Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tucson-Victoria Series Preview

With the Tucson Toros and Victoria Seals set to start a four-game series at Royal Athletic Park on Tuesday night, here's a preview of what we might see from these two teams.

Both teams sit in fourth place in their respective divisions and neither team has been playing particularly well of late. The Toros have a 10-15 record and are currently mired in a 4-game losing streak after being swept by the powerful Calgary Vipers. The Seals have lost four of their last five games to lower their record to 13-21.

Tucson brings a bunch of aggressive hitters into RAP who are clearly not afraid to swing the bat. They trail only Calgary in team batting average with an impressive .327 mark. In contrast, the Seals are last in the league with a .271 average. The Toros also have 5 of the top 19 batters in the league on their squad, lead by DH Jim Rushford. Rushford is second overall in hitting with a sparkling .398 batting average.

The Toros don't walk or strikeout much, so you can expect them to put the ball in play. And when they do put it in play, they tend to do it with authority. The Toros are 3rd in the league with a .579 slugging percentage, while the Seals are 7th best with a .486 mark. Second baseman Skip "Patch" Adams leads the Toros in power numbers with an impressive .650 slugging percentage, which includes 5 homers, 9 doubles and 2 triples.

On the pitching side of things, Tucson has struggled almost as much as the Seals. Tucson is 7th in the league with a 5.62 ERA, while Victoria sports an unsightly 6.02 mark. The Tucson pitching staff gives up the fewest walks in the league, so the patient hitters on the Victoria side would be well advised to swing the sticks a little more aggressively over the next four games than they normally do.

One area where Victoria likely holds an advantage is in the bullpen. Stud closer Javier Garcia is seven-for-seven in save opportunities for the Seals this season and opponents are batting .114 against him. In addition, relievers Roberto Sotolongo, Phil Sobkow, Graham Campbell and Ethan Katz have been part of a much-improved Seals bullpen of late. On the other hand, the Toros don't have a real closer on their team. Tom Wilhelmson leads Tucson with two saves, but he holds a sky-high 9.45 ERA and is currently on the Inactive List. The majority of the hurlers in the Toros bullpen have struggled mightily this season, so we could see the Seals score a few runs before Tucson leaves town.

Injury Notes:

  • Seals third baseman Brian Rios was pulled from Saturday’s game after suffering a minor groin pull. He sat out Sunday’s game as a precaution and is expected to return this week.
  • Catcher Josh Arhart, who has not played since June 23rd, is also due back in the Tucson series. Matt Kavanaugh filled in admirably in his absence. Kavanaugh hit .333 with 5 RBIs in five starts behind the plate to raise his batting average to .237 on the year.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Seal Blubber Bits for June 28

Here are an assortment of Seal Blubber Bits to gnaw on as we wait for our boys to return home to start a 10-game homestand on Tuesday:

  • Sunday's 11-3 thrashing at the hands of the Edmonton Capitals means that the Seals went a disappointing 2-4 on their road trip to Alberta. A lack of pitching was again the culprit, as Victoria gave up 39 runs in the six games. Eduardo Baeza was knocked around in both of his starts and gave up a whopping 17 earned runs in his 6 1/3 innings of work.

  • Victorian Graham Campbell was one of the few bright spots for the Seals on Sunday. He held the Capitals to only one run on six hits in 5 2/3 innings of relief. It wouldn't be a shock to see Campbell eventually work his way into the starting rotation.
  • Saskatchewan native Phil Sobkow has been pitching well since joining the Seals. In his four relief appearances, he has struck out six and given up only one earned run in three innings.
  • The Seals remain third in Golden League attendance with an average of exactly 2,000 fans per game. Although Victoria led the Canadian Baseball League in attendance in 2003, only about 1,700 fans per game came out to Royal Athletic Park during that abbreviated season.

  • The Tucson Toros are in town for a four-game series starting on Tuesday night. The Toros have a 10-15 record and are fourth in the South Division.

  • Incidentally, the Toros lead the league in attendance with 4,182 fans per game. Tucson is a strong baseball market and has a long history of supporting AAA baseball. Their home park, Hi Corbett Field, is also the spring training home of the Colorado Rockies.

  • Tucson is managed by former Toronto Blue Jays manager Tim Johnson. Hard-core Blue Jays fans will remember that Johnson was fired in spring training in 1999, largely because he was caught lying about his service in the Vietnam War. According to Wikipedia, "He said he'd lied because he felt guilty about going to spring training with the Dodgers while many of his friends fought in the war. He entered therapy, and called several of his players to apologize for lying."

  • The Golden Baseball League has a channel on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/goldenbaseballleague. It's worth checking out just to see Theo Fleury play pro baseball for the Calgary Vipers in August of last year.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pick the Seals Cleanup Hitter

Which player do you think would make the best cleanup hitter, based on year-to-date stats?
  • Player A - .319 batting average (BA), .398 on-base percentage (OBP), .495 slugging percentage (SLG)
  • Player B - .267 BA, .382 OBP, .433 SLG
  • Player C - .279 BA, .347 BA, .529 SLG

I'd be tempted to answer Player C or Player A. Player C has the highest slugging percentage of the three and the second-highest batting average. His OBP is the lowest of the three, but you don't need a high OBP from the cleanup hitter -- he needs to drive in the runs. It's close, but I'd take Player C out of this group.

If you are Darrell Evans, the answer seems to be Player B. Yes, player B is Jamar Hill. A better choice for cleanup hitter, however, would be Player C - Carlos Duncan. I'd also settle for Player A - Josh Arhart.

For some strange reason, Duncan has been batting 8th for the Seals. After racking my brain, the only possible reason for Evans to waste Duncan in the eight-hole is that Bret LeVier has had such a rough time of it at the plate batting ninth that Evans thinks that Duncan better clear the bases or else any remaining baserunners will be stranded. It's as if Evans has placed Duncan into the "second cleanup" role, if that role even exists in baseball (it sounds like a Victoria slo-pitch concept).

In my humble opinion, putting a player with the fifth highest slugging percentage on the team into the cleanup position is questionable. Slotting a player with the highest slugging percentage on the team into the eight-hole is even more so, especially if your defensive-specialist catcher (Matt Kavanaugh) is batting seventh with a .192 batting average.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sotolongo Providing Bullpen Stability

The Seals lost to the Vipers on Thursday 7-5 and fell to 12-19 on the season. Starting pitcher Travis Wade struggled again, giving up seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. His ERA ballooned to 6.88, while his record is now a dismal 1-5.

The silver lining in this latest cloud was the performance of the Victoria bullpen. Even though Calgary put up six runs in the bottom of the second and one in the fourth to pull ahead 7-0, the Seals bullpen shut the door through the final 4 2/3 innings and gave the team a chance to come back. Unfortunately, the rally fell a little short and Seals-killer and ex-Mariner Mac Suzuki picked up his first save of the season.

Havana native Roberto Sotolongo pitched 3 2/3 innings of scoreless, one-hit baseball to register his best outing of the season. He also struck out three batters. Sotolongo started in his first two appearances of the season and gave up 9 hits and three walks in a total of four innings. However, he has now pitched 6 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball since moving into the bullpen. The Seals have been searching for a bridge between their starters and closer extraordinaire Javier Garcia all season long, so Sotolongo's emergence is an extremely positive development. Let's hope he can keep it up.

Victoria's starting rotation continues to be a case of "Bibens-Dirkx, Hess and Forget the Rest". Here are the stats for Victoria's four regular starters:
  • Isaac Hess 4-0, 2.84 ERA
  • Austin Bibens-Dirkx 2-1, 3.67 ERA
  • Eduardo Baeza 1-5, 6.59 ERA
  • Travis Wade 1-5, 6.88 ERA

Needless to say, the team could really use a third reliable starter. Unfortunately, those don't exactly grow on trees, especially in the Golden League.

Seal Blubber Bits

  • Wilver Perez had his worst offensive game of the season on Thursday night, as he picked up the Golden Sombrero (4 strikeouts) on his way to an 0-5.
  • Chris VanRossum started in CF and led off, while Trevor Davidson spent the game riding the pine. VanRossum went 2-5 on the night. Advantage VanRossum.
  • Seals' play-by-play man Mike Walker quipped that VanRossum is playing so well right now that he should be called Chris Van Awesome.
  • Victoria pitchers Isaac Hess and Austin Bibens-Dirkx took turns doing colour commentary for Walker on Wednesday night. The change of pace added a nice bit of spice to the broadcast.
  • Given the Golden League's shortage of quality pitchers, it makes one wonder why they use a DH. It's not like the league needs the offense with many games providing football-style final scores.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Vipers Take a Bite Out of Seals

The beleaguered Victoria Seals pitching staff continued its struggles on Wednesday night as the team dropped an 11-7 decision to the Calgary Vipers. Eduardo Baeza took the loss to drop to 1-5. He gave up 7 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings and saw his ERA rise to 6.59.

The Seals rallied three times to overcome 1-0, 3-1 and 4-3 deficits. However, the Seals gave up a total of 10 runs in innings four through six and could not stage any late-game heroics.

Chris VanRossum returned to the lineup after a four-game absence. He played RF, while the regular right fielder Sergio Pedroza replaced Carlos Duncan as the DH. Van Rossum went 3-5 on the night and was a home run short of hitting for the cycle after clubbing a single, double and a triple. His average now sits at .270. The competition for the regular CF job and leadoff spot appears to be well underway. Rookie challenger Trevor Davidson played center field on Wednesday and went 0-4 at the plate to drop his average to .278.

Sergio Pedroza hit his fourth homer of the season in the fourth inning to tie Carlos Duncan and Jamar Hill for the team lead.

Veteran hurler Travis Wade (1-4, 5.58 ERA) starts for Victoria on Thursday night in the series finale. Then the Seals bus it to Edmonton for a three-game weekend set against the Capitals.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Victoria pulls within 5 games of division lead

The Seals defeated the Calgary Vipers 7-4 on Tuesday night and have won four of their last five games. Victoria has now pulled to within five games of the division-leading Vipers.

Isaac Hess earned the win and improved his record to a perfect 4-0. His ERA now sits at 2.84. Closer Javier Garcia record his seventh save in seven attempts by shutting the door in the last 1 2/3 innings, his longest outing of the season.

If the Seals can win the last two games of this series, they'll put themselves right in the thick of the race for the first-half division title. I really like the moxie on this squad. Given the momentum they currently have, anything is possible.

Seal Blubber Bits:
  • The scoreboard at RAP will not be installed until mid-July at the earliest. The initial three-week installation estimate has been revised now that those involved have taken into account the fact that Vancouver Island is rather rocky. Turns out, a bit of drilling will be required.

  • Trevor Davidson's two hits on Tuesday night raised his average to .313. Meanwhile, Chris VanRossum sits patiently on the bench.

  • Calgary's Fehlandt Lentini had three more hits on Tuesday night to raise his average to a sparkling .426. He also stole a pair of bases.

  • I heard an interesting assessment of the calibre of play in Golden League from an ex-Rotisserie League opponent on the weekend. He said "The Golden League has double-A hitting and single-A pitching." So true.

One final thought: I know you're out there. A fair number of people read this blog, based on the hit counts. However, very few of you have been leaving comments. I'd appreciate a bit of feedback, so please leave a comment and let us know your opinion on our posts or anything related to the Victoria Seals. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vipers-Seals Redux

The Calgary Vipers must be getting a little tired of playing Victoria. After the two teams played six games against one another in as many days (June 12th-17th), the Seals came home to face the Edmonton Capitals this past weekend. The Vipers on the other hand, have had five days off since losing 6-5 to the Seals last Wednesday in Calgary. The two teams are set to start another three-game series in the Snake Pit this evening, which means that Calgary will be playing nine consecutive games against Victoria. There appears to be no love loss between these two clubs, so the rivalry will only continue to build.

A quick look at the individual statistics for the Seals shows that Wilver Perez is quietly putting together an outstanding season. The Dominican Republic native is in his first season of independent baseball after spending three years in the Kansas City Royals organization. I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that Perez, along with Isaac Hess, are early leaders for team MVP consideration.

Here are the team batting leaders for the Seals:
  • Batting Average: Wilver Perez - .352
  • On Base Percentage: Sergio Pedroza and Wilver Perez - .421
  • Slugging Percentage: Carlos Duncan .571
  • Home Runs: Carlos Duncan and Jamar Hill - 4
  • RBIs: Wilver Perez and Jamar Hill - 16
  • Stolen Bases: Wilver Perez - 7
  • Runs Scored: Wilver Perez - 20
The team pitching leaders are:
  • ERA: Isaac Hess - 2.39
  • Opposition Batting Average: Javier Garcia - .114
  • Wins: Isaac Hess - 3
  • Strikeouts: Austin Bibens-Dirkx - 44 *
  • Saves: Javier Garcia - 6
* = league leader

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cardiac Kids Strike Again

Wow, it appears that no lead is safe for opponents of the Victoria Seals. Their six runs in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday afternoon turned a 2-0 loss into a 6-2 win. This team just doesn't give up. With the roster changes since their disastrous 1-7 road trip to start the season, the Seals appear to be rounding into a pretty good team. Thanks to the Golden League's split schedule, they'll likely be contenders for the second-half title.

Here are a few observations from Sunday's game:
  • Brian Rios, who started at 3B on Sunday, took over at SS when Carlos Duncan pinch hit for Pedro Montero. In the top of the 8th, Rios started one of the nicest double plays this season when he dove for a ball to his left and flipped it to Wilver Perez who relayed the throw to Brett Flowers. Rios also handled his other chance at shortstop flawlessly.
  • The two teams almost got into a bench-clearing brawl when Edmonton starter Louis Pote took exception to Wilver Perez's attempt to steal second after Pote had injured himself and time had been called. Perez had hit a ground ball to Edmonton first baseman Norm Hutchins, but Hutchins' throw caused Pote to fall awkwardly at first and miss the bag. After the play, Perez noticed that second was unoccupied as the Edmonton infielders approached Pote to find out if he was OK. Once Perez reached second, Pote had a heated exchange with Perez and the two walked towards one another. A number of players on each bench came out onto the field, but cooler heads prevailed.
  • Austin "Powers" Bibens-Dirkx striking out the side with the bases loaded in the 6th inning was even more impressive when you consider that his last pitch was his 111th of the game. Bibens-Dirkx was immediately removed from the game afterwards -- a wise move by Darrell Evans.
  • The 3,515 fans in attendance were as vocal as they have been since opening night. A significant portion of the crowd gave Bibens-Dirkx a standing ovation at the end of the 6th inning and the fans also did the wave later in the game. An enormous cheer erupted when Jamar Hill crushed his walk-off grand slam onto Pembroke Street in the bottom of the ninth.
  • Hill had been 1 for 8 with 5 strikeouts on Saturday and Sunday before he launched his thrilling game-winning homer.
  • Catchers Josh Arhart and Matt Kavanaugh, along with the pitching and coaching staffs, did a great job of neutralizing the speed of the Edmonton Capitals on the weekend. The Capitals were only 2 for 4 in stolen base attempts in the first two games and nobody challenged Kavanaugh in Sunday's game. Matt showed off his arm by throwing an absolute laser beam to Brett Flowers at first on a Capitals bunt attempt.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Seal Blubber Bits - Summer Solstice Edition

It's the longest day of the year, so you'll need lots of sustenance. Here are some Seal Blubber Bits to gnaw on:
  • The Seals showed great resilience in yesterday's game. They got out to a quick 3-0 lead, but Edmonton scored one in the fourth and four in the fifth to jump out in front 5-3. After Friday's heart-breaking 11-inning loss, I was half expecting the Seals to pack it in. But they showed just how emotionally tough they are by coming right back and scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth and three more in the sixth to pull away.

  • The Seals released pitchers Mike Reeves and Ezekiel Ruvalcaba yesterday. Reeves had a 10.66 ERA, while Ruvalcaba's was 12.60. Both pitchers had significant struggles last season in the Golden League as well.

  • Victoria activated offensive spark plug Sergio Pedroza from the Inactive List. He batted third yesterday and got on base in four of his five plate appearances.

  • The Seals have also signed right-handed pitcher and Saskatchewan native Phil Sobkow. Sobkow is the second Canadian on the team, along with Victorian Graham Campbell. Sobkow had an ERA last season of 8.56 with two teams in the Golden League. In 2007, his ERA with two squads in the independent Northern League was 6.83.

  • Trevor Davidson remained on the active list following the activation of Pedroza. He played CF in place of Chris VanRossum yesterday, so a battle for playing time in center field appears to be underway.

  • I'm not sure why Carlos Duncan was batting eighth in Saturday's lineup, but the slugger responded with a two-run homer, a single and two runs scored.

  • Brian Rios went back to third base after Duncan committed his seventh and eighth errors of the season on Friday night. As Bubba so accurately pointed out in his Wednesday post ("Errors In Judgement"), the team is better served with Rios at 3B and Duncan at DH.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Capitals in the Capital

The Seals allowed a 6-2 lead to go by the boards on Friday night and lost a 10-7 heart breaker in 11 innings to the Edmonton Capitals. The cause of their demise was a faulty bullpen that gave up six runs in the last four innings of the ballgame. Former Asheville Tourist Ethan Katz let his first save attempt get away from him by giving up two runs in the top of the ninth inning.

Our hometown boy, Graham Campbell, took the loss after giving up three runs in his one inning of work. Carlos Duncan continued his defensive struggles and committed a pair of errors, bringing his fielding percentage down to an unimpressive .789. Luckily neither error led to an Edmonton run.

The Seals can still take the series by winning a pair of afternoon games at RAP this weekend. If you can only make one of the games, be sure to come out on Sunday afternoon to see the Seals' Austin "Powers" Bibens-Dirkx (2-1, 3.81 ERA) face off against a good Canadian kid, Louis Pote. Pote leads the Golden League in ERA with a 1.64 mark.

The team will also be giving away 100 gift certificates to Painter's Lodge in beautiful Campbell River as part of their Father's Day celebration.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Edmonton Capitals 101

With the Edmonton Capitals coming for their first ever visit to the Garden City, I thought we'd take a look at this club to see what we might expect from them. Edmonton has a 14-11 record, while the Seals are sitting at 9-16.

The Caps are obviously a very different ball club from the slugging Calgary Vipers. Edmonton's hitting is below average for the league, although still better than the offensive output from the Seals to this point in the season. Their team batting average is marginally better than Victoria's by Golden League standards (.277 vs .261). Likewise their team slugging percentage (.409 versus .375).

On the offensive side of things, the biggest difference between the Capitals and Seals is speed on the basepaths. Edmonton is 2nd in the league in stolen bases with 39, as compared to the pedestrian Victoria squad, which only has 17. The Capitals' outfield is chock full of speedsters. LF Marcus Nettles is second in the league with 10 steals, RF Darryl ("Don't Call Me David") Brinkley has 9 and CF Jorge Cortes has swiped 7 bags. Needless to say, Seals catcher Josh Arhart is in for a real test this weekend.

But the biggest differentiator between these two clubs is pitching. The Capitals have a league-leading team ERA of 3.76. On the other hand, the Seals are 8th (out of 9 teams) with a massive 6.10 ERA. Capitals starter Louis Pote leads the league (min. 20 IP) with a 1.64 ERA and reliever Jason Pearson is second with a 1.85 ERA and three saves. A key reason for the ERA difference between the two pitching staffs is gopher balls: Victoria has allowed 28 homers this season, while Edmonton has limited opponents to a mere 13 round-trippers in 25 games. Let's hope the Seals hitters can do some damage to this particular statistic and send a few balls out onto Pembroke Street.

Seal Blubber Bits:
  • Sergio Pedroza was left behind in Victoria during the team's trip to Calgary with a mild calf strain. He is expected to be back in action on Friday night at RAP.
  • The red-hot Josh Arhart has 9 hits and 5 RBIs in his last 14 at-bats. He'd be a good candidate to take over the cleanup role from Jamar Hill (.256 BA, .411 slugging). Arhart is hitting .338 with a robust .527 slugging percentage.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jamar Hill Lid Watch

With our boys set to return to Royal Athletic Park on Friday night, there is a lot to look forward to this weekend. On the lighter side of things, I can't help but get caught up in the Jamar Hill Lid Watch. Now before I go too far, I want to make it clear that I don't want members of the Jamar Hill Fan Club to send hate mail my way. I'm just having a little fun here (if I was THAT serious a guy I'd be writing a blog on climate change).

You may remember that I chided Jamar shortly after the home opener for still having his name written on the back of his batting helmet. Well as of last weekend (see photo on the right), his name tag was still firmly affixed to his lid. Which begs the question: How long will the name tag remain on his batting helmet? Can it last the entire season?

Jamar, you need to relax. You have made the team. Everybody knows you and your teammates aren't going to steal your helmet or pick it up and use it by accident. It's safe to take off the label, buddy.

Of course, it's possible that Jamar is a lot smarter than we think:
  • In an earlier post, I mentioned that Jamar gets the loudest cheers at RAP out of all of the Seals.

  • Bubba also wrote a post that was critical of the fact that Victoria doesn't put player names on the back of their jerseys.

Putting two and two together, maybe Jamar's popularity has to do with the fact that he's the only one with his name clearly visible. Unless you're in the cheap seats, you can't miss him. It's all about marketing, my friends.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Just some random musing based on my few trips to see RAP this year:

1) Am I crazy, or does Issac Hess look like Sir Edmund Hillary standing on that mound? Maybe it's because I never get to sit so close to a diamond, but I am an ex-pitcher and if I had to throw from that mountain, I'd take the escalator up.

2) I'm just waiting to hear the first real crash of a foul ball hitting a car, setting off the car alarm. Or better yet, when Mrs. Williams out in left field gets fed up with duct taping he goldfish bowl back together for the 15th time and writes a letter to the TC. Hey Cleve, go interview her and be the first to get the scoop! I love the fact that Pembroke St is our Waveland Ave

3) Tell me that you don't love the fan interaction with the team. I mean, could you ever chat to A-Rod during a game without him either a) totally ignoring you b) spraying you with pepper spray or c) sending his posse after you. I've heard the Seals talk with fans casually many times, even interjecting when one fan asked to his buddy if they used the DH. But hey fans, let's not be obnoxious about it. Enjoy the spontaneity and let them play ball.

4) Stop saying these are warm summer nights. Comfortable, maybe. Warm, no way. Kobe Bryant has a warmer personality than a Victoria spring evening. I didn't have to put on a fleece when I was in San Diego!

5) I like the support of the Victoria fans so far but let's talk foul balls. I've seen many land in the stands and never seen one caught - glove or no glove. Don't worry so much about spilling your chai latte on your hemp sweater you Victorian tree-huggers. Lunge forward, spill your beer on the dude in front of you and let me hear the smack of your hand. For once I beseech you to act American!

Errors in Judgement

There’s been a lot of talk recently around the supposed lack of focus in the field for the Seals, and their growing error totals. It’s a tough stat to uncover for the GBL, as fielding stats are not readily available on-line, and one has to comb back through box scores to get a sense of what’s going on. If you’ve seen the last few games at RAP however, it’s pretty easy to see there are some stone-like hands at play in the yard.

I must say though, that I jumped to a bit of a conclusion a couple weeks ago that I’m currently rethinking… After sitting through the June 4th nooner game against Orange County watching Brian “Inky” Rios pull off 3 errors at 3B, I was relieved when Carlos Duncan showed up and assumed the bag, moving Inky to the DH spot. I remember conversing with Gus about how incidents at third might just be behind us with the addition of Duncan.

Seems I was wrong…The 3B corner continues to provide more adventurous moments than a Michael Bay movie. As of Sunday night’s game (which featured, you guessed it – an error at 3B), Duncan has already been tagged with six errors since becoming a Seal.

Duncan’s early fielding stats are ghastly: 8 assists, 11 put outs, 6 errors, for 25 total chances. That’s a chilly .760 fielding percentage – well below his career average at 3B of .881.

By comparison, the previously maligned Brian Rios actually has very respectable stats. Prior to Duncan’s arrival, Inky had 27 assists, 14 put outs, and 4 errors for a total of 45 chances, and a very respectable .911 fielding percentage. Still below his career 3B average of .940, but well within expectations. Take his 3 error game out of the mix, and he’s pretty much flawless. Chalk it up to one too many John’s Place pancakes before the early game perhaps…

Now fielding stats being what they are, there’s room for interpretation. They don’t take into account things like range and mobility - one’s ability to get to balls that others can’t, nor do they account for the other intangibles a player brings to the infield. Those point aside, I’m thinking it might be time to get Inky back at third, and let Duncan do what he has been doing best lately – dishing up some long balls - from the DH spot.

Inky has been sidelined the past couple of games due to an undisclosed injury, reportedly to be a sore elbow from an “unknown bug bite”. I assume that’s one of those “day to day” injuries. And you thought the mosquitoes were bad at your place!

As simple as it seems, perhaps all the Seals need to improve their recent fielding woes, is a can of Deep Woods Off, and a little Stop-Itch…

Javier Garcia is Human

With Mike Reeves struggling and the potential go-ahead run on third with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning on Tuesday, Darrell Evans brought closer Javier Garcia into the game in a non-save situation. Garcia struck out Nelson Castro to end the inning, but all did not go well in the bottom of the ninth.

Garcia walked the leadoff hitter, Jorge Mejia, and then uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the fleet-footed Viper to advance to third. With nobody out, Evans had no choice but to move the infield in. Unfortunately, cleanup hitter Mark Okano singled to give Calgary a 4-3 walk-off victory. Garcia's record dropped to 0-1. He is still a perfect 6-for-6 in save opportunities and is tied for the league lead in saves with Ben Shockey of the Chico Outlaws.

After Victoria fell behind 3-0, Carlos Duncan hit a two-run shot in the seventh inning, his third homer in the last five games. Brett Flowers tied it later in the inning with a sacrifice fly. Trevor Davidson also chipped in with his first two hits in professional baseball and played center field for the second consecutive game.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Roster Moves

The Seals have recently made the following roster moves (although the transactions have not been mentioned by either the T-C or victoriaseals.ca):

  • Released 1B Kyle Nichols.

  • Activated RHP Roberto Sotolongo from the Inactive List.

  • Placed OF Sergio Pedroza on the Inactive List.

  • Re-signed OF Trevor Davidson.

The Golden Baseball League does not use a Disabled List and I’m not quite sure of the exact mechanics of their Inactive List (their web site is not much help). But we can deduce what's behind the moves.

Sotolongo was summoned, at least in part, because the Seals have been using their four regular starters on three days rest a fair bit and with games on six consecutive days it was time to use a fifth starter. The Seals would be in big trouble if Isaac Hess came down with an arm or shoulder injury. It's unclear how long Sotolongo will remain active though. After his start on Monday night, his ERA is 9.00 and opponents are hitting .429 against him.

It’s possible that Sergio Pedroza was injured in Sunday’s game at RAP (unfortunately I missed the game) because the Seals used a pinch runner for him, which is an odd move given his speed on the basepaths. Hopefully Pedroza will be re-activated shortly because going into Monday’s game he was tied for the team lead in RBIs, tied for second in home runs and had the second-best on-base percentage.

Kyle Nichols was only hitting .224 with a feeble .276 slugging percentage in 58 at-bats. His release wasn't a huge shock based on his numbers in the last couple of years. The Seals just couldn’t afford to carry a first baseman with such low power production.

Trevor Davidson played in center field on Monday night, while Chris VanRossum moved over to right to take Pedroza’s spot. Davidson is a rookie to professional baseball who was signed in the team’s first tryout camp in January, but was then released on May 20th. He went 0-5 with two strikeouts in his professional debut. Davidson finished up his amateur baseball career in 2008 at California Lutheran University, a Division III school.

After an exciting 8-6 come-from-behind victory on Monday night, the Seals seem poised to take at least two out of three from the Vipers in The Snake Pit. Austin Bibens-Dirkx (2-1, 3.63 ERA) will start on Tuesday night and the Seals’ ace Isaac Hess (3-0, 1.97 ERA) will go on Wednesday.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Seal Blubber Bits for June 15th

Here are some bits of seal blubber to gnaw on:

  • The Vipers may be leading the North Division, but they are dead last in the league in attendance. Calgary has only averaged 1,040 fans per game. The Parkers were pretty adept at realizing that Victoria is the most under-served pro sports market in Canada, because the last-place Seals average 2,008 fans per game.
  • Retribution Time: Four of the top ten hitters in the league in being hit by a pitch are on the Calgary Vipers. Drew Miller and Nelson Castro have been hit five times, while Mark Okano and Colin Moro have been hit on four occasions.
  • The fourth-place Tucson Toros have put four players on the inactive list in the last four days and signed/activated four others. This comes one week after two other players were released. Meanwhile, the Seals have been standing pat since Carlos Duncan was signed a couple of weeks ago. They could definitely use another reliable reliever and a starter to support Isaac Hess and Austin Bibens-Dirkx.
  • Orange County has continued their hot streak since sweeping Victoria last week. They have now won seven in a row and their record is a respectable 8-9. With the recent addition of former-Padre Brian Lawrence, the Flyers will be a team to keep an eye on.
  • There is still no sign of the video screen at Royal Athletic Park. On opening night the Seals suggested that it would be installed within three weeks. That was 17 days ago, so hopefully we’ll see signs of it in the near future.
  • Mike Walker does a very good job doing the play-by-play on Seals broadcasts. His work is especially impressive given the fact that he flies solo (“Vin Scully style”). You can listen to all of the Seals games via victoriaseals.ca. While in the ballpark, you can also hear him on 88.1 FM.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Seals and Snakes

After being outscored 25-17 while dropping two of three games to the Calgary Vipers on the weekend, you'd think the Seals would be happy to see them leave town. Unfortunately, the Seals' bus will be following the Vipers to Calgary to start yet another series between the two teams on Monday night.

The Vipers, who are in first place with a 14-7 record, have taken five of six games from Victoria so far this year. Let's hope this dominance doesn't continue for the entire season, because the ramifications would be serious for our beloved Seals. In addition to this week's three-game set, the two teams also face one another June 23-25 in Calgary. But wait, it gets worse. The Vipers and Seals square off nine times in August as well, for a total of 21 meetings this season. That means that Victoria will play 24% of its entire season schedule against Calgary. I'm all for the team saving travel costs by playing an unbalanced schedule that is skewed towards nearby cities, but this is a bit ridiculous. I realize the last-minute withdrawal of the Tijuana team and the resulting 9-team league tied the hands of the schedule makers, but come on. A little common sense should have prevailed.

Surprisingly, Victoria plays the Edmonton Capitals even more often than they do the the Vipers. In addition to the four games already played between them, the Seals and Capitals will play each other another 6 times in June and a whopping 14 times in July. Yes, the two teams play each other 14 times in a 27-day period. By the end of the season, Edmonton and Victoria will have played each other 24 times. When you total it up, Victoria will play 51% of its schedule against teams from Alberta and 49% against the other six teams in the league. I'd happily trade a series or two against the Capitals or Vipers for a chance to see Jose Lima pitch at RAP. On the other hand, at least we can be sure that two good rivalries will have been born in Victoria's inaugural season in the Golden Baseball League.

Seal Blubber Bits:
  • Seamore Seal celebrated his first birthday on Sunday. Happy B-Day, Seamore!

  • Isaac Hess and Austin Bibens-Dirkx are a combined 5-1 while the other two starters (Eduardo Baeza and Travis Wade) are a combined 1-8.

  • Bibens-Dirkx has struck out 31 in 22 1/3 innings and is tied for the league lead with Hess, although Hess has pitched 32 innings.

  • Speaking of strikeouts, Ethan Katz has struck out 13 batters in 7 innings of work. Opponents are hitting .192 against him, so look for Katz to play a more prominent role in the Seals bullpen.
  • Bibens-Dirkx (2-1, 3.63 ERA) is the likely starter on Monday night.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Seals Bats Come Alive

Carlos Duncan provided exactly what the Seals have been missing this year: power in the middle of the lineup. Duncan hit a pair of homers and had 3 RBI on Friday night to lead Victoria to a 5-3 upset of the Calgary Vipers. Duncan hit third last night, but in this scribe's opinion he'd be of more use hitting cleanup with walk-machine Sergio Pedroza batting third.

The Seals pulled off a couple of key double plays in the game. The big one was in the 8th inning with Victoria leading 4-2 and runners on first and third and nobody out. A 6-4-3 double play allowed Mike Reeves to escape the inning with Isaac Hess' lead still intact. Jamar Hill added an insurance run with a solo shot in the bottom of the 8th. Javier Garcia continued his dominance on the mound, picking up his fifth save in five attempts with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

Isaac Hess (now 3-0 on the season) was brilliant as usual. He silenced the red-hot Vipers' bats and only gave up three hits in seven innings. His ERA is down to a spectacular 1.97.

Seal Blubber Bits:
  • It was Las Vegas night at RAP and there were many Elvis sitings. Ya gotta love minor-league baseball promotions.
  • The mood in the dugout changed immensely after Duncan's second homer put the Seals up 4-2. There were a lot more smiles and laughs on the bench from that point on; this team had been squeezing the sticks a little tightly in recent games and the relief was evident. Players spent the remainder of the game on the top of the dugout steps.
  • The City of Victoria, which is responsible for the concessions, still doesn't sell peanuts at RAP. Oh, but you can buy Kashi Bars. While Kashi Bars might go well at a soccer game, the baseball experience just isn't the same without peanuts. Come on guys!
  • Eduardo Baeza is the likely starter for Victoria tonight. He's 1-3 with a 5.11 ERA.
  • Bret LeVier's struggles continued at the plate last night. An 0-3 dropped his average to .143.

Friday, June 12, 2009

David Versus Goliath at RAP

Well it certainly looks like a mismatch on paper. Thankfully, baseball games are played on grass and dirt and not paper. The 6-13 Seals are set to face the 12-6 Calgary Vipers this weekend at RAP.

In their three-game series in Cow Town earlier in the year, the Vipers scored 40 runs against Victoria. Yikes. The first-place Vipers have continued to roll ever since. They are averaging 8.8 runs per game this season. That's right -- AVERAGING -- 8.8 runs per game. They have FIVE regulars batting .375 or better. Their lead-off hitter, Fehlandt Lentini, is hitting .476 in 82 at-bats. But surprisingly, he's only walked five times.

It's hard not to be impressed by Calgary after looking at their hitting statistics. The only shred of a slightly negative statistic is the fact that they have the second-most strikeouts in the league (124 through games of June 9th) and only the 5th highest number of walks (63). Victoria on the other hand, has walked 101 times and struck out on 114 occasions.

This, in fact, may be something that Victoria can use to their advantage. The Seals pitchers would be wise to nibble at the corners as much as possible and waste a few pitches in the hope that the free-swinging Vipers chase some bad balls. Calgary's cleanup hitter, Mark Okano, is a case in point. He has slammed 10 doubles, 2 homers and 21 RBIs in his 69 at-bats, but he has only walked three times. With this version of Murderer's Row, any pitch in the middle of the strike zone is likely to get crushed on the weekend.

Obviously, Isaac Hess is in for a real test on Friday night. He's a gamer, so I expect him to dig deep and rise to the challenge.

Seal Blubber Bits:

  • Lost in the shuffle Wednesday night was Travis Wade's best start of the season. He gave up one earned run in five innings to lower his ERA to 5.49. He's still win less with an 0-3 record.
  • Lima Time: Jose Lima now has a 1-1 record and a 1.44 ERA through his first three starts. Sadly, Lima's Long Beach Armada don't have any remaining regular-season games scheduled in Victoria.
  • Seals SS Bret LeVier's 21-year-old little brother, Mitch, played for the Vancouver Canadians last season. He has moved up to the Kane County Cougars in the Midwest League (full season "A" ball), but he's currently on the disabled list.
  • The Long Beach Armada finally get to play a home game on Friday night. Their home opener will take place after some teams have played a total of 19 games. With their 13-game road trip now complete, the Armada must be relieved to finally play in front of a friendly crowd. Surprisingly, they are only two games out of the South Division lead.
  • The Golden League (via Pointstreak.com) now provides totals of the individual stats for each team on their web site. Hey, are they reading this blog too? :-) Not as much need for my Excel skills, I guess. But they still haven't figured out how to total batting averages and slugging percentages...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Silver Lining in a 6-13 Record

The Seals dropped both ends of a doubleheader to the Orange County Flyers last night to fall to 6-13 on the season.

They lost the first game 3-1 and registered only one hit against Flyers starter Brian Lawrence. Lawrence played in the big leagues as recently as 2007 and was a 15-game winner in 2004 for the San Diego Padres.

Victoria only picked up four hits in the nightcap, losing 2-1. The Seals had the tieing run at third base with two outs in the eighth inning, but Carlos Duncan flied out to right field to end the inning. The loss wasted a dominant pitching performance by Austin "Powers" Bibens-Dirkx, who gave up two earned runs and four hits in six innings of work. He also walked one and struck out a franchise-record ten batters.

The Seals return home Friday night to face the powerful Calgary Vipers in the opener of a three-game weekend series. Although things look bleak right now, there are a couple of reasons for optimism. First, the Golden Baseball League plays with a split schedule, so all teams will have a 0-0 record in a few weeks. Second, Isaac Hess will likely be on the mound on Friday night at Royal Athletic Park. If you haven't seen Hess pitch before, come on out to the ballpark, because fans are always in for a treat when he's on the hill. The sun will be shining, the beer will be cold and peanuts might even be for sale. Besides, we all know the Red Wings will win game 7, so don't waste your time with the last game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Pay a visit to the 'ol ballyard instead.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Team Batting Stats Reveal Seals' Weakness

The Golden Baseball League currently doesn't publish team stats, but a little Excel magic today turned the individual batting stats into team stats. The results were, in a word, enlightening.

Here are the fruits of my labour (numbers include games of June 9th):
Calgary 611145204503181296322124928120.5140.334
St George 654162211504241379920981143200.5210.323
Chico 6261101883571296731715352480.4360.300
Long Beach 481921443541484461382316120.4760.299
Tucson 3797311129546332780613110.4270.293
Edmonton 63410717634713967561031031180.4150.278
Yuma 53471146234106142789410190.3880.273
Victoria 578831563227681019114513150.3690.270
Orange County 4004410326083734899011100.3830.258

I wasn't surprised to see Victoria ranked eighth out of the nine teams in batting average with a .270 mark. What did surprise me is how far behind they are -- five of the nine teams are hitting .293 or better and Calgary is hitting at an unbelievable .334 clip.

Analyzing the league stats also gives an indication of just how little power the Seals have shown so far this year. The team is eighth in home runs with a measly seven in their first 17 games. By comparison, one player on the St George Roadrunners (AJ Valentine) has seven on his own. As a team, the first place Roadrunners have smacked a whopping 24 homers.

A look at the slugging percentages confirms the fact that the Seals are no better at hitting doubles and triples. They rank dead last in the league with an anemic .369 slugging percentage. In contrast, the powerful St George squad slugs to the tune of .521.

At first glance, it's surprising that the Seals rank sixth in runs scored. The reason? It's not team speed, which they sorely lack, but instead it's walks. Victoria leads the league with a total of 101 bases on balls. Chris VanRossum has 17 walks, while Sergio Pedroza has 16 and Jamar Hill has earned a free pass 14 times.

The obvious conclusion from the team batting stats is that Victoria has been relying on a string of singles and walks to score runs. This is not a recipe for success given their sub-standard team speed and high strikeout rate (their 114 strikeouts rank third in the league). They are great at getting on base, but as recent games have shown, they leave a lot of men stranded. The team desperately needs some additional power in the heart of their lineup. Unless they can bring in a big bopper from the outside of the organization, they might have to hope that one of their current starters (Carlos Duncan is a likely candidate) can can get hot and put up some power numbers. Otherwise, there will be a lengthy and frustrating string of stranded Seals on the basepaths this summer.

Seals Bats Go Quiet in 4-2 Loss to OC

The Victoria Seals will have to sweep Wednesday's double header against the Orange County Flyers if they are to claim their third consecutive series victory. The Seals bats went quiet on Tuesday night and were limited to only six hits -- all of them singles. Their record now stands at 6-11.

Starter Eduardo Baeza continued his struggles on the mound and gave up two homers and four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings of work. His record fell to 1-3. On a positive note, Victorian Graham Campbell pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to lower his ERA to 4.26. Given the bullpen's lack of consistency, Campbell may eventually move into the setup role for closer Javier Garcia. Another possibility is that Campbell could move into the starting rotation if Travis Wade doesn't turn it around soon.

Seal Blubber Bits:
  • The official provider of statistics for the Golden Baseball League, Pointstreak.com, seems to be going through some growing pains. Attendance figures for the Seals first six home games have been upgraded from 1,815 per game to 2,104 per game -- while the team was on the road. Either fans have been paying to sit in RAP while the team is in California or something else is up. My guess is that it's just a problem with the number-crunchers at Pointstreak.com. I also noticed a few days ago that Eduardo Baeza's ERA dropped by almost a run without him throwing a pitch. In any event, the Seals have moved up to second in league attendance.

  • Travis Wade (0-2, 6.75 ERA) and Austin "Powers" Bibens-Dirkx (2-0, 3.86 ERA) are the likely starters for Wednesday's double header.

  • Wilver Perez is now leading the team in hitting with a .354 average and seems to have recovered from his shoulder injury.

  • Sergio Pedroza leads the team in both homers (2) and RBIs (12).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Seals Set to Take on Orange County

The Seals play the 2-9 Orange County Flyers tonight at 7 PM in Fullerton, California in the first of a quick 3-game series. The game will be the home opener for Orange County after starting the season with an 11-game road trip. The three-game set between the teams concludes on Wednesday night with a double-header. Both games of the doubleheader will be seven innings (unless extra innings are required). The shortened games should help the Seals given the difficulties their bullpen has had bridging the gap between the starter and closer Javier Garcia.

Victoria took two out of three games from the Flyers in Royal Athletic Park a week ago. Unless Darrell Evans mixes up the rotation, Eduardo Baeza (1-2, 4.74 ERA) will be the starter tonight.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Javier Garcia Locked in as Seals Closer

Javier Garcia notched his league-leading fourth save of the season in yesterday's 5-3 victory over the Chico Outlaws. Garcia is now a perfect 4 for 4 in save opportunities in 2009. The 25-year-old Venezuelan has only given up two hits and two runs in six innings of work.

Garcia was playing independent ball in the American Association last season when he was signed by the Boston Red Sox and assigned to Greenville of the South Atlantic League. He struggled with a 5.06 ERA in 25 apperances and was then subsequently released by the Red Sox. His underlying numbers with Greenville were still impressive (13 walks and 45 K's in 42 2/3 innings), so his dominant start to the season comes as no surprise.

The victory gave the Seals two out of three games against Chico -- their first series win on the road in franchise history. The Seals have now won two consecutive three-game sets and have improved their record to 6-10. The team is only two games back of the third-place Edmonton Capitals and they seem poised to climb out of the North Division cellar.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain

Have you ever heard the baseball expression “Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain”? The rhyme was popularized in 1948 and refers to the starting rotation of the Boston Braves, which included Warren Spahn, Johnny Sain and then an allegedly big drop-off in production from the rest of the rotation. If one considers the Victoria Seals starting rotation right now, the saying “Bibens-Dirkx and Hess and Forget the Rest” might be worth consideration.

Bibens-Dirkx got his third start of the season on Saturday night against the Chico Outlaws and it was his best so far. He threw seven scoreless innings and only gave up five hits to raise his record to 2-0. Most impressively, Bibens-Dirkx walked only one while striking out nine – identical numbers as his previous start.

Here’s a look at the numbers for Seals starters (WHIP = Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched):
  • Isaac Hess (1-0) 2.37 ERA 1.05 WHIP
  • Austin “Powers” Bibens-Dirkx (2-0) 3.86 ERA 1.47 WHIP
  • Eduardo Baeza (1-2) 4.74 ERA 1.16 WHIP
  • Travis Wade (0-2) 6.75 ERA 1.50 WHIP
  • Josh Karp (0-1) 19.29 ERA 3.14 WHIP - released
  • Roberto Sotolongo (0-1) 27.00 ERA 3.00 WHIP

The Seals really need Baeza and Wade to get into the win column more often. Baeza’s minor league numbers lead one to believe that he should see some success at this level of ball. One concern in his current numbers is the lack of strikeouts: only 9 in 19 innings. He averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings in three minor-league seasons, so there is room for improvement here. Another positive indicator is his low WHIP -- lower than Bibens-Dirkx's in fact. That tells me that Baeza could have just run into a streak of bad luck and is due for a rebound.

Travis Wade, who has played independent ball for the last six seasons, has struggled somewhat in the last three years. But if the Seals are to play over .500 baseball this season, they'll need more help from Eduardo Baeza and Travis Wade.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A look back on a worthy first home stand…

First off, lets all agree it’s exciting to have Pro Baseball in Victoria again! The crack of the bat, the snap of the glove, the smell of the fresh roasted peanut… well two out of three ain’t bad…

As it seems to be cool to blog in lists, here’s my top five memories from the opening home stand, of which I was fortunate enough to take in the first home win on Sunday afternoon, and sneaky enough to enjoy the “Businessman’s Lunch” afternoon special on Tuesday.

5. Neither day was overly busy, so line-ups were not present for anything. A few minutes each for beer and food, and none at all for the little sluggers room. Nary a pitch was missed exercising any of the seemingly mandatory baseball activities. Not that they fixed anything from what I heard about on opening day - they simply had less people to deal with. “Beer Cart” anyone, or could you imagine the call of “ICE cold beer here, ICE cold!” going up and down the aisle while you stayed in your seat. Heaven I tell you, heaven.

4. Food was a mixed bag, pun intended. Dogs are pretty standard, and at $3, well priced. What’s offside though, is the whole-wheat bun... All the condiments and onions in the world can’t compensate for the lack of a nice soft wrapper of doughy white goodness. That’s the Victoria touch I guess – does someone plant a tree for every dog sold? The best thing in the park however, is the Fry cart outside of section 8. The deep fried goodness is not your usual French Fry, but more like a home-made potato chip. Devoid of any noticeable grease, they seem calorie and cholesterol free – even after a couple bags. Great value at $4. The chips almost made up for the complete lack of peanuts in the park. Almost.

3. Musical interludes. History lesson for you… In 1941, music in baseball got its start at Wrigley Field in Chicago, with a live organist who would play between innings, and by the 1960’s pretty much every park had live music of some kind. By the mid-1970’s recorded music began to take over and replace the organ, and as of today, there are only a handful of live organists in the majors (interestingly, the Washington Nationals added one this season and have gotten a huge positive reaction).

But how does that relate to the Seals, you ask? Well the musical selections heard at RAP are also a bit of a history lesson. Seemingly fresh out of a Victoria Cougar leftover’s box circa 1989, the selection of ditties range from the blatantly obvious “We will rock you” clapping and a late-inning “YMCA”, to some downright annoying electronica played pretty much every time the Evans jigs his way to the mound. Some serious upgrading of music is required – either that, or dust off an old Wurlitzer, and teach Cleeve a song or two… And ditch the sound effect that plays when a foul ball is hit – the one with the whistle and then the glass breaking. Half the fun of a foul ball at RAP is knowing that it most likely WILL hit a car parked in the lot that’s all of about 15 meters from the edge of the field (why anyone in their right mind would park there is beyond me). Let’s listen for the real thing!

2. Victoria fans, those polite Victoria fans. At the game on Sunday, in about the 4th inning or so, I found myself distracted by a couple having an argument. Doing the dishes, toilet seat always left up, feeding the cat… I didn’t hear enough to catch exactly what was causing the riff, as they weren’t sitting that close to me. In fact, they weren’t even at the game - they were standing on their balcony across Pembroke Street from the park. That’s when you realize it’s pretty quiet in there. It got louder as the beer sales increased and the game moved on, lets hope as the fans become more educated about the game and learn the players, Victoria’s love for this team will come forth in the form of cheers. And let’s hope the neighbours have been able to work it out…

1. Who are these guys anyway? First let me say the Uni’s are great. The hats – especially the white one, is one of the coolest ball caps on the planet right now. Crispy white, reasonable logo, and the GBL crest on the side finishes it nicely. Both games I saw featured the dark blue jersey sporting the V logo, with the bat boys showing off the white jersey as well. The colours and cut are traditional, and I very much like the retro font used for the logo and numbering. Stevie and Greg at Teamworks did a fabulous job making these boys look great - but what’s with the lack of names on the Jersey? If I was in New Yawk, where I already knew Jeter was #2, or Bawston where Jason Bay proudly sports #44, I’d probably be ok. But 9 games into the season, with a bunch of non-household names on the field, it’s a tough hill to climb for all but the diehard fan. I appreciate that the electronic scoreboard will eventually help, and yes I could bring a line-up card, but give the kids a break. My 8 and 11 year old daughters spent the entire afternoon referring to Brian Rios as “Inky” due to the seemingly endless number of tattoos the man has. I was calling him “HervĂ© Villechaize” for a while but it was met with nothing but blank stares…

So after all that – yeah it was fun. Yeah it was the place to be. Yeah it was great family fun. Yeah I’m stoked for the next home stand! See you at the park. I’ll be the guy eating the bun-less hot dog, who looks like he’s smuggling a schnauzer. No need to worry though – it’s just a couple bags of peanuts…

Friday, June 5, 2009

The New Seal: Carlos Duncan

Carlos Duncan, the most recent player signed by the Seals, got his first start tonight since joining the team. The 31-year-old Duncan was released a week ago by the Calgary Vipers in spite of the fact that he was team MVP for two of the four full seasons that he spent in Cow Town. He was also hitting .316 with one home run at the time.

One of the reasons for his release is his durability, or lack thereof. Last season he missed 37 of 86 games with a knee injury and he was injured at the time he was let go by the Vipers.

Duncan is from the shortstop factory called San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, but this versatile player has played two positions in the minors more often than he's played short. He has played 289 career games at third, 270 in the outfield, 91 at short and 82 and second base. He has even pitched in one minor-league game! Although the Vipers had been using him at third base, you might see Darrell Evans use him regularly at DH if the knee is an ongoing concern. If not, then Victoria could use him in a utility role.

Duncan fits the classic Dominican profile in that he's a free swinger with some pop in his bat. As the saying goes, "You can't walk off the island". He used to have some serious speed, but it's unclear how much remains. Duncan has stolen 296 bases in a dozen minor-league seasons, including 59 in 2005 with Calgary and 50 in 2001 with Rio Grande. He only stole two bases in his 196 AB in last year's injury plagued campaign.

He can definitely still hit. In his four seasons with Calgary he hit .319, .272, .350 and .337 while hitting a total of 55 homers. Let hope we see a bunch of baseballs flying off of Duncan's bat and onto Pembroke Street this summer.

Just how good are the Seals?

After a rough first road trip, the Seals returned to Victoria and had a solid 3-3 home stand. Of course their first series win in franchise history came at the expense of the previously winless Orange County Flyers. The Seals are set to face the Chico Outlaws tonight in a much tougher test. The Outlaws have an 8-5 record, but they have also lost their last three in a row. By the end of the weekend, we'll find out just how much the Seals have improved since the season began.

The Seals averaged 1,815 fans for their first six home dates. That's good enough for fourth place in league attendance. The figures are a bit lower than I was expecting, but there was one weekday afternoon game included in the six-game home stand. The Seals next six home games are on the weekend, so you can expect that average to rise.

The Tucson Toros are miles ahead of the other teams in the league with an average of 3,856 fans in 10 home games. Surprisingly, Long Beach and Orange County have yet to play at home. My guess is that this scheduling quirk has a lot to do with the last-minute withdrawal of the Tijuana franchise.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Seal Blubber

Here are some random thoughts after my visit to the ballyard on Wednesday night:

  1. Strange things happen in independent baseball.

    Take the top of the 9th inning in Wednesday's 3-1 win over Orange County for instance. Eziequiel Ruvalcaba started the inning by walking the first two batters he faced. With closer Javier Garcia unavailable after picking up saves in the last two Seals games, Darrell Evans called in righty Mike Reeves to take over (who now sports a whopping 16.62 ERA). Reeves then lost control of a curveball and hit the first batter he faced. Later in the inning he walked in a run before shutting the door to pickup the save. The totals for the half-inning? One run on three walks, one hit batsmen and a half-dozen Tums for Darrell Evans.

  2. Isaac Hess sure is fun to watch pitch.

    In the home opener, he didn't have control of his breaking pitches but he gutted it out and kept the team in the game by only giving up two earned runs in six innings. On Wednesday night, Isaac was on. His line was 6 2/3 IP, 3 hits, 4 walks and 8 strikeouts. The outing drops his ERA to 2.37 and opponents are hitting a meek .174 against him.

    The funniest part of the evening was when Evans came out of the dugout in the 7th inning to take him out of the ballgame. Before the manager could even get to the foul line, Hess was shaking his head back and forth and saying "No, no, no". He did not want to come out of the game. The two of them argued back and forth for a good 10 seconds with both of them shaking their heads in unison trying to win the debate. The manager always wins these battles though. You just have to love watching a pitcher on the mound who clearly loves what he does and has such passion for the game.

  3. Why do Victorians love Jamar Hill so much?

    Out of the 11 Seals with more than a single at-bat, he's 6th in batting average, 3rd in on-base percentage and 6th in slugging percentage. But he seems to get the loudest cheers and the most vocal support out of the entire team. I for one can't figure it out. He regularly doesn't run out ground balls, he's a poor baserunner and every flyball to him is an adventure in left. This guy clearly has a lot of raw talent, but he offends the baseball gods at every turn. I'll take Hess, Pedroza, Arhart or Rios any day of the week over Jamar. Or maybe it's the fact that he still has his "Hill" sticker on the back of his batting helmet. Jamar, try writing your name or number on the inside of the helmet!

  4. Time is runing out before the new video screen is installed at RAP.

    There are a lot of ugly ERA's and two nasty batting averages on the team. Those fellows better turn the corner quick because once the new scoreboard is working everyone in the park will know who is stinking it up (Yes, I'm talking to you Mr. Reeves!).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

M's May Have Given Up Too Early on Bibens-Dirkx

Victoria's struggling pitching staff looks like it has been given a giant boost by the recent decision by the Seattle Mariners to release 24 year-old righty Austin Bibens-Dirkx. The 16th round selection in the 2006 amateur draft was released in March by the M's and subsequently signed by the Seals on May 25th. Based on his impressive start against Orange County on Tuesday night (5 1/3 IP, 3 ER, 1 BB, 9 K's), the Seals may have themselves a third reliable starter alongside Isaac Hess and Eduardo Baeza.

Austin spent most of his 2006 season in "A" ball as a reliever with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. A rash of injuries with their "AAA" affiliate later that year caused the Mariners to use him in one game with the Tacoma Rainiers. Clearly, the Mariners thought highly of the (then) 21-year-old to use him at such an advanced level. His next year (2007) was spent with the High Desert Mavericks in advanced "A" ball, but his season was plagued by control problems. Bibens-Dirkx still managed to rack up eight saves and a 4.42 ERA in 31 appearances.

Seattle attempted to turn him into a starter by sending him down to the Arizona rookie league level. He then returned to High Desert as a reliever where he managed to cut down on his walks and increase his strikeouts but the opposition hammered him to a tune of a 7.95 ERA. At 23 years of age, he was released. His career numbers in the minors are fairly decent, so I'm not so sure the Mariners made the right decision. Bibens-Dirkx averaged 6.5 strikeouts and 3.3 walks per nine innings in his three seasons and he is still young enough to improve.

If he's not already nicknamed "Austin Powers", he likely will be soon. One can only hope that we'll regularly hear the sound of Mike Myers' "Yeah, baby!" emanating from the loudspeakers at RAP this summer after a Bibens-Dirkx strikeout.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Should Brian Rios be Hitting Cleanup?

The accepted wisdom is that the Seals are better than their 2-8 record indicates and they just need to catch a few breaks. They seem to get almost as many hits as their opponents, but fall short in scoring runs. Could it be that they just haven't done a good job getting clutch hits? If that's the case then one might be tempted to point the finger at what has been a gaping hole in the middle of the Seals batting order: cleanup hitter Brian Rios.

Rios is a 34-year-old journeyman who has been playing third base and hitting fourth. He's in his 6th consecutive year of independent ball, so you have to admire his determination. However, Rios is hitting a paltry .175 with 3 RBIs and has a slugging percentage of only .325 through his first 40 at-bats. In his defense, one might shrug this off as a short-term slump and point to his .337 batting average for the Orange County Flyers last season. But a closer look at his career stats indicate that he isn't your prototypical cleanup hitter. Rios has only 49 homers in 2,718 career at-bats and has not hit more than five homers in a season since 2001 when he was in AAA with Klinger's favourite team (the Toledo Mudhens).

Victoria manager Darrell Evans obviously has confidence in Rios (Evans was his batting coach in Orange County last season). It's easy to second-guess the manager, even if he does have over 400 career homers in the bigs -- but I'll do it anyways. It's time to move Rios down in the batting order until he starts to contribute some extra-base hits with consistency (Rios has only 3 doubles and 1 homer in 40 AB's). I'd move him down to 8th and put someone else who is swinging a hot bat in his place (e.g. Joshua Arhart).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Seals 2nd in Golden League Attendance

They may be in the North division cellar, but the Seals are doing well in one important category: attendance. According to the league's website, Victoria drew an average of 2,622 fans for its first three home games. This figure is good enough for second in the league, behind the popular Tucson Toros who are averaging 4,534 fans through their first seven home dates.

The Victoria numbers that were reported seem a bit low to me. The team drew 1,914 on Saturday and 2,176 on Sunday. However, the total listed on the league website is only 7,868, which means there were only 3,778 in attendance for Friday's home opener. No figures for Friday were ever report by the league or team (a potential fire code violation, perhaps?) and it was generally believed that well over 4,000 were in RAP. The number of people sitting in the soccer grandstand leads me to believe that there were closer to 4,500 than 4,000 fans in attendance.

Victoria is well ahead of the other franchises in attendance. Chico is in third place with 2,057 fans per game. St. George has the lowest attendance with only 945 fans per game.

Sergio Pedroza, Walk Machine

The 11 walks taken by Seals batters yesterday got me thinking about on-base percentages. Right-fielder Sergio Pedroza leads Victoria with both a .364 average and a slo-pitch like .532 OBP. Pedroza has walked 13 times in 47 plate appearances; ironically he only drew one of the 11 walks issued by Long Beach pitchers on Sunday. Walking is nothing new to Pedroza. In 2006 with Columbus of the South Atlantic League ("A" ball), he walked an astounding 73 times in only 317 at-bats (walking in 10% of your plate appearances is considered good plate discipline). Pedroza has a career .381 OBP in 4 minor-league seasons.

Sergio's .532 OBP had me thinking that he would make a pretty good leadoff batter, but a closer look at his minor-league stats reveals why Darrell Evans has him hitting in the 3-hole. Pedroza has slammed 71 homers in only 1,377 minor-league at-bats and the Seals can definitely use his power to drive in runs. Pedroza has only hit one homer so far this year, but you can expect his power numbers to improve as the season progresses. He hit 22 homers (in 399 AB) two years ago for Vero Beach in the Florida State League.