Monday, August 31, 2009

Seals End Season with Fifth Straight Loss

The Victoria Seals wrapped up their inaugural season in a less than spectacular fashion, dropping a 4-3 decision to the Long Beach Armada on Monday night. The Seals were swept in four straight games by the Armada and they lost their last five games of the year.

Victoria, which went on their final road trip without six of their best players due to recent trades, finished the season with a 32-50 record. Their .390 winning percentage was second-worst in the league, only better than the .382 mark posted by the Yuma Scorpions (who were comprised entirely of Colombian players). The Seals finished a whopping 20 games behind the Calgary Vipers in the overall standings.

The team that took to the field looked nothing like the Seals squad that we all enjoyed watching earlier in the season. The starting lineup for the final game was as follows (Eduardo Baeza was on the mound):
  1. P.Montero LF
  2. M.Kavanaugh C
  3. B.Rios 3B
  4. B.Flowers 1B
  5. G.Riley RF
  6. B.LeVier SS
  7. T.Mermer DH
  8. B.Krause CF
  9. T.Miyoshi 2B

Seal Blubber Bits

  • Ex-Seal (and current Viper) Sergio Pedroza won the GBL home run title with 20 home runs. However, he hit 15 of those 20 homers in a Victoria Seals uniform. Jamar Hill finished second in the league with 19 home runs.
  • The Vipers' Nelson Castro won the GBL batting title with an impressive .410 mark. He finished 34 points ahead of teammate Colin Moro.
  • Edmonton's Darryl Brinkley won the league RBI crown with 82 runs knocked in. You may remember the RAP fans taunting Brinkley with chants of "Darrrrrrryl" this summer. Sergio Pedroza finished a close second to Brinkley with 81 RBIs.
  • The first two games of the North Division playoffs between the Vipers and Capitals are Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Edmonton.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Arhart and Hill Traded to York Revolution

On Saturday, Josh Arhart and Jamar Hill were traded to the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League. It is unclear what they were traded for. As for the Wilver Perez trade, there was no official press release from the Victoria Seals or the York Revolution and no news reports on the web. My guess is that they were traded for cash and "future considerations". It seems likely that the players were loaned to the York Revolution in return for cash. The future considerations probably means that York won't sign the players after the season is over and they will all be eligible to re-sign with the Seals (most GBL players are only signed to one-year contracts).

This type of trade has been common in the last month. The Seals have earned a fair amount of cash and the players have been traded to teams that are headed to the playoffs, which gives them potential exposure to major-league scouts. Provided this happens late enough in the season, there isn't a huge downside to the hometown fans. However, it wasn't exactly fun to watch Sergio Pedroza pound the Victoria pitching staff on the last weekend of the season at RAP.

In the last month, the Seals have loaned Roberto Sotolongo, Josh Arhart and Jamar Hill to the York Revolution. Also, Wilver Perez, Sergio Pedroza and Isaac Hess have been loaned to the Calgary Vipers. That's six of their best players -- let's hope these guys all return to Victoria next year or impress a scout enough to be signed by a MLB organization.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • The Seals wrap up their inaugural season on Monday with a game against the Long Beach Armada at 7 PM. You can listen to the game at The team is limping to the finish line after seeing six of its best players traded away. The Seals sport a 32-49 record (.395 winning percentage) going into their final game of 2009.

  • Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx continues to be lights-out for the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League. On Saturday night, Bibens-Dirkx raised his record to 7-1 and led the Chiefs to an 11-1 rout of the Cedar Rapids Kernels. He lowered his season ERA to 1.66 by pitching 6 2/3 innings of excellent baseball, giving up one earned run on only five hits. He struck out six and did not walk a batter in posting his sixth straight quality start. The Chiefs, who clinched a playoff berth on Sunday, will likely start Bibens-Dirkx in either game 1 or 2 of the opening round of the Midwest League playoffs.

  • The GBL would like to award an expansion franchise for 2010 to the city of Kamloops, but it is unclear if an appropriate ownership group can be located. Other potential Canadian expansion markets include Prince George, Nanaimo, Surrey, Abbotsford and Saskatoon.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wilver Perez Traded to Calgary Vipers

Granny's not going to like this. According to, Wilver Perez was traded to the Calgary Vipers on Thursday. What he was traded for is unclear at this point. Details are very hard to come by, but my guess is that he was traded for cash and "future considerations".

Perez joins ex-Seals Isaac Hess and Sergio Pedroza on the Calgary roster. Hess and Pedroza were traded for cash and "future considerations" on August 18th. Roberto Sotolongo was also traded for "future considerations" on July 31st (he was dealt to the York Revolution of the Atlantic League).

This leaves some obvious questions. For one, what will the team receive for trading away four of its best players once it was clear that the Seals weren't playoff-bound? Also, who's next on the trading block? Seymour Seal?!?!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Who is the Victoria Seals MVP now?

Just before the "blockbuster" trade with the Calgary Vipers, I posted a poll on the blog asking who the team MVP was. The two players with the most votes were Isaac Hess and Sergio Pedroza. Now that both players are gone, it's highly unlikely either of them will be named MVP of the Seals. So who is the next best choice?

From where I sit, there are three options: Wilver Perez, Josh Arhart and Jamar Hill.

Wilver Perez has been the team's leadoff hitter for the majority of the season and he leads the team in runs scored with 74. He's third on the team in batting average (.318) and on-base percentage and he leads the team with 24 stolen bases (which ties him for 5th place in the league). His play defensively has been spectacular at times, but he's been inconsistent and has committed 14 errors. Then there are the intangibles. Wilver is always keeping his teammates loose and joking around and he looks like a fun guy to be around. His hustle is second to none -- whether it's taking the extra base or running hard when he hits a routine grounder and causing the fielder to rush his throw. He'd be a good choice as team MVP.

But then there is Jamar Hill. All he is done is lead the league with 19 home runs. Jamar is also leading the team in RBIs with 63, although Sergio Pedroza would be leading if he didn't get traded to Calgary ten days ago. Jamar is 5th on the team in batting average (.292) and second on the team in on-base percentage, thanks to 48 walks. However, he has struck out a whopping 65 times, 5th highest in the league. On the negative side, he is weak defensively and a poor base runner. But he has also thrilled the fans with some of the most memorable moments of 2009 at RAP. He's hit four homers in a game and smashed that wonderful walk-off grand slam on Father's Day. He'd also be a good choice as team MVP.

But then there is Josh Arhart. Josh has earned his spot as the Seals' cleanup hitter. He hit seventh in the Seals' inaugural game back in May, but he gradually moved up in the order until Darrell Evans put him into the four hole. Arhart leads the team in batting average (.325) and on-base percentage (.416). His on-base percentage is aided by 26 walks and an impressive 15 hit-by-pitches (which is 5th highest in the league). Talk about taking one for the team. Arhart is also excellent defensively -- he has only committed four errors on the season, which is really quite remarkable. He is outstanding at blocking pitches in the dirt, which is something he has had to do a lot for a pitching staff that sports a team ERA of 5.95. I can remember a few nights when Arhart successfully blocked 8-10 pitches in the dirt. He calls a good game behind the plate and is clearly a team leader. And then there's the "Arrrrrrhart" phenomenon. The chanting of his name, and the ensuing eye patches and pirate music, makes him the original cult figure of the Victoria Seals franchise.

After weighing the three options, it becomes pretty clear. Josh Arhart is the MVP of the Victoria Seals. He's their heart and soul and let's hope that he returns to the team in 2010.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seal Blubber Bits for August 25th

Here are some random musings on the Seals following their final home game of 2009:
  • The Edmonton Capitals clinched a playoff spot on Sunday night without even being on the field. Yuma defeated Chico 6-4, thereby assuring that the Capitals finish with the second-best overall record in the North Division. The Calgary Vipers secured the second-half title earlier in the day with their victory over the Seals, becoming the first team to win both halves of a split schedule in Golden Baseball League history. Edmonton and Calgary will start a best-of-five series on Tuesday, September 1st in Edmonton. The Vipers swept the Capitals three straight in the opening round of the 2008 playoffs.
  • Bret LeVier was back to wearing his normal socks and long pant legs in Sunday's finale. However, the spiffy throwback Red Sox hose were sported by Wilver Perez. If you know anything about the story behind these socks, please post a comment on this blog and fill us in.
  • You are pretty much guaranteed to see something off the wall at a GBL game. During Saturday night's contest I went to washroom behind the grandstand in between innings. When I walked in, there was Vipers SS Nelson Castro pulling up his pants and adjusting his jock strap. Can you imagine going to a game in Philadelphia and seeing Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins peeing in the stall beside you?!?!
  • Since it was the last homestand of the season, I moved around to get a vantage point from a number of areas at Royal Athletic. I'm a creature of habit, so I almost always sit in section 9 along the first-base line. There was a big crowd on Saturday night, so section 9 was completely packed. I moved over to the lower reserved section right behind the Vipers' dugout and was amazed by how different the vibe was compared to section 9. There were still quite a few seats unoccupied even though the first-base side was packed and a few dozen fans were even sitting in the football grandstand in the right field area. The fans on the third base side seemed a lot more easy going as compared to the first-base side which seems to have more serious baseball fans (and more serious drinkers as well). The vibe was definitely more laid back. The Vipers were quite happy to toss a baseball to youngsters in the stands on a number of occasions, something the home team doesn't have the freedom to do. The other big difference is that since it's quieter, you can hear the third base coach, third baseman, the shortstop and any runners on third converse from time to time. If my Spanish was better, I would have picked up even more. I don't ever remember being able to hear any of the conversation around first base when sitting behind the Seals dugout. I'll definitely mix it up next year and sit more often on the visitor's side.
  • Christian Stewart has posted some great photos of the Seals' final home game of 2009 on his website.
  • I sat for a few outs in the football grandstand. It's surprisingly close to the action, but seems far away to those who are used to sitting right behind the dugout or in the baseball grandstand behind home plate. Seats an equivalent distance from the pitcher's mound in Safeco Field in Seattle go for $44 USD when purchased as a walk-up, so they are still pretty close to the action. The biggest downside is that you are pointed in the wrong direction for the ballgame and have to either sit at a 45 degree angle in your seat or get a sore neck.
  • The Seals are on a Tijuana Potros / H1N1 break until Friday. They play a four-game series in Long Beach and wrap up their season on Monday night.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thoughts on the Seals' Final Homestand

A lot has happened since the Seals opened the season at home on May 29th. Almost 94,000 fans have come out to Royal Athletic Park this summer to watch some highly entertaining baseball. It wasn't always pretty, but people almost always went home satisfied -- it is pretty clear that the fans get great value for their money at a Seals game. Spending $12 on a General Admission ticket to see the Seals is a bargain compared to having to shell out $22 for the Salmon Kings. Plus you get to sit in the sun and enjoy the great outdoors.

The atmosphere at RAP has improved significantly since the May 29th opener. The team has made a number of minor tweaks (e.g. improved sound, more up-to-date music, a screen to protect fans from line drives hit foul, etc.) and the new scoreboard is a huge benefit to fans. The crowd has also become more energetic, perhaps partly because because of by the video board. Fans have even been more aggressive at catching foul balls (it was odd watching fans run out of the way of a lazy pop-up in the early part of the season). On Saturday night I witnessed a teenager with a glove make a lovely stab of a screaming liner hit into the stands. As is typical of the great fans in Victoria, a lusty cheer was offered up for the sure-handed youngster.

Now how many days until the 2010 home opener?

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Bret LeVier won some serious style points in my books on Saturday night. The Seals shortstop hiked up his pant legs and showed off some pretty cool socks. These babies weren't the Victoria Seals standard plain blue socks either. I had to snap a photo of these beauties (see the picture on the right). My guess is that they are a holdover from his days in the Boston Red Sox organization. In any event, LeVier had one of his best games of the season on Saturday night.
  • In addition to adding names to the back of the Seals home jerseys next season, I'd be ordering a bunch of the Bret LeVier socks as well.
  • The Jamar Hill Lid Watch concluded this weekend with Jamar's "Hill" sticker still sitting on the back of his batting helmet. That cracks me up.
  • The Josh Arhart pirate jokes were taken to a new level this weekend. Since the beginning of the season, fans have been chanting "Arrrrrrrr!" when Arhart is announced and steps into the batter's box. The photo of Arhart that is displayed on the video board was recently doctored to show an eye patch over his left eye. Then on Sunday, when he stepped into the box for one of his at-bats, the entire Seals bench was seen sporting eye patches.
  • Chris VanRossum was spotted on the Seals bench this weekend still wearing a cast on his right arm. It is pretty classy for the team to keep him around, given that he was injured a month ago and won't be seeing any more action this season. Let's hope the trio of Hill, VanRossum and Pedroza is back patrolling the outfield at RAP next summer.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Seals Draw Over 10,000 Fans on Final Weekend

The Victoria Seals drew 10,045 fans in their final three home games of 2009 this weekend, capping off a fabulously successful season. The team drew an amazing 93,691 fans in their 40 home games. The Seals will likely finish the season in second place in league attendance, which is exceptional for an expansion team. Victoria will definitely be back in the Golden Baseball League next season. The fact that an expansion team sitting in last place draws its largest crowd on the final day of the season says it all. Victoria has fallen in love with the Seals.

It is likely that the city of Kamloops will be granted a GBL expansion franchise in October, possibly setting up a four-team Canadian division. On Saturday night, team President Darren Parker also announced to the fans in a pre-game speech that both manager Darrell Evans and coach Dan DiPace will be returning with the club in 2010.

The crowd of 3,633 fans on Saturday night. In Sunday's home finale, 4,228 Victorian baseball fans came out to enjoy Seals baseball for the final time in 2009.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Interesting Interview with Austin Bibens-Dirkx

Here is a good article on ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx. In the piece, Bibens-Dirkx is credited for turning around the season of the Peoria Chiefs. He is also quoted as saying:
"After some phone calls, I went to the Victoria Seals in the same league," he
said. "It was awesome because it was the first year for baseball in that league.
There were 2,000 fans there every night. They were so happy they would cheer for
both teams."
See here for the full interview.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Granny’s in Love with Wilver Perez

This post was submitted by Victoria's Poet Laureate, Linda Rogers. We are honoured to have these lovely words grace our humble blog.

(words for a song by Victoria's poet laureate)

He’s a poem in motion; the fans are impressed,
and Granny’s heart’s jumping out of her dress.

Wilver Perez!
When she says his name you know she’s in love.
It fits on her tongue like a ball in a glove.

It happens when Gramps takes his eye off the game.
While he goes for hot dogs, she steals second base.

When Wilver slides home at the top of the seventh,
she believes she has died and gone up to heaven.

The cookies are burning ‘cause Grandma’s not there.
There are weeds in her roses, but she doesn’t care.

The gem on her finger might as well be glass.
The diamond she wants is a field of grass.

But Gramps is OK; there’s a smile on his face,
‘cause her baseball hero’s his angel of grace.

Gramps is still hoping that he’ll score a kiss,
‘cause Granny’s on fire thanks to Wilver Perez.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Seals Poised for Sweep of Orange County

The Victoria Seals won their second consecutive game against the Orange County Flyers on Wednesday night, with a walk-off 4-3 win in the bottom of the ninth. The win is the team's second consecutive victory against the Flyers after they thumped OC by an 8-0 score on Tuesday night. The Seals will attempt to sweep the series on Thursday at RAP, which would be sweet considering the Flyers have three ex-major-leaguers in their starting lineup (Robert Fick, Damian Jackson and Scott Spiezio). Victoria then wraps up the season on the weekend with a three-game set against Sergio Pedroza, Isaac Hess and the rest of the Calgary Vipers.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • The Seals are neck-and-neck with the Chico Outlaws for second in league attendance. Going into Wednesday's action, Victoria was averaging 2,243 fans per game as compared to Chico's 2,203.
  • Isaac Hess took a no-decision in his debut with the Calgary Vipers on Wednesday night. He gave up 6 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings pitched as his struggles continue since being signed and unsigned by the Boston Red Sox at the All Star break. There is a chance that Hess could pitch on Sunday at RAP against the Seals.
  • Sergio Pedroza has gone 3-for-6 with 3 RBIs in his first two games with the Vipers. There will be no joy in watching him pound the Seals pitching staff on the weekend.
  • Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx continues to roll for the Peoria Chiefs. On Monday night he raised his record to 5-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.93 since he was signed by the Cubs. Bibens-Dirkx gave up no earned runs and only 3 hits in his 6 innings of work. The Midwest League is now hitting a paltry .212 against him. When he was with the Seals, the GBL hit .260 against him. Peoria has a 3 1/2 game lead in the second-half standings so Bibens-Dirkx will likely see some action in the playoffs.
  • Josh Arhart now has the highest batting average on the Seals, with a .329 mark. Arhart batted .325 for Orange County last season.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pedroza and Hess Sold to Calgary

The Victoria Seals have traded their best pitcher and hitter, Isaac Hess and Sergio Pedroza, to the Calgary Vipers for cash and "future considerations". In Cleve Dheensaw's column in the T-C on Tuesday, the deal is portrayed as a "blockbuster trade" where "the Seals have their eyes pointed to next season." Something doesn't quite add up here.

According to Cleve's column, the Seals are due to receive four players in return. But if GBL players are typically only signed to one-year contracts, these "future considerations" are meaningless. Basically, everyone is a free-agent in the GBL off-season.

I realize that the Victoria Seals are a business and that they are entitled to make a profit for all of their hard work. But let's call a spade a spade. This "trade" was nothing but a cash sale. To portray it as a deal that helps the team in the long run is simply disingenuous. The biggest thing going for the Seals is the fact that Victoria is a great city to play pro baseball in. That in itself will attract free agents in the off-season and be much more beneficial to the team that this latest transaction.

The deal follows on the heels of the "trade" of the team's hottest pitcher, Roberto Sotolongo, to the York Revolution of the Atlantic League approximately three weeks ago. Sotolongo was traded for "future considerations" as well. We're still waiting on those.

In any event, don't let the standings or these latest transactions get you down. Baseball is a great game and get out and enjoy it before the home schedule ends on Sunday. It will be a long and rainy winter.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bibens-Dirkx Saves Ted Lilly

Seals alumnus Austin Bibens-Dirkx picked up a four-inning save on Wednesday night, preserving the win for Ted Lilly who was making a rehab start for the Peoria Chiefs. Bibens-Dirkx held the Burlington Bees to one earned run and four hits in his four innings on the mound. He walked one and struck out four, while his ERA remained a sparkling 2.18 in class "A" ball.

Since leaving Victoria in early July, Bibens-Dirkx has been keeping some pretty impressive company. In addition to Lilly, Bibens Dirkx has been sharing the Peoria clubhouse with Aramis Ramirez and Reed Johnson of the Chicago Cubs. Both Ramirez and Johnson were rehabbing injuries shortly after Bibens-Dirkx's arrival in the Midwest League.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • The Seals will not be making the playoffs in their inaugural season. Their second-half record is 10-18, leaving them 7 1/2 games behind the Calgary after being swept at home by the Vipers.

  • Has Isaac Hess checked out? Since having his heart broken for the second time this year, Hess has really struggled on the mound. In the spring, he was signed by the San Diego Padres until the team doctor raised medical concerns regarding his artificial hip. He was then signed by the Boston Red Sox after the Golden League All Star Game in July, only to suffer the same fate. At the All Star break, Hess was 8-0 with a 2.47 ERA. Since returning to the Seals, he has posted a 7.22 ERA in 28 2/3 innings, raising his season ERA to 3.86. Most alarming is his loss of control: Hess has uncharacteristically walked 17 batters in those 28 2/3 innings. My guess is that Hess is just playing out the string and will hang 'em up for good after the season. It has been a sad story to watch play out...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Interesting Dodger Stadium Photo

The next time you think beer prices are too high at RAP, have a gander at this photo for a reality check. Here are the prices at Dodger Stadium:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Are the Seals Done?

The current second-half standings show the Seals tied with the Chico Outlaws for third/last place, 4 1/2 games back of the first-place Calgary Vipers. The Seals have only 15 games remaining, 9 of which are against the Vipers. The two teams square off in a three-game series starting tonight at RAP and then they'll head back to the Snake Pit for another three games. The last three meetings between Victoria and Calgary are scheduled for August 21-23 at RAP.

Realistically, Victoria needs to go 7-2 in their remaining 9 games against the Vipers. That would vault them ahead of Calgary, assuming Victoria at least does as well against Orange County (August 18-20) as the Vipers do against Edmonton (August 17-19). On top of that, the Seals will have to gain 4 games on the Edmonton Capitals and one game on the Chico Outlaws before the season ends.

All of this seem possible, but it's quite unlikely. To have a realistic shot at it, they need to start with a three-game sweep of Calgary over the next three days -- and that won't be easy. The Vipers currently have a .649 winning percentage on the season (37-20).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Free Baseball at RAP... With No Happy Ending

Another odd one at RAP tonight, with Chico coming out on top of the Seals 7-6 in a game that featured some of the most bizarre scoring lines of the year...

  • Starting the bottom of the sixth inning, Isaac Hess was pitching a 3-Hitter, but trailing 5-0. He wasn't helping himself this time, committing 2 errors that led directly to Outlaw runs.
  • Also starting the bottom of the sixth, Chico pitcher Wayne Franklin was throwing a no-hitter. No pitcher has thrown a no-hitter in GBL league play since June of 2005 (interestingly, also a Chico pitcher).
  • The Seals broke the no-hitter in the sixth, and scored 2 runs on a single hit. So after six, the score was 5-2 on only 4 total hits.
  • Heading to the ninth inning, the Seals were stuck on a single hit. Again, thoughts of a 1-hitter surfaced, but the GBL has also seen only a single 1-hitter in it's history. Note that by this time, Franklin was out, and Ryan Tack was on in relief. No idea if there have been more "team 1-hitters".

The ninth inning saw some rally-caps in the crowd, and they actually payed off, as Jamar Hill pushed a 3-run shot over the wall to tie the game at 6, and remove the loss from Isaac Hess's record at the same time.

The Seals were in trouble in both the 10th and 11th as relief pitcher Anthony Pluta struggled with control walking the bases loaded in the 10th, and throwing away a bunt to start the 11th that ended up with a runner on 3B with none away. Another 3 walks loaded the bases, and then forced in the winning run.

Rally-caps in the bottom of the 11th provided no spark, and the crowd left in silence as a light misting of rain fell on the field to end the game. Oh yeah, and it was a freakin-cold 15c by game's end. So much for those California-like nights of baseball!

New RAP Scoreboard Fully Operational

For those of you who haven't been out to the ballpark recently, here are a couple of pictures of the new scoreboard. As you can see from the second shot, the lights that normally would show the Seals runs in the bottom of the second inning are out -- thanks to a batting practice homer by Terry Mermer.

Seal Blubber Bits

  • Jamar Hill returned from injury on Saturday night and made his presence immediately felt. Hill hit a thrilling three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings. The home run was his 15th of the season and put him into the league lead in that category.
  • With Wilver Perez being given the night off, Bret LeVier batted leadoff on Saturday. LeVier has been much improved offensively of late and has raised his average above the Mendoza Line (.226 going into Saturday's action).
  • Ethan Katz has settled down nicely after his disastrous outing on Monday. He has pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings over the last two evenings.
  • Anthony Pluta has started his Seals career as expected. He has shown signs of dominance, but has walked 8 batters in his first 4 innings on the mound. The most costly walk forced in the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning on Saturday night.
  • Saturday's game was the longest in Seals history. It took 4 hours and 19 minutes to play and wrapped up with Jamar Hill popping out with the tieing run at third at 11:27 PM. The game featured a grand total of 19 walks.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sergio Pedroza's Monster Season Continues

Seals rightfielder Sergio Pedroza continues to post monster offensive numbers this season. On Friday night, Pedroza went two-for-three with a three-run homer and a run-scoring double to lead Victoria to a 10-2 victory over the Chico Outlaws at RAP.

Pedroza is now batting .335 on the season. His 410-foot home run to straight-away centre in the third inning was his 14th of the season, moving him into a tie for the league lead with teammate Jamar Hill and AJ Valentine of the St. George Roadrunners. Pedroza has also moved into fourth place in the league for RBIs, with 58.

Sergio has been solid at the plate all year long. Earlier in the season, he was drawing a ton of walks and scoring lots of runs, but his power output has ramped up of late. In his last 19 games, Pedroza is hitting .408 with 8 homers and a jaw-dropping 36 RBIs.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Wilver Perez's hustle electrified the crowd a number of times on Friday night. He stole a pair of bases and scored a run on a delayed tag-up from third base on a fly ball into shallow right-centre field. The run was made possible by a beautiful hook slide at the plate that eluded the tag from the Chico catcher. Perez also made a highlight-reel play in the field, diving to his left to scoop up a ground ball and throw out the runner at first. Wilver also won the award for having the dirtiest uniform on either squad.
  • Jonny Ash of the Chico Outlaws fouled a ball off the ground and back up into his face on Friday night. The game was delayed for close to 10 minutes so the Seals trainer could attend to Ash. He remained in the game and received a nice round of applause from the classy fans at RAP when he continued his at-bat.
  • The new scoreboard has received rave reviews from fans at the ballpark. The scoreboard operator is still getting used to the setup, but it's great for the atmosphere at RAP. Hopefully the team will start posting some of the information on the board that we're use to seeing at other ballparks. For example, showing home run, RBI and stolen base totals instead of just the player's batting average. An indication of what the player has done at the plate in previous at-bats that game would also be of interest.
  • Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx pitched another great game for the class "A" Peoria Chiefs on Thursday night. He gave up only one run in seven innings of work. Bibens-Dirkx also struck out eight and walked only one batter while raising his record to 4-1.

    He has been pitching better in affiliated ball than he did in independent baseball this season, backing up the notion that the Golden League has "AA" hitters but only "A" ball pitchers. Bibens-Dirkx had a 3.70 ERA with Victoria, but he now holds a miserly 2.18 ERA with Peoria. Also, opponents hit .260 against him in Golden League, but they're only hitting .218 against him in the Midwest League.

    There are just over four weeks left in the (affiliated) baseball season, so time is running out for a 2009 Bibens-Dirkx promotion to a higher level. However, Peoria is currently tied for first place in the second-half standings with Cedar Rapids, so there is a chance that he could see some playoff action.
  • Today is the 21st anniversary of the first night game ever at Wrigley Field. Incidentally, Wayne Gretzky was also traded by the Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings on the same day.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Revolving Door of Seals Roster Swings Again

The Victoria Seals continue to turnover their roster as quickly as a last-place CFL team. On Wednesday they signed 26-year-old right-hander Anthony Pluta to a contract. The 6'2" right-handed flame-thrower will join the team's bullpen. He pitched two hitless innings on Wednesday in relief of James Garcia, but was pulled by manager Darrell Evans after walking a pair of hitters in the 8th inning.

Pluta was at one time one of the top prospects in baseball. He was selected in the third round of the 2000 draft by the Houston Astros right out of a Las Vegas high school. As a teenager, Pluta hit 99 MPH on the radar gun and in 2002 he was ranked as the sixth-best prospect in the Astros organization. Unfortunately, that promise has not as yet been fulfilled.

Pluta was released this past Monday by the El Paso Diablos of the independent American Association with a 3-5 record and a 6.28 ERA. He struck out 35 hitters in 38 2/3 innings with the Diablos, but he also walked 22 batters. Pluta was a teammate of Seals closer Dane De la Rosa in El Paso this summer. In fact, the two of them were released by the Diablos within two weeks of one another.

Walks have been an issue throughout Pluta's amateur and professional career; he has averaged a stunning 7 walks per 9 innings in his previous 7 minor-league seasons. In 2007 with Bakersfield of the California League (Advanced "A"), Pluta looked like Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh in the movie "Bull Durham" (or perhaps Rick Ankiel?!?) and walked an unbelievable 30 batters in 18 innings. His career minor-league ERA is 6.19, so fans should temper their expectations. If he can learn to throw strikes with some consistency, Pluta will be lights out though.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Sergio Pedroza has been upgraded from red-hot to white-hot at the plate. He went 3-for-5 with another 3 RBIs on Wednesday night to raise his season average to .330. In his last 18 games, Pedroza is 29-for-73 (.397) with 7 homers and an amazing 32 RBIs. If you were to extrapolate his last 18 games into a 600 at-bat season (i.e. the typical number of at-bats in a season for a healthy regular in the majors), he'd be on pace to hit 57 homers and 263 RBIs!
  • The Seals return home on Friday night to start a 6-game homestand. Victoria will host the Chico Outlaws this weekend at RAP for the first time ever (what, no Edmonton Capitals?!?). The Outlaws are in third place in the second-half standings, one game ahead of the Seals. Remember to bring the fleece along, because those cool Victoria summer evenings are back.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Seals Off to a Slow Start

In the last dozen days, the Seals have added four players to their roster. Let's take a look at how each has fared so far.

On Tuesday night, Aaron Trolia got rocked in an epic fashion. He gave up 11 (yes, 11) earned runs on 11 hits and 5 walks in his 4 2/3 innings of work. And work he did. Manager Darrell Evans left him in long enough to throw 107 pitches in those 4 2/3 innings. Trolia's record is 0-1 with a 14.00 ERA after his first two starts with Victoria.

Dane De la Rosa has bounced back after giving up a pair of walk-off hits in his first two appearances. He has an 0-1 record with one save and a 2.70 ERA in his 3 1/3 innings of relief. He struck out a pair of Roadrunners in his one inning on Tuesday night, so he appears headed in the right direction with his new club. If all goes well, De la Rosa will be the Seals' closer for the rest of the way.

The two recent additions to the outfield, Gabriel Riley and Billy Krause have not fared so well at the plate, to say the least. In fact, their performance has pushed shortstop Bret LeVier out of his customary ninth spot in the batter order and up into the seven hole. Riley is batting .171 in his 35 at-bats with 1 homer and 3 RBIs. Krause, on the other hand, has been a total bust offensively. He's batting (and slugging!) a paltry .154 in 26 at-bats. He has zero homers and one RBI. Most alarming is the fact that he has struck out in 10 of his 26 at-bats.

Based on Victoria's 7-14 record in the second half and the direction this team seems to be heading, August could be a very long month for the Seals. They also have 9 games remaining against Calgary, the team with the best overall record in the league (37-20, or a .638 winning percentage). Let's hope the team rallies and ends the season on a high note.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • St. George beat Victoria on Monday and Tuesday by identical 15-9 scores. Scoring 18 runs in two consecutive losses must be a tough pill to swallow for the team's hitters. Unfortunately, this kind of thing isn't out of place in the Golden League.
  • This tells you how much better the Golden League hitters are as compared to the pitchers: Carlos Arroyo of the Yuma Scorpions is batting .357 on the season. Amazingly, that's not a high enough batting average to get him into the league's top ten!! On the other hand, only 10 pitchers in the league (min. 0.8 innings per team-games) have an ERA under 4.38.
  • After being second-last in the league in home runs in early June, the Seals have been hitting taters at an amazing clip. They now lead the league in homers with a whopping 69 round-trippers. Jamar Hill is tied for the league lead with 14 and Sergio Pedroza is tied for third in the league with 13 homers.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Turning Point for Ethan Katz in 2009

Ethan Katz continued his struggles on the mound on Monday night in St. George Utah. After the Seals rallied from a 12-1 deficit to close the gap to 12-9, Ethan Katz entered the bottom of the eighth hoping to keep his team close and help sustain their momentum. Unfortunately, Katz gave up three runs on five hits in his inning of work and Victoria fell by a 15-9 score to the Roadrunners. The three runs raised his ERA to 8.01 on the season.

Katz, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007, was released last year by the Colorado Rockies organization after pitching decently for the Asheville Tourists. Like everyone in independent baseball, he hoped that 2009 would be a comeback season for him. All started well, as Katz had a 3.18 ERA for the Seals going into a fateful game against the Edmonton Capitals on June 19th at Royal Athletic Park. On that cool and windy evening, Katz took to the mound in the top of the ninth inning with the Seals out front 7-5. Closer Javier Garcia would normally have taken to the hill in search of the save, but he was unavailable that night after appearing in the previous three games. Katz couldn't keep the Capitals at bay and they rallied for a pair of runs in the ninth to knot the score at 7-7. The Seals would eventually suffer a heartbreaking 10-7 loss in 11 innings. It seems that Ethan Katz has still not recovered from that blown save.

Since Katz took to the hill on that chilly June evening, he sports a woeful 9.64 ERA. Perhaps most surprising is his loss of command: he's given up 13 walks in the 18 2/3 innings he has since pitched. This is very surprising from a guy who has only walked 2.1 batters per nine innings in his minor-league career. He's also given up 27 hits in those 18 2/3 innings. Let's hope that Katz hit bottom on Monday night and that he bounces back real soon.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bibens-Dirkx a Step Closer to a Promotion

Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx continued to make his case that he doesn't belong in "A" ball on Saturday night by dominating the South Bend Silver Hawks in a 3-2 victory. Bibens-Dirkx (3-1) allowed four hits and two earned runs in eight innings of work. He struck out five and walked one Silver Hawks batter. After allowing a two-run homer to Isaias Asencio with two outs in the fifth inning, Bibens-Dirkx retired the last 10 batters that he faced on the night. He now sports a nifty 2.36 ERA for the Peoria Chiefs.

Bibens-Dirkx is the oldest player on the Chiefs roster and has been dominating the less experienced hitters in the Midwest League (opponents are hitting .207 in his 34 1/3 innings pitched). It's time for the Cubs to challenge him by promoting him to Advanced "A" or "AA" ball.