Results tagged ‘ Norfolk Tides ’
Is he a starter? Is he a reliever? What’s his future?
Jason Berken shot to the major leagues in 2009 because the Orioles’ starting rotation was crumbling and because he had a 1.05 ERA in 5 AAA starts. After he started quickly, he had a terrible 2009 as a starter (6.54 ERA), rebounded with a fairly good 2010 as a relief pitcher (3.03 ERA in 62 innings), and then had a terrible (but slightly less terrible than 2009) 2011 as a relief pitcher (5.36 ERA in 47 innings.) He was sent to Norfolk a couple of times to get work and pitched okay.
I would classify Berken as a “wishful thinking” class starting pitcher, a step above desperation options like Chris Jakubauskas and Alfredo Simon. There really isn’t any reason to think Berken can be a good starting pitcher, but at least you can hope. Among the Orioles’ 2012 options, he ranks almost at the bottom.
Berken has neither the dominant stuff nor the consistency to be a closer or set-up man. He’s probably no better and no worse than dozens of other candidates for a middle-relief job.
I think Berken’s future is the Atlantic League. I just don’t see him being good enough for a major-league career.
While the game of September 3 was mostly unusual from the 2011 Tides perspective, the game of September 5 was unusual in general.
- Durham starting pitcher Brian Baker struck out 7 and walked only 1 in his five innings. Unfortunately for him, he gave up ten hits and eight runs, leading to a final pitching line of
5 10 8 8 1 7. In addition, he gave up hits — including back-to-back home runs — to the first six batters he faced, then retired eleven of the next twelve (with the one who reached base being eliminated on a double play.)
- The Bulls used five singles and three home runs in four innings off Tides’ starter Ryohei Tanaka to produce three runs. Tanaka was pulled after four innings, not getting a chance for a win despite a 6-3 Tides lead.
- The Tides scored all eight runs without leaving a man on base. As soon as I mentioned that in the press box, the Tides hit two singles and left them on base.
- As a direct result of the point above, the Tides scored eight runs in a game in which Carlos Rojas, the #9 batter, only had three plate appearances. The Tides scored the eight runs and left three men on base, and didn’t bat in the bottom of the ninth, so the fourth plate appearance by #8 batter Adam Donachie was the last Tides plate appearance of the game (and season.)
- Durham’s Russ Canzler got credit for a base hit on a ball which fell out of Brendan Harris’ glove. Canzler hit a soft pop fly into shallow right field. Harris raced after hit, but the wind blowing out to left field pushed the ball toward center. Harris twisted his body and his wrist to get his glove on the ball, but couldn’t hang on. After agonizing and watching the replay, the official scorer decided that he couldn’t charge Harris with an error, despite the later pleading of Tides’ personnel (who wanted the run charged to Wynn Pelzer to be unearned.)
Although I get to see a lot of Norfolk Tides games during a season, it’s unusual that I will see an entire four-game series against a specific opponent. I can’t work any non-holiday weekday afternoon games because I have a day job that pays the bills, allowing me to work as many games as I do. Baseball Info Solutions requires that I enter the games I work for them within 48 hours; hence, I can’t work games on two consecutive weekdays after I work a game for BIS.
However, this past Memorial Day weekend the schedule broke well and I saw all four games of the Tides series against the Columbus Clippers. The Clippers had the best record in the International League – three games better than the second-best record – and the Tides had the worst record in the International League – four games worse than the second-worst record. On its face, this should have been a series of blowout victories for Columbus. But this four-game series proved to be four of the most entertaining games I’ve seen.
Game 1 featured strong starting pitching from Columbus’ Zach McAllister and Norfolk’s Chris Jakubauskas. Lonnie Chisenhall slugged a mammoth home run over the deep right-center field fence, into the teeth of a strong wind. Norfolk tied the game immediately on a soft line-drive single, a well-executed sacrifice bunt by Kyle Hudson – the best technical bunter I’ve ever seen – and a single up the middle that trickled through the infield. The game may have turned on a fielding position decision in the top of the tenth. With the bases loaded, one out, and catcher-playing-designated hitter Paul Phillips batting, Norfolk chose to play the infield in halfway. Phillips hit a ground ball up the middle. With the infield at normal depth, the ball would have been turned into an inning-ending double play; but instead the shortstop couldn’t make the play and the ball was a run-scoring hit. Cord Phelps followed with a bases-loaded double, and Columbus won 5-1.
Brian Matusz, on a rehabilitation assignment, was the Tides’ starter in Game 2. Matusz had been promoted directly from AA to the major leagues, and his start Friday night was the first time that he had ever pitched in Norfolk. Even though Matusz wasn’t as sharp or as overpowering as some would have thought, he still struck out seven batters in five scoreless innings. Meanwhile, Kyle Hudson beat out a bunt for a single in the third inning. The next batter, Matt Angle, sacrificed. Hudson kept running toward a temporarily-undefended third base and scored when the throw to third was wild. In the sixth, Matusz gave up two quick singles and was replaced by Pat Egan, who was greeted with a game-tying single. In the seventh inning, Hudson tried to make a diving catch of a line drive hit down the left-field line and failed; the hit was a triple. Columbus put the game out of reach later that inning on Cord Phelps’ two-run double. The final score was 5-2.
The outstanding pitching continued in Game 3. Columbus got a run in the top of the first inning off Mitch Atkins on a two-out double followed by a two-out single. After that, Atkins pitched into the seventh inning without giving up a run. Columbus’ starter Jeanmar Gomez retired the first twelve Norfolk batters and didn’t give up a run until the sixth inning. Columbus put several runners on base, but the Tides turned three double plays to help keep the Clippers from scoring. The Columbus bullpen prevented Norfolk from any threats until the bottom of the 13th inning, when the Tides won the game on a Matt Angle single, a sacrifice, an intentional walk, and a bloop single by Josh Bell.
Neither starting pitcher was effective in Game 4. Tides’ starter Jason Berken, a struggling Orioles relief pitcher on a low pitch count, couldn’t find the strike zone consistently and walked four batters in 2 2/3 innings. He was relieved by Chris George, a swingman who was victimized by the hot Cord Phelps and some shaky defense. Clippers’ starter David Huff couldn’t miss Tides’ bats consistently; he gave up five runs on ten hits in four innings and was helped when the Tides’ third-base coach inexplicably sent Brandon Snyder home when the relay man was already holding the ball. After the starters left, once again the bullpens continued to shut their opponents down until the tenth, when the amazing Mr. Phelps (who drove in nine of the Clippers’ 17 runs in the series) ripped a two-out single to give the Clippers a 6-5 lead (and ultimately a 6-5 win.)
The Norfolk Tides’ 2010 season came to an end last Friday. Over the year, I scored 41 games for Baseball Advanced Media (BAM) or Baseball Information Solutions (BIS). Every one of those games were scored pitch-by-pitch, and consequently there’s a lot of information. There’s probably no more than five other people in the ballpark who have to watch the games as closely as I do — the BIS scorer(s) also working the game; the visiting team broadcaster (if there’s only one — some teams use two, even on the road; the Tides have two broadcasters who split the play-by-play on the radio, so neither has to watch every play); the scoreboard operator. Even the official scorer doesn’t have to watch every pitch; and at times will be looking at a video replay of a close decision.
This means that I’m in a good position to have informed opinions about most of the Tides. The Tides exist to develop players for the Baltimore Orioles, their current parent. And so, during the Tides’ off-season, I will be sharing my opinions about the 2010 Norfolk Tides. These opinions will be based on my observations and, in many cases, looking at baseball-reference.com for some context.
I will be using the format Bill James used in his Baseball Book 1991. He proposed ”basic questions” about each player and then answered them. The basic question for Nolan Reimold: Can he come back? The basic question for Brandon Snyder: Is he the Orioles first baseman of the future? The basic question for Chris Tillman: Will he ever stick?
Because these entries will be (presumably) read by Orioles and/or Tides fans, I’m going to assume that the readers know who most of these players are. While there will still be several players for whom the basic question is ”Who is he?”, there won’t be as many as there would be if I were writing this for a broader audience.
Norfolk is hosting Durham for a five-game series, ending this afternoon (as I enter this.) I worked the Thursday and Sunday games for BAM from the press box, and the Friday game for BIS from the seats. Friday’s game was notable for some dominating pitching, and Sunday’s game was just plain fun.
Both Friday starting pitchers, Old Ramon Ortiz for the Bulls and Young Zach Britton for the Tides, were sharp. Relief pitchers Jake McGee for the Bulls and Jim Hoey for the Tides were dominant. McGee pitched 1 2/3 innings, striking out four. Hoey was even more dominant, also pitching 1 2/3 innings, striking out all five batters he faced. Even more interestingly, in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings — covering a total of eighteen outs — there were eleven total strikeouts and eight balls hit into play. Of the eight balls hit into play, four did not reach the infield dirt; and three of those would not have reached the infield dirt even if the fielders did not interfere.
Unfortunately for Hoey, he unleashed a wild pitch during one of his strikeouts that allowed the eventual game-winning run to score. This run was abetted by an egregiously bad call on a stolen base attempt by an out-of-position umpire. There are only three umpires in an AAA game, and with runners on first and second, the third umpire takes a position near second base. J.J. Furmaniak broke for third base, and the Tides catcher Adam Donachie delivered an ugly throw toward third. Despite that, Scott Moore corraled the throw and clearly applied a tag while the diving Furmaniak was still a foot from the bag. But the umpire, apparently overly influenced by the lack of aesthetics on Donachie’s throw and hindered by his position, hesitatingly called Furmaniak safe. It was Furmaniak who scored on the wild pitch.
Sunday’s game — well, let’s look at the linescore to start:
DUR 0 0 0 2 2 4 0 0 1 9
NOR 0 0 0 2 4 2 0 0 0 8
It was a pitcher’s duel at the beginning, and at the end, and a slugfest in the middle. Pat Egan pitched the sixth inning and was done in by back-to-back errors, leading to another unusual pitching line — 1 4 4 0 0 0.
By the time August rolls around, the games tend to blur into each other to some degree. What happened in that mid-June 5-2 win against Pawtucket? Was it the 3-2 loss or the 4-3 loss when the winning run scored on the balk? It takes quite a lot to distinguish a game from the others in the season. Last night’s 11-6 Tides win over Indianapolis had quite a lot of distinguishing characteristics:
· The Tides scored only one run more than twice the number of errors they committed. Now, it’s never a good thing when a team scores only twice as many runs as it commits errors. If they didn’t commit a lot of errors – say 0 or 1 – then the offense didn’t score many runs. Conversely, if the team scored a lot of runs, and still only scored twice as many runs as it committed errors, then they committed a LOT of errors. Last night, the Tides did score more than twice as many runs as they committed errors – but just barely. While the Tides scored 11 runs in their 11-6 victory over Indianapolis, they also committed five errors.
· POCS2(13E6).3-H(NR);1-3(E6/TH). That’s the BAM scoring code for one of the more peculiar plays I’ve seen. It took four people to get the official scoring right and three people to get the code right. With runners on first and third and two out, Tides pitcher Zach Britton threw to first to pick off the runner. Alex Presley, on first base, broke for second. First baseman Michael Aubrey threw to shortstop Robert Andino, and Brian Bixler on third base broke for home. Andino dropped the throw, and Presley scampered back to first. Bixler scored. Andino, trying to catch Presley, threw back to first but heaved the ball into the dugout. Presley was awarded third base. Brandon Moss, the batter, followed with a home run. We decided that Bixler’s run should be earned, because he would have scored before Presley would have been put out for the third out; but that Presley’s run (and Moss’s run) should be unearned because had Andino not dropped the throw and threw wildly, then Presley would have been the third out of the inning and Moss wouldn’t have hit the home run. Obvious decision – charge Andino with a throwing error allowing Presley to move from first to third. If that’s the only error on the play, then we’re in a bind. We can’t give Bixler a steal of home, because he scored as the result of the misplay. So he’d have to score on the throwing error, which would ultimately make his run unearned. We decided that we had to charge Andino with two errors – one on the dropped catch and a second one on the throw. That served justice, but made for some complicated coding.
· We’re convinced that the home-plate umpire overlooked a pitch. All of us in the press box were convinced that the batter had a count of 3 balls, 1 strike. The batter took a pitch and the umpire called it a ball, but the batter stayed put. Okay, it must have been a count of 2 balls, 2 strikes, and we missed a signal – except that the next pitch was called a strike and the batter still stayed put, with a 3-2 count. I was recording each pitch as it happened, and the others in the press box were paying attention, and we still don’t know what happened. Eventually the batter struck out.
Baseball games are not children’s stories. Good does not always emerge victorious; the plucky underdog, coming back from long odds, does not always triumph.
Friday and Saturday, the Buffalo Bisons played the Norfolk Tides. In any work of fiction, the Bisons would be the bad guys. Their lineup is populated with the best players outside of the major leagues; standing at the plate, players like Mike Hessman, Valentino Pascucci, and Mike Jacobs resemble defensive tackles. In contrast, Tides Matt Angle, Paco Figueroa, and Blake Davis resemble middle-schoolers. The Bisons are the Gashouse Gorillas to the Tides’ Tea Totallers.
The Bisons jumped out to a 6-0 lead after the top half of the fourth. It would have been easy for the Tides to fold, but they battled against crafty control-pitcher Tobi Stoner. When overpowering right-handed relief pitcher Bobby Parnell — he of the 96-mile-an-hour fastball — came in the seventh, it didn’t look good. But the scrappy Tides pecked away at the physically dominating Parnell, and tied the game at 6.
In any work of baseball fiction, the Tides would complete the comeback, winning the game against overpowering odds and being an inspiration to us all. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a work of fiction. Relief pitcher Mike Hinckley loaded the bases and then walked Russ Adams on a 3-2 count. Cla Meredith came in; after a strikeout, Pascucci roped a bases-clearing double off the left-center-field wall. The final score ended up 11-6.
More proof of the unfairness of baseball was presented Saturday night. The Tides’ major-league partner, the Baltimore Orioles, ordered that the Tides not start Jake Arrieta, on the off-chance that they would want him as their thirteenth pitcher. So, naturally, Andy Mitchell, on about five minutes warmup, started and gave up seven runs in two innings. Once again, the Tides refused to give up. They fought back and closed to within one run at 8-7. And once again, their valiant effort went for naught, as the Bisons-Gorillas scored four runs in the ninth inning. Had they not done so, the Tides two runs in the ninth would have been enough for a win; as it is, the Bisons won 12-9.
Somewhere, there must be an underdog who climbed back from insurmountable odds to triumph. Somewhere, a Little Engine That Could is proving that he could not merely think he can, but proves that he really can. Somewhere, a Butler beats Duke. But there is no joy in Norfolk.
2006 was the first year I served as datacaster for the Norfolk Tides. That year, the Tides were the AAA affiliate of the New York Mets, as they had been for the preceding 36 years. The Mets, to be honest, were a terrible parent team. They were arrogant, treating the Tides as if the Tides should be lucky to be affiliated with them. And the 2006 Mets were truly a terrible AAA team — the only halfway-decent prospect was Lastings Milledge; the opening-day roster included what we refer to, sarcastically, as the “Fab Four” — Todd Self, who has been the standard of batting incompetence; Julio Ramirez, legendary for losing ground to a bounding ground ball while chasing it in center field; Juan Tejeda, who is to first-base defense what Todd Self is to offense; and Cory Aldridge, whose most memorable came when he slid into home plate and yanked the ball out of the catcher’s glove, only to be caught by the umpire. After these four were released, Michael Tucker, Jacob Cruz, and Jose Offerman joined the Tides; about a decade or a decade-and-a-half late.
The Tides severed their relationship with the Mets after 2006, establishing a relationship with the Baltimore Orioles. But now it’s looking like the 2006 Tides have been cursed. It’s been only four years, yet three of the pitchers on the 2006 Tides have already passed away:
- Geremi Gonzalez, a Venezuelan ex-major leaguer who started six games for the 2006 Tides, died on May 25, 2008 after being struck by lightning.
- Jose Lima, who led the 2006 Tides in innings pitched, died on May 23 of this year of a heart attack.
- And Jeriome Robertson, who pitched 38 2/3 innings with a 7.68 ERA for the 2006 Tides, died on May 29 of this year in a motorcycle accident.
I’ll be honest — I really have no idea who would have cursed the 2006 Tides pitchers. None of the theories I can come up with make sense. But if I were Blake McGinley, Orlando Roman, or Steve Schmoll, I’d start getting worried toward the end of next May.
My stepdaughter is back home after her sophomore year at college. Last Monday, I worked the Rochester – Norfolk game for BIS. When I got home after the game, she asked how the game was and I said that the Tides won, 2-1. She responded “I’m sorry the game wasn’t more exciting.”
She probably would have been even more convinced that the game wasn’t interesting if I had told her that the game lasted 2:50, and that all the runs were scored in the first inning. That’s right; it was 2-1 Tides after the first inning, and it ended 2-1 Tides.
But the game was exciting. Rochester got its leadoff batter on base in every one of Tides’ starter Chris Tillman’s six innings. That meant that Rochester was always threatening to tie the game — not in the “every batter could hit one out” sense, but in the tangible sense that something was going on. Rochester center fielder Jason Repko made an outstanding, lunging, diving catch of a line drive to rob Blake Davis of an extra-base hit. In the eighth inning, with two out, Rochester’s Danny Valencia walked; Jacque Jones singled him to second. Wilson Ramos singled sharply to left field; Tides left fielder Jeff Salazar gunned Valencia at the plate (Valencia was just touching third base when Salazar let his throw go.) In the ninth, Matt “Mother” Macri singled, took second on a wild pitch, and was sacrificed to third. Repko was hit by a pitch. Matt Tolbert hit a hard ground ball to the right of first baseman Brandon Snyder; Snyder threw to second base to force Repko. The throw was off-line, but somehow Blake Davis stretched out full-body, kept his toe on the bag, and got the force-out. Even more improbably, he lifted himself to one knee, threw back to first, and somehow got enough on the ball to retire the speedy Tolbert in time to complete the double-play. Game over!
From the sublime to the ridiculous — in the sixth inning, Valencia singled. On the first pitch to Jones, he broke for second — and managed to get over halfway to second base before Tillman reacted — by pitching to the plate. Needless to say, Valencia stole the base easily. Kudos to Tillman for concentration, but not so much for the teammates who must have seen Valencia break and apparently failed to alert Tillman.