Sometimes the best ideas in life can come when one is having their morning coffee. For this 23 year old broadcaster, that moment happens more often than not. I love coffee, the taste and the spark it gives me to function. Yet while in college, coffee wasn’t just a morning routine, it was a nighttime necessity; my friends can vouch for my double fisting of two french roasts while writing a history paper in the caverns of the Northwestern University Library. Wherever I may be, some of my best thoughts are coffee fueled, which is why I thought it might be appropriate to offer some thoughts on LumberKings baseball. Here are two of my February 22nd coffee thoughts.
1. Walk rates must improve
If anyone followed the 2015 LumberKings, they know that one of biggest problems that the pitching staff had were the inordinate amount of free passes they issued. Clinton walked more batters (519) than any of the other 15 Midwest League teams. That amounts to a 3.73 walks per game average, and a 3.82 walks per nine innings average. However, this was not just a problem for the LumberKings, but rather the entire organization. Let us take a look at the walks/nine innings rates for all of the Mariners affiliates
• Tacoma Rainiers: 3.08
• Jackson Generals: 3.85
• Bakersfield Blaze: 2.97
• Clinton LumberKings: 3.82
• Everett AquaSox: 3.82
These numbers indicate that walks have been a problem across the entire organization, yet with the new “control the zone” philosophy that we expect to be implemented system wide, expect lower walks rates across the board. It may seem like an overstatement of the obvious, but the less walks, the less runs given up. If the 2016 LumberKings can get that 3.82 closer to three, I think you will see a remarkable improvement in terms of length of starts and win total. Just so you all can see the math, if the 2016 LumberKings have a walks/nine innings rate of three, based on the amount of innings pitched in 2015, they would issue a grand total of 407 walks, 112 less than last year. Thats 112 less opportunities for runs to score. Simple and straight forward analytics.
2. Offensive strikeout rates must improve
Another oversimplification of the obvious, but so often last year it seemed as if the LumberKings had a chance to drive in a run, the batter at the plate would strike out. In general though, strikeouts proved to be the Achilles heel for the 2015 LumberKings offense. Clinton struck out 1177 times last year, second most in the Midwest League behind the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who had 1178 punch-outs. The LumberKings averaged 8.46 strikeouts per game, and averaged one strikeout per 3.94 at bats. It also didn’t help that the 2015 LumberKings had four players who ranked in the top 15 in total strikeouts. Yet was this a problem across the whole organization? Lets take a look at the other affiliates strikeouts/game and strikeout per at bat averages
• Tacoma Rainiers: 7.02 SO/game, 1 SO per 4.95 at bats
• Jackson Generals: 7.18 SO/game, 1 SO per 4.52 at bats
• Bakersfield Blaze: 8.97 SO/game, 1 SO per 3.74 at bats
• Clinton LumberKings: 8.46 SO/game, 1 SO per 3.94 at bats
• Everett AquaSox: 7.88 SO/game, 1 SO per 4.27 at bats
What these numbers can tell you is that there is a struggle at the lower levels to make contact. Bakersfield also lead the California League in team strikeouts (1256) so the rates you see for them and the LumberKings are what needs to improve the most. During the April and May months, conditions in the Midwest favor pitchers, so there will be an adjustment for many players who have never played in cold weather on a consistent basis. Once the season reaches the midway point, I will try to compare strikeout rates from month to month to see if weather in fact does make a difference. Regardless, if the strikeout numbers go down, the odds of driving in runs will improve dramatically simply because the more the ball is put in play, the better chance you have to advance runners on base. Simple enough right?
Well, I’ve finished my morning brew. Have a topic you think I should mull on over a cup of coffee? Leave a comment and I’ll make sure that I get to it on the next edition of Monday Coffee Thoughts.
One of the absolute greatest architectural marvels in the United States is Mount Rushmore. Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, it is an ode to some of the greatest leaders in our country’s history. While it was being constructed during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who in my opinion ranks as one of the most impactful presidents in United States history). The monument consists of George Washington, known as the father of our country, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the brains behind the constitutional framework of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, the man who abolished slavery in America, and Teddy Roosevelt, one of the 20th century’s most progressive leaders. As someone who majored in history in college, I could go on all day about the accomplishments of these presidents, but this is a baseball blog. So with it, we will talk about LumberKings baseball, but with a presidential twist.
You see, Mount Rushmore is more than just a monument, it is in a way an acknowledgement of the four most impactful presidents. So how does this tie into baseball? There has been a team in Clinton since 1937, and many a great player has come through here on their way to stardom. Here at the LumberBlog, we thought we could have some Friday Fun by creating our own Mount Rushmore of former Clinton greats. In assembling this list, we are not only judging their major league careers, but also their time in Clinton. This will be in chronological order in terms of when they played in Clinton. Without further ado, lets meet our Mt Rushmore of former Clinton players.
George Washington – Denny McLain
McLain is here more because of his major league pedigree than his performance in Clinton, but his performance in the Midwest League was impactful. With Clinton (at that time a White Sox affiliate) in 1962, McLain went 4-7 with a 3.56 ERA in 16 games (13 starts) spanning 91 innings pitched. Of his 13 starts, eight of them were complete games, including two shutouts. His 2.51 strikeout to walk ratio was decent, but while his stats aren’t overwhelmingly spectacular, he was only 18 years old. Considering where players are in their development at 18, McLain was way ahead of the curve at the time. McLain broke into the big leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 1963, and enjoyed a ten year career in which he won 131 games and compiled a career 3.39 earned run average. He was a three time all star, and won back to back Cy Young Awards with the Tigers in 1968 and 1969. His 1968 season is considered one of the greatest ever, as he went 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA in 41 starts over 336 innings. He lead the majors in wins, innings pitched, starts, complete games (9), and strikeout to walk ratio (4.44), which also helped garner him the AL MVP. He was just the 2nd player in major league history at the time to win back to back Cy Young Awards, (Sandy Koufax won in 1965 and 1966). Whats maybe even more amazing is that in 1965, McLain did not make the All Star team despite posting a 16-6 record with a 2.61 earned run average over 220 innings. His career dropped off significantly after 1969, but McLain’s best years were hard to match.
Thomas Jefferson – Dave Stewart
Unlike McLain, while Stewart had a long and successful big league career, his campaign with the 1977 Clinton Dodgers was off the charts. Stewart went 17-4 with a 2.15 earned run average over 176 innings, making 24 starts and throwing 15 complete games (3 of them being shutouts). He broke into the majors for good in 1981, although he made a relief appearance with the Dodgers in 1978. His best years came from 1987-1990 with the Oakland Athletics, when he won 20 or more games in four consecutive seasons. Although his only All Star appearance came in 1989 (he also finished 2nd in Cy Young voting that year), 1990 was arguably a better statistical season. “Smoke” went 22-11 with a 2.56 ERA, and lead MLB in innings pitched (267), and complete games (11) and shutouts (4). Also, since Washington’s birthday is on the 22nd, it was worth putting someone born in this time period on the list. Today is Stewart’s 59th birthday!
Abraham Lincoln – Jason Bay
The first position player on this list, Bay didn’t spend a full season in Clinton, but the time he spent with the 2001 LumberKings was impactful. In 318 at bats, Bay hit .362 with a .449 on base percentage, bopping 13 home runs and driving in 61 runs. He also slugged .572, giving him an OPS of 1.024. Bay rose quickly through the Expos system, and was traded twice before hitting the bigs full time with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2004. His 04 campaign was on point, hitting .282 with 26 home runs and 82 RBIs, which helped him garner the National League Rookie of the Year. In three of his next four years, Bay hit 30+ home runs and had 100+ RBI, with him still hitting 21 home runs in a down year in 2007. During the middle of 2008, Bay was traded to the Boston Red Sox, and in 2009, he had one of his best years, hitting .267, blasting 36 home runs and driving in 119 runs (both career highs). Bay signed a lucrative contract with the New York Mets prior to the 2010 season, but never lived up to his previous numbers. He retired after the 2013 season, with three All Star appearances to his name.
Teddy Roosevelt – Ian Kinsler
Kinsler is known as one of the best power hitting middle infielders in major league baseball, and that trend held true during the first half of his season with the 2004 LumberKings. Kinsler hit a whopping .402 in Clinton with 11 home runs and 52 RBI in 224 at bats. He was so good that he got promoted to Double A Frisco, and hit .300 with 9 home runs and 46 RBI in 277 at bats. Kinsler broke into the majors in 2006 with the Texas Rangers, hitting .286 in his rookie campaign. He has hit 30+ home runs twice and has made four All Star appearances. For Kinsler, there is still more greatness to come.
Have a different opinion? Another name that should be carved into our monument? Leave a comment on the LumberBlog. We will have another monument ode to the managers, coming up next week. Hope you had some Friday Fun, presidential style!
It’s Friday, the end of the week, and the prelude in
to Valentine’s Day weekend. On a personal level, I’m not the biggest Valentine’s Day fan; quite honestly I can’t stand it. But, for the sake of those who do, we are going to have some Friday Fun (in case you didn’t catch on already, thats what most Friday blog posts will be called) by comparing potential 2016 LumberKings with our favorite messages from Valentine’s Day heart candy.
Although I have already said that I do not like Valentine’s Day, I love the candy hearts. When I was 10 years old I could down a box of those in about five minutes (I do not condone doing that by any means!). Still, it was always fun to investigate the different messages that would come on the candy. In the modern age, some of the messages are obsolete, (I for one wouldn’t ask a girl to Fax Me). Here are some of my best candy heart comparisons for potential 2016 LumberKings.
BE MINE – Logan Taylor
The BE MINE heart is one of desire. It says to the recipient that your presence is necessary. For the 2015 AquaSox, Logan Taylor’s presence in the lineup was a necessity. A 12th round draft pick out of Texas A&M last year, Taylor played all over the diamond. A college shortstop, Taylor played second base, third base, left field, and right field last season for Everett. He hit .267 in 60 games, knocking out four homers and driving in 42 (those 42 RBI rank 2nd among all 2015 AquaSox). Simply put, Taylor is the ideal utility man. He hits for a decent clip, has above average power, and can drive in runs. In his final year at Texas A&M, Taylor lead the Aggies in home runs (10) and RBI (52) while hitting .333 in 63 games played. Simply put, be ours Logan Taylor, because you are getting someone that can do everything and do it well.
SOUL MATE – Ryan Uhl
Every baseball fan’s soul mate is the long ball. People love seeing the baseball travel out of the park, and Ryan Uhl does just that. Uhl has a very interesting background, being a 7th round pick in the 2015 draft out of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a division II school. In his senior season at IUP, Uhl put up unreal numbers, hitting .415 with a .536 on base percentage, and hit 29 home runs in just 142 at bats! Whats even more insane is that he hit 16 more home runs last year than he did in his first three seasons combined! Uhl also set a school and conference record with 74 RBI last season. He is the second player coming from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference to be drafted by the Mariners in the last two seasons (Mercyhurst’s Dan Altavilla was drafted in the 5th round in 2014). Uhl got off to a fast start in Everett, but cooled off towards the end of the Northwest League season, finishing with a .259 average, four home runs, and 35 RBI. While its unrealistic for anyone to expect Uhl to perform at the same level he did his senior season in college, but for the 6’6″ 230 pound first baseman, if he shows off that power potential in 2016, he will be everybody’s home run soul mate.
YOU ROCK – Anthony Misiewicz
There isn’t as much of a romantic feel to the you rock candy heart, but what it tells the recipient is that they’re awesome. In his first professional season, awesome is how to describe left handed pitcher Anthony Misiewicz. Pronounced Mih-seh-vich, he was on point during his professional debut. posting a 3-2 record with a 2.14 earned run average over 46.1 innings with the 2015 AquaSox. Opponents only hit .189 against him, while striking out 40 and allowing only 10 walks. He was an 18th round pick last season out of Michigan State, where he went 5-4 with a 3.80 ERA over 68.2 innings in 2015. There proved to be a lot of value in picking Misiewicz, and it paid off big time in his professional debut season. If 2016 is anything like 2015, he will continue to rock.
I LOVE YOU – Alex Jackson
The classic “I LOVE YOU” heart. Simple, short, and to the point. And we love Alex Jackson, because of what he can bring to the table. Jackson was part of the 2015 LumberKings, starting the season on the opening day roster. However, the 6th overall pick in the 2014 draft struggled in his first full season, hitting only .157 with no home runs in Clinton before getting hurt. He then was on Everett’s opening day roster, and showed signs of life, hitting eight home runs in 163 at bats with the AquaSox. Jackson is only 20 years old, and while his 2015 season wasn’t ideal statistically, his potential should give LumberKings and Mariners fans alike a lot to look forward to in 2016. In other words, we love you Alex Jackson.
We hope you enjoyed this Valentine’s Day edition of Friday Fun. Happy Valentine’s Day from The LumberBlog!
A great idea that has been developing this offseason is something you see right now, right here on this page. The Seattle System Scoop is the name of the podcast that will be recorded throughout the season, and posted right here on the LumberBlog, as well as on our website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (Follow at Clinton LKings). Its a podcast that is a discussion about the Mariners farm system, with the contributors being myself, and the other four broadcasters from the other minor league affiliates. Those people being Mike Curto (Tacoma Rainiers) Brandon Liebhaber (Jackson Generals), Dan Besbris (Bakersfield Blaze), and Pat Dillon (Everett AquaSox).
In the first episode, we discuss the changes in the philosophy of the Mariners player development department, as well as a breakdown of Baseball America’s Top 10 Mariners prospects. You can find that list right here. Take a listen, we know you’ll enjoy our first episode. Audio Link
It’s been over four years since Dave Lezotte signed off from The LumberBlog, and it is time to bring this great publication back with full force. My name is Greg Mroz, and I am honored to be the new play by play broadcaster for the Clinton LumberKings. I won’t bore you all too much with biographical information, but what I promise you is that this blog will once again be a fun and informative source for LumberKings news, information, highlights, interviews, and other interesting bits of content. The goal of this blog reboot is to give you, the fans, a fun platform to interact with our team. I very much look forward to hearing your input and feedback. Stay tuned for some fun and exciting content leading up to Opening Day!
My apologies to regular readers for not posting more content as of late, but I’ve been going through a pretty large personal and professional transition. This week is my final week as the Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations with your Clinton LumberKings. I have accepted a new position with the Gwinnett Braves, Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. There, I’ll be putting my writing skills to work as the new Media Relations Coordinator. It’s a huge jump for me in a lot of ways, but I’m hoping my six years of experience here have prepared me well for the job.
The move unfortunately means that I won’t be contributing to this blog anymore. On my “things I’ll miss about Clinton” list, posting on the LumberBlog will probably rank second behind the radio broadcast itself. I started this thing back in 2009 not really knowing what I was going to do with it, and eventually it became a way to share all of my daily work with you. I’ve said it before, but I’m continually surprised with how many visitors the blog generates monthly. The LumberBlog finished #28 on the MLBlogs Top 50 list this past month and has been in the Top 50 for every month since May of 2009. All of that traffic for a blog covering a small-market, low-A team.
Thanks again for reading regularly or simply checking in every now and again, it has meant a lot to me.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that searches on Derek Holland spiked my blog traffic over the weekend. That sort of thing will happen when you toss 8.1 scoreless, tw0-hit innings in the World Series, easily the biggest pitching performance in Texas Rangers history. The former LumberKings ace is now firmly entrenched into baseball lore.
And, if you missed it, here’s a look via TexasRangers.com at Holland’s series-evening outing last night: http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?c_id=tex&content_id=19943841&topic_id=25588886
I’d love to say that I knew he’d be this good when he was dominating Midwest Leaguers just three years ago, but I’d be lying. He was special then, but he was historic last night.
There’s a new addition coming to Ashford University Field for 2012. The “Bullpen Patio” will be a new group area with high-top tables positioned just behind the LumberKings’ bullpen down the left-field line. Groups of 10-50 will be able to reserve the patio for just $12 a person.
Check out the “Bullpen Patio” as it takes shape:
It’s obviously a ways from being finished, but hopefully you get an idea of the area it will occupy. If you’d like to reserve a date for the “Bullpen Patio”, do so by calling 563-242-0727. Tell ’em Dave sent you (you won’t receive a discount for this).
Former LumberKings’ left-hander Derek Holland may have given up four runs on three homers over 4.2 innings on Saturday, but he and the Texas Rangers are headed back to the World Series via a 15-5 win over the Detroit Tigers. That means fellow former Kings Ian Kinsler (’04), Mitch Moreland (’08), Craig Gentry (’07) and Neftali Feliz (’08) get another shot at that ring, while Holland gets to keep growing the playoff ‘stache. The Rangers will meet the Maikel Cleto-less St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the phyiscal city of Holland must be celebrating right now after the Netherlands captured the 2011 IBAF World Cup title with a 2-1 win over Cuba on Saturday. The game, played in Panama, featured former LumberKings Kalian Sams (’09-’11) and Danny Rombley (’01-’02) in the lineup, while infielder Vince Rooi (’01) remained on the bench.
Sams went 0-for-2 with a walk while Rombley went 0-for-4. View the full box score of the title game here: http://ibaf.prod.kgroup.eu/stats/2011/panama/games/76.htm
Who knew Clinton had so many ties to the Dutch, including “the Dutch Oven“?
For those of you tuning in to Game 3 of the NLCS tonight, you’ll see an addition to the Milwaukee Brewers’ uniforms. The “GV” patch has been added to honor the memory of Brewers’ Director of Grounds Gary VandenBerg, who passed away yesterday after a battle with cancer.
I wanted to briefly say a few words about Gary, who became my first boss when he hired me on to the Brewers Grounds Crew in 2000. For 30-plus years, nobody served the Brewers better than Gary, and he never looked for the spotlight for doing so. He was as kind and understanding a boss as anyone could ever ask for, yet he imparted a strong work ethic and sense of pride in all of us that worked for him. It was with his lead that we all strived to be the best Grounds Crew in baseball.
I worked for Gary for five full seasons and parts of two more and can say that his example of professionalism and attention to detail is something that I hope has rubbed off on me. The Ryan Brauns and Prince Fielders of baseball get the attention, but it’s people like Gary that truly make an organization great.
He will be missed greatly by all of us who donned the yellow Grounds polo.