Thursday, December 16, 2010

Victoria to land semi-pro baseball team?

I heard an interesting rumour recently that a "professional" baseball team might be headed back to Victoria. Now keep in mind that this rumour is entirely unsubstantiated at this point, but it's somewhat believable given the quote from Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin in the Times-Colonist article of November 21, 2010.

Apparently, the geography of the league might even allow the Victoria team to travel exclusively by bus, which would certainly help the financial viability of the franchise. I did some research to try and identify this league and the likeliest possibility is the Western Major Baseball League (WMBL), a collegiate semi-pro summer league that currently has 11 teams based in Alberta and Saskatchewan. I tried to confirm the rumour by sending an email to the WMBL President earlier today, but we have not received a reply as of yet.

The WMBL is an extremely stable league with an impressive 56-year history. The league is like a Canadian version of the prestigious Cape Cod League. Team rosters are made up of current and recent college players and unlike college ball, a wood bat is used. The league plays a 45-game regular season that begins on the first weekend in June and playoffs take place starting in late July.

Seals fans may remember that Jeff Duda made the jump from the WMBL to the GBL this past summer. In fact, Duda's old team, the Okotoks Dawgs, led the league in attendance in 2010 with an average of 2,174 fans per game.

In another piece of exciting news, Cranbrook BC was granted a conditional WMBL franchise just yesterday. If plans to build a new ballpark in Cranbrook unfold as expected, their new team could begin play in 2013. And check out what WMBL President Kevin Kvame had to say about the expansion team in Cranbrook:
President of the WMBL, Kevin Kvame, is looking forward to his league taking its first step into British Columbia. "The pitch that was made by the Cranbrook Group was very strong, and we see it as a good fit for our league's future plans. Cranbrook is an ideal candidate for expansion - it is a reasonable distance for travel, has a strong business community, a long history of baseball, and a proven track record of supporting its sport franchises.
Could this mean that the league is poised to make additional steps into British Columbia? We'll have to wait and see.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ex-Seal Bibens-Dirkx survives Rule V Draft

Former Victoria Seals pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx was left unprotected by the Chicago Cubs for today's Rule V Draft, but he wasn't one of the 19 players selected. That means that he will remain in the Cubs' system and will likely be attending their spring training camp as a non-roster invitee. The Cubs' pitchers and catchers are set to report to camp in Mesa, Arizona in mid-February and it will be interesting to see if the ex-Seal can start the season with the big club.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Two other former Seals will re-start their affiliated professional careers in the spring. Anthony Pluta will be pitching in the Los Angeles Angels system and Chris Bodisbaugh will start the year with one of the farm teams of the Chicago White Sox.
  • Friday is Baseball Bloggers Alliance Day. The Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) was formed in 2009 and now includes over 230 blogs dedicated entirely to baseball. For more information on the alliance, check out an interesting interview with the BBA founder, Daniel Shoptaw.
  • Despite much initial fanfare, the North American League seems to be going nowhere. One of the ex-Northern League teams, the Joliet Jackhammers now have a tentative deal to join the Frontier League. For more details on the North American League's issues, see the article that was recently published in the Winnipeg Free Press. Keep in mind that the piece is written from a Winnipeg perspective and that their team, the Goldeyes, will be joining the relatively stable American Association in 2011.
  • The man who was the voice of the Montreal Expos for their first 32 years of existence, Dave Van Horne, has been named the winner of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford Frick Award. According to Wikipedia, the award is given to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball". Van Horne will receive the award at the HoF induction ceremonies on the 24th of July.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

2010 MLB Awards – Bloggers vs. Journalists

As regular readers of our blog will know, we at the Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (VSBB) cast ballots for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance’s end-of-year Major League Baseball awards. These awards are similar to those given out by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), although the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) has one additional category: The Goose Gossage Award for the top reliever in each league.

When voting started, I was interested in seeing how much difference there would be between the awards given out by the bloggers versus the traditional journalists. After compiling the results, I was taken aback by what I saw:

BBWAA (Journalists)
BBA (Bloggers)
NL Manager of Year / Connie Mack Award
Bud Black, SD
Bud Black, SD
AL Manager of Year / Connie Mack Award
Ron Gardenhire, MIN
Ron Washington, TEX
NL Rookie of the Year / Willie Mays Award
Buster Posey, SF
Buster Posey, SF
AL Rookie of the Year / Willie Mays Award
Neftali Feliz, TEX
Neftali Feliz, TEX
NL Goose Gossage Award
Brian Wilson, SF
AL Goose Gossage Award
Rafael Soriano, TB
NL Cy Young Award / Walter Johnson Award
Roy Halladay, PHI
Roy Halladay, PHI
AL Cy Young Award / Walter Johnson Award
Felix Hernandex, SEA
Felix Hernandex, SEA
NL MVP / Stan Musial Award
Joey Votto, CIN
Joey Votto, CIN
AL MVP / Stan Musial Award
Josh Hamilton, TEX
Josh Hamilton, TEX

Surprisingly, there isn’t much difference between the awards handed out by the journalists and the bloggers. Of the eight awards in common between the two organizations, seven had identical winners. The only difference was in the AL Manager of the Year where the bloggers gave it to Ron Washington over Ron Gardenhire by a slim 74-67 vote, but the journalists gave it to Gardenhire over Washington by wide margin (108 to 81). Even in this category, I wouldn’t classify the difference as radical by any stretch.

I must admit that I was surprised to see the BBWAA award the AL Cy Young to Felix Hernandez, who only sported a 13-12 record thanks to the punch-less Seattle Mariners offense. Of course, Hernandez deserved the award buy compiling a league-leading 2.27 ERA in addition to a 1.06 WHIP and 232 strikeouts in 249 2/3 innings. But many times in baseball history, the baseball writers have given the Cy Young Award to a pitcher with an impressive won-loss record over a pitcher with better underlying statistics. The most recent example is from 2005, when the AL Cy Young went to Bartolo Colon (21-8, 3.48 ERA, 1.16 WHIP) and Johan Santana (16-7, 2.87 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) of the Twins finished third in voting.

Based on Hernandez’s win, I think it’s safe to declare that the BBWAA’s over-emphasis on wins is (thankfully) over. A major reason why this has happened is the turnover of BBWAA members in recent years. ESPN writers such as Rob Neyer, Keith Law, Jim Caple and Jayson Stark have been added as members and they are all well-versed in modern Sabermetrics. Nobody has to explain to them why pitching wins is an over-rated statistics.

In fact, many members of the mainstream media are finally getting on board the Sabermetric bandwagon. The Associated Press article announcing Hernandez’s win even mentioned the granddaddy of Sabermetric measures – Wins Above Replacement. It’s enough to make a geek break into tears of joy.

Of course, we shouldn’t get carried away praising the BBWAA for its recent modernization kick. Earlier today, the BBWAA rejected a motion by Jayson Stark to add an award honouring the best reliever in each league. The reason given? The award would always end up going to the reliever with the most saves! Although the Baseball Bloggers Alliance has inaugurated the Goose Gossage Award, the journalists couldn’t find it in their heart to add a new award to recognize the great work of hurlers such as Brian Wilson and Rafael Soriano. Keep trying Mr. Stark. We’re sure another BBWAA breakthrough can’t be far off.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ex-Seal Bibens-Dirkx to make the Cubs in 2011?

Former Victoria Seals pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx continued his ascent to the big leagues by pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League this off-season. In fact, a Chicago Cubs blogger is touting Bibens-Dirkx as a candidate for the Cubs' bullpen in 2011.

Bibens-Dirkx played for Ćguilas del Zulia until his contract ran out on November 20th. In seven starts for Zulia, he posted a 2-2 record with a sparkling 1.60 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. Those are very impressive numbers considering the quality of hitters in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Austin played this past season for the Tennessee Smokies (AA) and the Iowa Cubs (AAA) and had a combined 10-7 record with a 3.78 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. He also held opponents to a .224 batting average and had 2.1 strikeouts for every walk surrendered.

You may remember that the Cubs signed Bibens-Dirkx when he was with the Seals on July 3, 2009. At the time of his signing, he was leading the Golden Baseball League with 54 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings pitched.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to Bibens-Dirkx suiting up with the Chicago Cubs next year might be looming in the next week, since the Cubbies left him unprotected for the Rule V Draft. This draft of veteran minor-leaguers takes place at the upcoming Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida (December 6th to 9th). The smart money is on Bibens-Dirkx becoming the first ex-Seal to appear at the MLB level. In about a week's time we should know the organization with which he'll continue the journey.

See more of our past coverage of Austin Bibens-Dirkx.

Download our iPhone app!

The Victoria Seals Baseball Blog and 76 other blogs in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance now have an iPhone app! The app is free and it's compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. An Android version will follow soon.

To download the app go to the Apple web site.

Thanks to Julian Levine of Splashing Pumpkins (an excellent blog on the San Francisco Giants) and Notice Software for making this happen.