Thursday, July 14, 2016

Prescription #302: Grape Jelly Series



The Biscuits return home to face the Tn Smokies on Thursty Thirsday, triumphant from their combined No-Hitter but also victims of a series loss in the last five games. The team is having growing pains, in part from adjusting to the bullpen's rotating door to Durham.

But it didn't show at all in game two on Monday when four Biscuit pitchers added their names to Montgomery baseball history.


WHO IS THAT GUY?
A pitcher doesn't even have to be on the roster to get into a game for Montgomery this summer, returning reliever Kyle Winkler arrived and had to wear Brad Schreibers uniform when he got into the NoNo in Jackson.

The move to add Winkler wasn't added to the league website until hours after he wore #31 and stepped into Montgomery history. After adding Honeywell and Chapman, the team didn't have a third spare road uniform!


The Skitz won four games and lost six on the roadtrip, but outscored their opponents in the ten games. The rotation has been shuffled and reshuffled, the bullpen has so many new faces, even pitching coach RC Lichtenstein didn't remember who was wearing #28.

Manager Brady Williams mixes and matches to near perfection, giving the Grays every chance to win. Yet often the team has been unable to hold a late lead or deliver a final run, flashing bright hope for fans even when the final result drops to the loss column.




GRAPE JELLY SERIES


If the Biscuits have a discombobulated roster, the Smokies more closely resemble depleted. Most of the top prospects for the Baby Bears have advanced, though newcomer Ian Happ becomes the top rated prospect on the visiting team. Happ has been tearing up double-A pitching since his arrival.

The Smokies Prospect Rating is 90, boosted by Happ but lowered with injuries to prospect players like Duane Underwood, Brad Conway and Jacob Hanneman who all inhabit the DL.

The Biscuits walked off on the Smokies back in May
Active player prospects include Billy McKinney, Jen-Ho Tseng, Victor Caratini, and Brad Markey. They have other solid players not ranked among the top 30, but several of the players who were on the squad during the Smokies last visit have graduated.


With Montgomery and Tennessee both trying to make up ground on division leader Chattanooga, neither club wants to drop this series. There is a lot to look for in this series!


WHAT TO LOOK FOR


The Smokies may or may not bring rehabbing MLB pitcher Clayton Richard, be sure to look for him wearing #40. His day to pitch would be in game four or five, though its not known if he will continue his rehab during the Smokies road trip to Montgomery.

Look for smoke rising from under Patrick Leonards cap - dude has been on fire! Hitting .340 over the last ten days its probably safe to say he has gotten back on track.


Look for the Biscuits to put up runs in multiple innings, often in the early innings. Montgomery's powerful offense scores runs, leading the league in Homers and doubles.

Look for Kean Wong, the studly second baseman has been absent from the lineup since coming out of Fridays ballgame.

Look for the Smokies to take quality at bats, waiting deep into counts and not striking out often. The Smokies batters strike out less than any other team in the league!


two of these kids get groundouts
Look for Taylor Guerrieri to get the groundball. Taylor's ability to induce the grounders is a silent rally killer for opposing hitters, inducing a ball on the ground more than three times more often than in the air for a stout 60% ground ball rate on batted balls.



Look for the Biscuits to win games via the long ball. As the weather has warmed, so have Biscuit bats and Smokies pitchers can be prone to giving up home runs.



Look for a base on balls. Everyone knows Casey Gillaspie is the league leader in bases on balls but Willy Adames and Jake Bauers are second and third. Smokies Billy McKinney and Chesny Young round out the top five.

After a mini-slump over the last month or so, look for Casey Gillaspie to get back into form over the next three weeks. BigCaseDawg hits .290 at Riverwalk and the Biscuits will enjoy hosting 15 of the next 20 games at home.

New Biscuit Jaye Chapman is tied for third place in the league in saves and hasn't even earned his first one for Montgomery. Look for Brady to give him the ball in the late innings during this series.



MATCHUPS
Thursty Thirsday
Hu vs Markey


Friday
Honeywell vs Skulina


Star Wars Saturday
Kirsch vs Tseng
also Season ticketholder batting practice, I get to take some swings!


Kids Day Sunday
Chirinos vs Richard? tba


Sunburn Monday Nooner
Guerrieri vs Blackburn? tba
Noon start time? Better bring the sunscreen!
or an umbrella!


HONEYWELL DEBUTS
The Rays #2 prospect is Brent Honeywell, mentioned often here in the blog already, the hurler joined the rotation in Jackson and will have his home debut likely on Friday night. Ranked just behind Blake Snell, the report is high on his fastball and even more fond of the screwball he tosses. Honeywell throws a curve and changeup to offset his heater in the low-mid 90s, but the fadeaway sneaks to the plate in the 77mph range.

With the arrival of a pitcher who throws a screwball, it allows for creative names for the rare pitch. Not thrown as often in modern baseball in the states, its known as the shuto in Japan where it is thrown as an art form by NPB moundsmen. Yu Darvish sometimes offers the shuto to major league hitters, where it can be a devastating pitch against right handed hitters.


HISTORY OF THE PITCH
Rube Foster
Christy Mathewson called it a fadeaway, legend has it that he was taught the pitch by negro league great Rube Foster.

When John McGraw was told he couldn't sign Foster due to his race, McGraw hired him to teach Matty the screwball.


Other great screwballers include Warren Spahn, who used the reverse curveball to extend his career after losing his dominant fastball. Carl Hubbel threw the screwjey so often his arm curved outwards. Fernando Valenzeula's corkscrew inspired Fernando-mania, Tug McGraw used the incurve to much effectiveness.


There is a deep latin connection with the screwball, Luis Arroyo, Willie Hernandez and Pedro Martinez all used the screwgie in their great careers.

When Dolf Luqe first threw his fadeaway in front of stunned scouts, they asked where he learned such a great pitch. "Marty teach me" he said "Marty teach me!" His deep accent made it tough to figure out he was really saying "Matty", he had learned the offering when seeing Christy Mathewson playing winter ball!


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