Last night, Norfolk beat Gwinnett 6-3. That, in itself, is surprising, given the Tides’ record going into the game. But not just the win — there were several other pleasant surprises:
- The game was played in less than three hours. After a series of slowish games, this was nice.
- Slumping Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell both delivered impressive hits. Snyder smoked a double off the right-field wall and smacked a solid single up the middle. Bell pulled a fliner down the right-field line, past the Braves’ right fielder.
- After two terrible starts, Tides lefthander Troy Patton was in command, pitching most impressively. He allowed only a two-run home run by Braves prospect Freddie Freeman in his six innings.
- The Tides let Frank Mata pitch the ninth inning. The surprise here is that Mata bailed out Chris George in the eighth inning; and the Tides had only a three-run lead. Normally, you (1) wouldn’t bring your closer in in the eighth inning or (2) not bring in your closer with a save situation.
Last night, the Tides lost, 4-2, to the Gwinnett Braves. The game itself followed a familiar pattern for Tides-watchers — lots and lots of deep counts, leading to a greater-than-3-hour game on a chilly night. Fortunately, I was in the press box, so I escaped the winds.
Going into the night, two players in the starting lineup — Jonathan Tucker (not to be confused with Jonathan Taylor Thomas) for Norfolk and J.P. Boscan (not to be confused with J.P. Ricciardi) for Gwinnett — were both looking for their first base hit of the season. As Tucker was coming to bat in the sixth inning, hitless in two previous at-bats, the staff in the press box started speculating which of the two would get his hit first. I said Boscan, because Tucker doesn’t play regularly. Sure enough, Tucker drove a fliner (cross between a fly and a line drive) over the left fielder’s head for a run-scoring double. Later, Tides’ pitchers pitched very carefully to Boscan, apparently not wanting to be the pitcher who gave up his first hit.
The Tides are home for a four-game series against the Gwinnett Braves; I’ll be datacasting tonight’s game and BIS-sing Wednesday’s game. Jake Arrieta is scheduled to start for the Tides tonight, and Troy Patton is likely to start Wednesday. That means that again I miss Alfredo Simon, probably the least interesting of the rotation starters.
Bill James once wrote that a certain pitcher was his “draw” — if you attend twenty games a season, you’ll see the same starting pitcher in fifteen of them. My missing Alfredo Simon got me wondering who my draw will be. I looked at 2009 to get a sense of the possibilities.
I saw 47 Norfolk Tides games in 2009. That’s just under 1/3 of the games the Tides played — 33.0% to be somewhat precise. So, I should see about 1/3 of each Tides’ starting pitchers’ starts. There were fifteen pitchers who started a game for the Tides in 2009, and the table below lists whom I saw.
|Pitcher||Total Starts||Starts I Saw||Percent
(Normal would be 33.0)
Hmm. Throwing out the pitchers who made fewer than five starts (for example, the two starts I saw Livingston make were on the same homestand; he was quickly sent out afterward), it doesn’t look like I saw anybody substantially more than expected. However, I had the fortune — I don’t know if it was good or bad — to miss all of Troy Patton’s starts. It’s as if Gary Allenson found out the games I’d be working, and adjust the rotation so I’d miss Patton.
This season, I’ve seen Patton make his only home start so far, and will see him again this homestand.
The Tides are on a brief road trip to Durham; they return to Harbor Park for a brief homestand against the Gwinnett Braves Monday through Wednesday. I’m scheduled to work Monday and Wednesday, so I’ll have some timely thoughts on those games.
The purpose of the Norfolk Tides is developing players for their parent team; now, the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles are looking to their farm system to provide a first baseman of the future and a third baseman of the future. Conveniently, the Tides have the most major-league-ready prospects at those positions in first baseman Brandon Snyder and third baseman Josh Bell. Many Orioles fans are counting on them to fill the holes and become big-league contributors. Unfortunately, I don’t think either one will be ready soon.
The love prospect watchers have for Brandon Snyder — Baseball America rated him as the #6 prospect in the Orioles system — is inexplicable. At least for those of us who have seen him play at Norfolk. He spent the second half of last season at Norfolk, and he has been very unimpressive. He hasn’t shown any home-run power. He hasn’t been peppering the outfield with line drives. He hasn’t been expert at coaxing walks. Unless he improves, he’s probably not going to score or drive in 100 runs in a season. For a first baseman in today’s game, that’s unacceptable. Think right-handed hitting Casey Kotchman, or Doug Mientkiewicz, without the brilliant defense.
Josh Bell has only been in Norfolk for eight games (seven at Harbor Park), so I’m evaluating him on a limited sample size. I can see why Bell impresses prospect watchers. He’s trim and athletic, “looks good in the uniform.” I’ve been impressed with his defensive range at third base, although he has a knack for stopping hard grounders backhanded and then having the ball drop out of his glove. However, Tides’ hitting coach Richie Hebner needs to work with Bell on his stance and his pitch recognition. Bell, a switch-hitter, has a wide-open stance when he’s batting left-handed. Perhaps as a result, he dives for low, outside pitches, resulting in a lot of swings-and-misses and weak grounders to short. He hasn’t seen many pitches he can drive, so I really haven’t had a chance to see his best stroke. Bell is definitely young enough and has shown enough athletic ability to improve, but right now he’s not a major-league player.
My work for the first homestand for the 2010 Norfolk Tides is completed. I datacasted three games (Thursday vs. Durham, Sunday vs. Durham, Monday vs. Charlotte) and BIS-sed two games (Friday vs. Durham, yesterday vs. Charlotte). Unfortunately, the Tides could only muster a 1-4 record in those games. While I hope to comment after every game I work, it’s a little late for that now, and I’ll comment on this first homestand as a whole.
- Durham’s Joaquin Benoit is easily the most impressive player I’ve seen. While a veteran and not a hot prospect, he pitched in two games, facing twelve batters. One hit, one walk, nine strikeouts, one grounder to the first baseman.
- The Tides’ relief pitchers did an absolutely abysmal job of stranding inherited runners. On Sunday, On Friday, Frank Mata came in with a runner on base; he came around to score. On Saturday, Ross Wolf came in with two runners on base and let them both score. On Monday, Jim Miller came in with a runner on base; he scored. And yesterday, Andy Mitchell came in with the bases loaded and allowed two runs to score.
- On Friday, Durham catcher Alvin Colina’s mind must have been elsewhere. On first base, with no out, he broke for second on the pitch and the batter hit a line drive to right field. He stopped. When the right fielder caught the ball in the air, Colina took a step toward second before realizing that he should be retreating to first base. Later, during a rundown, he flipped the ball to the third baseman without realizing that no one was backing him up at home plate, leaving the third baseman with nothing to do except chase Lou Montanez across home plate a la Heinie Zimmerman in the 1917 World Series.
- Durham pitcher Heath Phillips is fat. He may be the fattest player I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a forty-year-old Rick Reuschel.
- On Thursday, Sunday, and Monday, after basically being overmatched by various starting pitchers, the Tides rallied in the ninth to get the tying or winning run to the plate. Unfortunately, they didn’t push it across. I still don’t understand why manager Gary Allenson didn’t pinch-hit Michael Aubrey for Jonathan Tucker in Monday’s game. Two runners on, Tucker was the tying run. He has no power, and was a right-handed batter facing a right-handed pitcher. And, let’s be honest, Tucker is an organization player, a.k.a roster filler.
- Also on Monday, Tide Steve Lerud saw 24 pitches in four at-bats, and swung at four of them, Four foul balls. His day — two walks and two called strikeouts.