Results tagged ‘ Joe Mahoney ’
Can he be a major-league player?
The good news about Joe Mahoney’s 2012 season at Norfolk is that he stayed healthy the whole season and that he made his major-league debut. The bad news is that his 2012 season at Norfolk was disappointing, .265/.319/.389. For a first baseman, that’s inadequate.
In fairness, Norfolk’s Harbor Park may have been the worst park for Mahoney. Although he’s a left-handed power hitter, he wasn’t a dead-pull hitter who could take advantage of the short right-field party deck fence. He was more of a gap-to-gap hitter, and Harbor Park’s huge power alleys and center field sapped his power. He did produce .300/.356/.518 in 564 AA plate appearances.
Mahoney looked like a good first baseman, but it’s unclear whether that’s because he truly was a good first baseman or his predecessors at Norfolk were poor. He has the arm to play corner outfield — he was a pitcher as an amateur — but leg injuries have prevented him from getting a good look. He probably wouldn’t be a good defensive outfielder because of his lack of range.
All told, Mahoney is probably limited to a left-handed platoon first-base/DH role or to a left-handed bench bat. He reminds me of Sid Bream, the Pirates/Braves first baseman of the late 1980′s / early 1990′s. He was claimed by the Marlins on waivers, where he may have a better chance to make the big-league team. At the very least, if he’s assigned to AAA, he’ll get to hit in Albuquerque, as extreme a hitter’s park as Norfolk is a pitcher’s park.
When, as in the International League, a team plays 144 games, there’s going to be a fair share of clunkers. One-sided blowouts, slow-moving slogs, exhibitions of poor play — those are the risks a patron of a baseball game takes when purchasing a ticket to a particular game. If a first-time attendee happens to stumble across one of those sleep-inducers, he or she may never go to another.
On the other hand, a fan who attended Friday’s game between between the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and the Norfolk Tides saw baseball at its best as an entertainment option. A bit of background — the Tides played Scranton (in Batavia, New York, for reasons that you either know or don’t need to know) in mid-April. Two of the scheduled four games were postponed by bad weather, and because Norfolk only makes one visit to the Yankees every year, the games were rescheduled to this series between the two teams in Norfolk. So Friday’s game became a doubleheader. In the minor leagues, doubleheaders are two seven-inning games. So the first game was scheduled to be a seven-inning game.
With the preliminaries out of the way, let me start with the linescore:
This was a seesaw game in which neither team ever led by more than one run. There was longball — Corban Joseph gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead with a solo home run in the first; Jamie Hoffman tied the game in the bottom of the first and Jai Miller gave the Tides a 3-2 lead in the fourth with solo home runs. There was clutch hitting — the Yankees’ second and third runs scored on two-out singles wtih runners in scoring position. The pitching wasn’t dominant, but obviously all the pitchers kept their opponents from blowing the game open. The defense was outstanding. Not only were all the routine plays handled routinely, but also Scranton shortstop Ramiro Pena seemingly fielded every ground ball he could get to, and made strong, accurate throws. Tides first baseman Joe Mahoney turned a high chop into a nifty 3-6 forceout.
In the top of the seventh, I saw what may have been the most perfectly executed play, by everyone involved, that I have ever seen. Scranton’s Kevin Russo laid down as perfectly placed a bunt down the third-base line as a Yankee fan could hope for. But Tides third baseman Miguel Tejada charged in, grabbed the ball with his bare hand, and threw hard to first base. The throw was low and slightly toward second base, but Mahoney was able stretch and scoop the throw on a short hop to put Russo out. Mike, the official scorer, and I both agreed that that was as well-executed a play on all ends that we had ever seen.
Fittingly, the game ended in the bottom of the last inning. With one out, Carlos Rojas walked and was replaced at first base by pinch-runner L.J. Hoes, making his AAA debut. On a 3-2 pitch, Xavier Avery, recently sent down by Baltimore, singled Hoes to third. Veteran Lew Ford continued his hot hitting by slamming a game-winning single to right-center field, scoring Hoes. As soon as we in the press box saw the speed and trajectory of Ford’s hit, we knew it was game over — or, as an umpire once said in a similar situation in a recreational softball game I was playing — “Handshakes, everyone.”
The second game? Fittingly, it was rained out and rescheduled for the following day. It would have been hard for any other game to top the first one as an entertainment.
During the Tides 10-5 win over Indianapolis on Friday (May 4), the Tides radio broadcasters observed that Tides’ first baseman Joe Mahoney seemed to be adept at going the other way. Or, in other words, that left-handed hitter Joe Mahoney hit a fair number of balls to left field. That’s something I can check fairly easily with my scoresheets.
I’ve scored thirteen Tides’ home games this season, and I analyzed Mahoney’s plate appearances in those thirteen games. In the table below is a count of the number of batted balls first touched by each position — fortunately, there were no deflection hits.
|First Base||2||Right Fielder||3.5||Walks||2|
|Second Base||8||Center Fielder||4.5||Strikeouts||11|
There’s a certain loss of detail in the numbers; a ball fielded by the second baseman could be anywhere from deep in the hole between first and second to behind the second-base bag. Also, Mahoney hit one out-of-the-park home run that I recorded as being to right-center field; I arbitrarily assigned that as half to the right fielder and half to the center fielder.
There’s a difference in his hit locations between balls fielded by infielders and balls fielded by outfielders. Half of the ball fielded by outfielders were fielded by the left fielder; i.e. going to the opposite field. On the other hand, five out of every eight hits fielded by an infielder were at least potentially pulled; i.e. fielded by either the second baseman or the first baseman.
So the broadcasters’ comments had a least some truth; Mahoney has been taking a fair number of pitches to the opposite field. He’s been especially good at driving balls to the opposite outfield; he does tend to pull balls that remain in the infield. Since most base hits are on balls hit to the outfield, it’s likely that the broadcasters based their comments on Mahoney’s base hits; routine grounders to second are less memorable. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues.
One more point — Mahoney’s tendency to go the other way will probably hurt him at Harbor Park. Harbor Park hurts hitters with two exceptions — pure speed slap-hitters (like Kyle Hudson and Matt Angle) and left-handed dead-pull hitters. The party area in right field is 318 feet away down the right-field line before the fences fall back in front of the bullpen. Mahoney’s offensive totals may be depressed if he doesn’t learn to pull the ball down the line — which is also a skill that will help him in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Tides starter Chris Tillman was the winning pitcher in last night’s 8-5 Tides win over struggling Durham. A superficial look at his pitching line — 5 1/3 innings pitched, 8 hits, 4 runs (all earned), 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, and 1 home run allowed — makes it seem as though Tillman struggled and was bailed out by his teammates’ offense. Yes, he struck out seven, but he gave up a home run and allowed nine other baserunners in less than six innings. In fact, although his line could have been a little bit worse, he really did pitch better than his final numbers because three of the runs he gave up were fluky.
First, the bad news — Tillman could and probably should have given up a fifth run. In the sixth inning, Tillman walked Juan Miranda. Miranda advanced to second on a ground out, after which Oscar Villareal relieved him. Villareal wild-pitched Miranda to third while walking Kyle Hudson. Will Rhymes then hit a sharp ground ball down the first-base line. Tides first baseman Joe Mahoney speared the grounder, stepped on first to retire Miranda, and then threw home where Luis Exposito tagged Miranda out. Mahoney showed good presence of mind there, as the more expected play would be to throw to second. But Kyle Hudson is much faster than Miranda, and likely would have beaten the throw. By throwing home, Mahoney prevented a fifth run from being charged to Tillman.
On the other hand, the three runs Tillman gave up in the fourth inning were hardly his fault. Leslie Anderson led off the inning by lifting a fly to right field that right field Jai Miller either didn’t see or completely misplayed; that normally routine fly ball fell untouched for a double. Anderson scored on two groundouts; with 5-1 lead at the time, it made perfect sense to let Anderson advance. Then, speedy Kyle Hudson beat out an infield grounder, and Will Rhymes stroked a hard fliner about 320 feet down the right-field line. Unfortunately for Tillman and the Tides, the right-field fence is 318 feet down the right-field foul line, and so Rhymes’ hit — which would either have curled foul or maybe hit the wall if the outfield wall were at a more normal distance — went for a two-run home run.
I’m sure many fans who weren’t at the game will look at Tillman’s line above and conclude that he’s still the same old struggling Chris Tillman. But if his line had been 5 1/3 innings pitched, 6 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 2 walks, and seven strikeouts — a more appropriate summary of how Tillman actually pitched — they’d think differently. His actual game score was 42 — below standard. His projected game score would have been 54 — above standard.
Over the past few days, the Orioles have made many player assignments. Late Thursday, March 15, the Orioles optioned Joe Mahoney, the first baseman, to Norfolk. Again, players on the team’s 40-man roster are optioned while players not on the 40-man roster are reassigned to minor-league camp. And, again, while Mahoney’s option to Norfolk doesn’t guarantee that he’ll start the season at Norfolk, it seems more likely than not that he’ll do so. Mahoney’s played well at AA and there’s no other first basemen who also should be at Norfolk.
The list of players reassigned to minor-league camp include a number of players who will likely start the season at Frederick or Delmarva, but who were invited to major-league camp either for the experience or to provide some more arms and legs during the early days of spring training. Three 2011 Tides, however were assigned to minor-league camp. Blake Davis will almost certainly start the season with Norfolk. The Tides don’t have an abundance of middle infielders and Davis has played fairly well at AAA over the last couple of seasons. The destinations of infielder Carlos Rojas and relief pitcher Cole McCurry are uncertain. Rojas is nothing more than roster-filler. He’ll be assigned to Frederick, Bowie, or Norfolk, depending on where there’s a hole. McCurry has done enough to justify an assignment to Norfolk, but it will depend on what other pitchers get assigned to Norfolk.
In a previous post, I discussed the six players who played in 100 or more games with the Bowie Baysox in 2011. In setting a limit of 100 games, I overlooked a few other players who played quite a bit at Bowie and who didn’t get promoted to the Tides. These include:
- L.J. Hoes, outfielder (95 games). L.J. Hoes appears to be the best Orioles’ prospect likely to make it to Norfolk in 2012. He’ll play 2012 at age 22. He’s also another semi-local player, drafted in 2008 out of St. John’s High School in Washington, DC. Originally a second baseman, he was moved to the outfield in 2011. Interestingly, he started 2011 in Frederick and was hitting .241/.297/.342 when he was promoted to Bowie; in Bowie he hit much better — .305/.379/.413. Baseball America ranks Hoes as the #5 prospect in the Orioles system, behind four players who project to play at A-ball or lower in 2012. The problem with Hoes, as I see it, is that all of his value is in his batting average — he doesn’t have great power and he makes contact so often he doesn’t draw a lot of walks. He’s kind of like Brandon Snyder in the sense that Harbor Park isn’t kind to a player with his skill set. I expect Hoes to start 2012 at Bowie and maybe get to Norfolk in mid-season.
- Joe Mahoney, first baseman (85 games). Joe Mahoney is a left-handed power hitter, who doesn’t strike out a lot but also doesn’t walk a lot and hits for a pretty decent average. His offensive game is similar to, but clearly not nearly as good as, Aramis Ramirez’. Mahoney would be a good fit for Harbor Park, and is clearly ready (he turned 25 in the offseason.) There’s no obvious first-base candidate for Norfolk ahead of Mahoney, so I expect him to be at Norfolk on Opening Day. His big problem has been an inability to stay on the field — he played 95 games in 2008 and the 85 games in 2011; so he’s behind the ideal timetable.
- Buck Britton, utilityman (82 games). Buck Britton made a desperation end-of-season cameo appearance with the 2010 Tides, and spent 2011 at Bowie and Frederick. He’ll turn 26 in May. He may make the Tides as a bench player, but he’s not someone to get excited about.