner has really picked up the bat, swatting a .275 average since the break.
Justin O'Conner

Again the numbers tell us we are wrong to hit him where we would think he belongs, as he slugs just .410 batting sixth and one would expect a six hitter to be a doubles guy.

Stats say Justin is way better when hitting second! In seven games in the 2hole O'conner has a .300 average and a higher OPS there than when batting at any other place in the order.

Bottom of the Order

Johnny Field Jr
Field Jr - Since the homerun derby, the Biscuits slugger hasnt looked quite the same at the plate and the informal survey lists him lower in the order than it might have six weeks ago.

Johnny Field has been in the lineup at just about every spot, in part due to his versatility and in part in an effort to get him going again in the second half.

Most often he has batted fourth with success (.255/8hr/33rbi in 54 games) and when batting sixth he does better (.317/3hr/9rbi in 10 games). But when he is down in the 8th place in the batting order, he really hits (.391avg in 7 games). Batting in the seventh spot is the worst of the bunch (.133 in five games) so the fans choice doesn't float when the decision is figured with an abacus.

Tommy Coyle
8 The Eighth Spot
Coyle - the second baseman is having a tough summer, batting much below his ability. This likely affected voters opinion, some of whom voiced the opinion that he should be hitting near the top of the order if he were going right.

Often hitting 8th (.211avg) or 9th (.242avg) in Brady Williams batting order this year, Tommy Coyle should be in the 7th spot where he is hitting .289avg with a monster .936OPS.

9 NL Pitchers Spot/Second Leadoff Man
Juniel Q
Querecuto - struggling with the Skitz at just .202 this year, JuneQ has put the ball in play more often in July, hitting .242 this month. Still, Brady has not yet put him anywhere but the bottom of the order where he can utilize his speed as the "second lead-off man".

In Charlotte JuneQ hit leadoff in more than a dozen games and posted a solid .340 average. If you can't hit him first, it makes sense to hit him ninth and fans were in agreement with the stats on this one.

Jake Bauers hits better when behind in the count (.313) than he does when ahead in the count (.222).

Patrick Leonard is batting .500 is six extra innings at bats.

Since his promotion from Low-A Bowling Green where he had 18sb in parts of the last two seasons, Juniel Querecuto has only stolen one base.

Opponents hit .385 off of Matt Lollis when he falls behind in the count but have just a .185 batting average when the Big Show gets ahead in the count.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What We Learned Tuesday - With Nicknames!

Just a quick blog to offer up a few items of info for fans - including nicknames where known.

Taylor Guerrieri throws his first pitch in double-A
Indeed it was Taylor Guerrieri pitching in game one of the series, just as we suspected.

 Guerrieri looked to be on a 70-75 pitch leash. He was knocked around, but probably won't be removed from the starting role no matter how he pitches.

The Rays top pick in 2011 was sidelined with TJ surgery and will be brought along carefully. His first outing wasn't pretty, but showed signs of the good stuff.

We don't yet have a nickname for Taylor.
Jared Mortensen was the reliever who came in to soak up long innings, the Canadian Bacon Biscuit could be a good pitching platoon partner for TaylorG.

A strike thrower and innings eater, Mortensen deserves a place in the rotation but is simply squeezed out by all the good arms on the Biscuits staff.

Jaimie "Twitterh8r" Schultz will not miss a start.
The league strikeout leader wore a comebacker in his last outing but it was just a flesh wound and won't cause him to miss a turn.

Austin Pruitt
Austin Pruitt will miss a start.
The Southern League Innings Pitched leader was placed on the disabled list, conveniently dropping the roster to 25. The Bandit will miss at least one start.
Pruitt's ailment is unknown to us right now. 

The Smokies slugging first baseman Dan Vogelbach is on the DL with a strained oblique. No word on when he might return.
Biscuit fans don't mind.

Tommy Coyle launches a double
Joey "Blanco Suave" Rickard
Outfielder Joey Rickard "kinda likes" his fan-given nickname - Blanco Suave.

Currently third in the league in hitting and just missing the top ten in stolen bases, Blanco Suave es en fuego por los Galletas.

New Orleans is likely to be the next city in the Southern League, according to the rumor going around the league. This would mean a step down for the Crescent City, who currently hosts a triple-A team. Mobile or Jackson Tn would be likely candidates for a move.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Biscuits Welcomed in Tennessee, Bud Lively Passes

Indeed the Biscuits did feel welcome
The Biscuit bus returns from its road trip north, and a good trip it was.

A split two-game series in Chattanooga and taking four out of five against the Generals makes for a five win and two loss week. Even the two losses required late-inning comebacks by the opposition, it could easily have been an undefeated trip as the Biscuits look like one of the most dominant teams in the league both at home and on the road.

The road trip was a little longer than the usual, and a two game series to make up for the weird scheduling around July 4th, followed by the usual five-game set results in the pitching staff getting shuffled.

The first pitcher in the rotation no longer will be tossing the first game of the series. Where Jacob Faria was starting game one, when the next series opens at Riverwalk it will be the #3 man in the rotation - probably Kirsch or new starter Taylor Guerrieri.

Taylor G
Guerrieri, the Rays first round draft choice in 2011, comes to the Biscuits after a half season in Charlotte that saw him go 2w-2L with a 2.14 ERA in ten starts.

The numbers are very good but the pitching prospect from Savannah GA has had trouble getting deep into games - just once this season completing five innings in a start.

Likely Taylor will be on a strict pitch count a la Grayson Garvin, with a reliever assigned to piggyback the extra innings. Having a talented starter can be a bonus, but it could also be a strain on the bullpen to have to cover for a guy who can't go five full innings.


The Smokies return yet again, for another installment in the 2015 Grape Jelly Series. This is the third and final appearance at Riverwalk for the Smokies this year. The Skitz do get one more round at Smokies Park, but won't be hosting them again this year.

The Biscuits mauled the babybears last time, sweeping the Cubs affiliate in all five contests, and simply out-playing them in every aspect of the game.


Almora Jr.
Look for the Smokies to try to save face. After dropping all five in the last visit to the capitol city, Buddy Bailey will be pulling all the strings he can find to get his team into the win category.

Look for Albert Almora. The star outfielder returns from the Pan Am Games and must step into the leadership role for the Smokies. 

Joel Pineyro
Look for Smokies pitchers to work harder - after the last time out against the Biscuits the Smokies starters were handed losses aplenty. They have struggled to win games on the road.

Look for the Smokies to take their base - Tennessee leads the league in bases on balls.

Look for the Biscuits to score runs in bunches, Montgomery leads the league in Runs score, Home Runs and RBI's. Nine times this month the biscuits have scored six runs or more.

Look for Taylor Guerrieri to make his first Biscuits start, possibly on Tuesday.

Look for Jared Mortensen to make his first home start since June 13th. The Canadian Pan Am Games gold-medalist made four appearances out of the bullpen before returning to the starting rotation last week.

Look for Leonardo Reginatto to continue his clutch hitting. The Brazilian infielder has a talent for hitting the ball on the ground to the left side of the infield and using his good speed to leg out base hits.


The Biscuits have the advantage of the calendar, the league decrees that we host the two last place teams in August - the Generals and the Jacksonvile Suns.

The Biscuits trail the North Division leading Barons and control their own destiny by facing the Slagtown Barons twice in the last few weeks of the year, including the season finale at Riverwalk.


On July 12th of this year, former Montgomery Rebels pitcher Buddy Lively shuffled off this mortal coil.

The Birmingham native played three seasons in the major leagues, from 1947-49 with the Cincinnati Reds.

I was privileged to meet him almost exactly two years ago. Below is what I wrote about that meeting on a rainy summer afternoon at the ballpark.


It was the closest thing Montgomery has to an Old Timers Day. Of course, the pregame ceremonies dont happen when the tarp doesnt come off the field. That didnt keep former Rebels from signing autographs and meeting fans, however.

The scheduled doubleheader had already been cut down to just one nine inning game. The rain streamed off the roofs and fell on the concourse where usually blue skies have been steadily gray the past month or more. It wasn't long after the gates opened that the figure of an older man in a pale cream jacket and matching driving cap found his way up to the ticket taker. He produced a folded piece of paper that gained him admittance without being scanned and was directed to a nearby table.

He stood by as a group of interns shuffled chairs and pushed his table into a better position to deal with the rainy conditions - its obvious he was an athlete during his younger days. He stands taller than most of the attendants and while stooped with age he seems to be more than aware of his importance and moves well, though slowly. As they arrange his table he inspects the zone with a keen eye, making note of any pitfalls or obstacles. He eventually settles into one of the metal folding chairs and the staff attendants fall away to other tasks as the announcement is made that the game's start will be delayed.

Seated alone, watching as rain falls on the people passing by and simply observing the situation is how I find Bud Lively.

Cramton Bowl 1942, Home of the Rebels
"You must be Bud Lively" I said to him, bluntly. "I understand you were with the Rebels in '42" I continued as I stuck out my hand and was received by the large paw of a man who had obviously been a ballplayer. He shook my hand and replied "Well, I wasnt for very damn long" was his reply, and I knew I liked him. "My dad did too though, had several good years for Montgomery"

I had a chance to talk with Bud, he was very honest and I felt we hit it off well for the simple fact that we were both pretty blunt. He answered all my questions, except for the details of the Rebels uniforms "..that was seventy-one years ago!" and I found him to be all the best things vintage baseball should be. He was crusty but cheerful, he was old but not feeble, had a great smile and bright eyes that looked as young as any of the players waiting to see if the field would dry that night.

Bud Lively with Cincinnati Reds
Bud felt that baseball had fallen off, especially in the south. He talked about how important it was to get young people playing the game, though the players today werent very good and it wasn't much incentive to kids. Bud admitted he wasn't a Rebel long "about two games, one good and one bad" but that he had played in Montgomery many times on visiting teams and always found the city to have appeal.

I asked him about his father, Jack Lively.
Jack Lively
He was able to recount the stops in his dads career easily, including all the years he was with the Climbers and said "Dad and I had very parallel careers. We both spent 11 years in pro ball, both had injuries early in our career and spent a long time trying to get back". Bud didnt mention his own time lost to WW2, his service took him to the European Theater for 19 months.

I asked about his fathers no-hitter against Little Rock, often mentioned in bios for Jack Lively. "Oh yes, he talked about it all the time!" Bud replied. It seems dad was more than a little proud of that one! Bud said he didn't remember the details himself but implied that Jack sure did, in a way that only a family member who has sat through countless retelling can convey!

Bud Lively talked about the state of baseball, that there was alot of work to be done to improve the game to get it anywhere near where it was. "And its a shame the state its in now" was enough of a quote for me to apply to just about everything that annoys fans and players alike.

What can we do about it, I asked him. "Not a damn thing we can do, you and me. Baseball will fix itself, it always has" Bud Lively told me.