Saturday, December 10, 2011

Former Seal Bibens-Dirkx named a Venezuela Winter League All-Star

Austin Bibens-Dirkx, a dominant pitcher for the Victoria Seals in 2009, has been tearing it up in the Venezuela Winter League. He was recently named as a VWL All Star, based on his outstanding 2.47 ERA (6th best in the league) and 1.05 WHIP. He has also posted a 5-2 record in 11 appearances for Águilas del Zulia. The All Star game is scheduled for this Tuesday night.

When we last checked in on Bibens-Dirkx in September, he had turned his 2011 season around and was back in contention for a spot on the Chicago Cubs' 2012 pitching staff. His recent performance has certainly solidified his position and he will likely get an invitation to spring training with the Cubbies.

Congratulations, Austin!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Is the Designated Hitter really worth the trouble?

There are always a number of fascinating articles in each issue of The Baseball Research Journal, but the recent Fall 2011 publication had one that particularly caught my eye. Jim Albert authored "A Graphical View of the SABR Era", an interesting look at changes in various statistical measures in baseball from 1971 to the present day. The year of 1971 was chosen since that was when the Society for American Baseball Research was founded, but that year happens to be just two years before the American League introduced the Designated Hitter. Although a variety of conclusions can be drawn from the paper, the statistical trends outlined provide an interesting view into the impact and effectiveness of the DH.

My first observation is that the DH is responsible for quite a bit less additional offense that one would expect. I have always been under the impression that the DH produces about 0.5 additional runs per game, but as Figure 1 shows, the difference in runs between the two leagues in the last 40 years has never been more than 0.4 runs per game. However, that difference has been declining steadily since the late 1990's and it currently sits at a measly 0.2 runs per game.

Many proponents of the DH like to mock the "regular" sight of a National League pitcher feebly striking out. If that was indeed the case then one would expect almost two extra strikeouts per game. However, as Figure 5 shows, the biggest difference between the two leagues since 1971 is only about 0.6 strikeouts per game and some years it has been as low as 0.3 per game. That's not exactly a boredom-inducing occurrence.

On the other side of the coin, I would have expected steals in the NL to be well above the level of steals in the AL. That actually was true -- throughout the 1980's. Back then, the National League was in love with small ball and the AL was mainly following Earl Weaver's strategy of playing for three-run homers. But an interesting twist has developed in the last decade: the AL has stolen more bases than the NL and the gap has been quickly increasing over the last five years. So much for my old argument that the DH is responsible for a sizable drop in stolen bases!

The final graph of interest is the most important one: attendance. The DH was brought in by the American League to help with flagging attendance. Back in 1971, the National League was averaging about 3,000 more fans per game than the junior circuit. That figure in 2011? Still 2,800 extra fans per game for the NL. From an attendance perspective, the DH has not exactly been a resounding success.

There are many downsides to the DH (reduced strategy due to fewer bunts and pinch hitting, lessened importance of managing, not being able to experience the thrill or heartbreak of a key hit by a pitcher, etc).  Given the limited benefits of the DH, one has to wonder how much longer it will be around. My guess is that it will take a new commissioner before this failed 1970's experiment is finally killed off. Sadly, Bud Selig just missed a golden opportunity by not eliminating the DH in the recently agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement. In 2013, the Houston Astros will join the American League and the two leagues will each feature 15 teams. That means that there will be at least one inter-league game all season long. It's a real shame that they'll continue to play with two sets of rules.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Did Ryan Braun deserve the NL MVP award?

A year ago, I wrote a blog post about the similarities between the 2010 MLB awards doled out by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) and those given out by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA). Until the recent release of the BBWAA's MVP awards, this year's awards were looking eerily similar once again. Much to my surprise, that trend has come to an abrupt halt.

The BBA's version of the MVP award, named after Hall-of-Famer Stan Musial, was announced at the end of October. The top five vote-getters for the 2011 NL Stan Musial award (first-place votes in parentheses) were:
  1. Matt Kemp (15) - 195 points
  2. Ryan Braun (0) - 134 points
  3. Prince Fielder (0) - 83 points
  4. Joey Votto (0) - 79 points
  5. Justin Upton (0) - 77 points
That's right, Matt Kemp was the unanimous winner of the NL Stan Musial Award. I almost fell off my chair when I read the results of the BBWAA's NL MVP award voting:
  1. Ryan Braun (20) - 388 points
  2. Matt Kemp (10) - 332 points
  3. Prince Fielder (1) - 229 points
  4. Justin Upton (1) - 214 points
  5. Albert Pujols (0) - 166 points
The results astounded me. Let's take a look at how Braun's numbers compare to Matt Kemp's:

Ryan Braun
Matt Kemp

Clearly, Matt Kemp had better offensive numbers than Ryan Braun. In fact, Braun has even admitted this himself. It's also widely believed that Kemp is a much better outfielder than Braun, so defense can't be the reason why the BBWAA thought Kemp didn't deserve to win the award. The most common reason currently being reported in the mainstream media is that Ryan Braun led his team to the playoffs, while that Dodgers finished with a mediocre 82-79 record. In my opinion, that's just crazy. Why should Matt Kemp be penalized because his teammates were inferior to Ryan Braun's teammates? Doesn't the fact that Kemp was surrounded by inferior players imply that he was more valuable to the Dodgers than Braun was to the Brewers? And what about the huge advantage Braun had with Prince Fielder hitting behind him in the lineup? Kemp had no such luxury.

A similar injustice happened in the American League. The BBA voting was as follows:
  1. Jose Bautista (11) - 225 points
  2. Jacoby Ellsbury (5) - 200 points
  3. Miguel Cabrera (3) - 183 points
  4. Curtis Granderson (1) - 135 points
  5. Justin Verlander (2) - 126 points
On the other hand, the BBWAA voting for the AL MVP was:
  1. Justin Verlander (13) - 280 points
  2. Jacoby Ellsbury (4) - 242 points
  3. Jose Bautista (5) - 231 points
  4. Curtis Granderson (3) - 215 points
  5. Miguel Cabrera (2) - 193 points
While I'm fine with pitchers being considered for the MVP award, giving the award to Verlander just doesn't make sense. Bautista's numbers (.302 BA, 43 HR, 103 RBI, 1.056 OPS, 181 OPS+, 8.3 WAR) were absolutely incredible, and they are all the more impressive considering the lack of talent surrounding him in the Toronto Blue Jays' batting order. I'll never be accused of being a Blue Jay fan (I loathe them, if truth be told), but Bautista deserved much more respect than the BBWAA voters gave him. For once, Blue Jays fans have a good reason to whine. 

Aside from the BBWAA's bizarre penchant for voting for players on successful teams, there is another possible explanation for why Kemp and Bautista got the shaft in the MVP voting. I hate to play the race card, but Verlander and Braun are white. Kemp and Bautista are not. Coincidence? Probably not. Actual figures are not available, but I'd be willing to wager that the overwhelming majority of BBWAA members are old, white men. As for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, we also lack firm demographic figures -- but I'd expect the membership to be significantly younger (white men) than the BBWAA's. And you can be sure that the bloggers are much more likely to be swayed by objective individual statistics than less-relevant team-oriented numbers. In light of these fiascos, it looks like the BBWAA could learn a thing or two from the bloggers. Now just don't get me started on the BBWAA's slight of Joey Votto...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Victoria nudges closer to West Coast League baseball team

Back in May, I wrote a blog post on the possibility of Victoria getting an expansion franchise in the West Coast League. I also passed on the information to Cleve Dheensaw of the Times Colonist in the hopes that he would do some additional investigation and help break the story. You can imagine my delight when I came across the following article while reading the Times Colonist on my smart phone last week:

According to West Coast League President Ken Wilson, the league will attempt to finalize the details in November. On the down side, the possible expansion team is for 2013, so we will be forced to sit through another summer without baseball at Royal Athletic Park.

I found a couple of quotes in Cleve Dheensaw's article to be quite interesting. First, Ken Wilson stated that:

Photo from a Seals home game in 2010
"Any time Victoria has had baseball in the past, attendance has been outstanding. We love RAP because it's close to downtown and provides a great atmosphere and setting for baseball. We believe it's the right owner, right league and the right economic structure. We finally have the right mix and combination that will be successful in Victoria."

Then ex-Seals President Darren Parker went on to say: "There are no salaries and no plane travel, so this business model makes more sense."

These quotes back up my position that the demise of the Victoria Seals had more to do with the instability of the Golden Baseball League and the high costs associated with an expanded North American Baseball League than it did with the City of Victoria. Last year, the North American Baseball League added teams in Illinois and Texas which further inflated travel costs. Now there are reports that the Calgary Vipers may pack it in.

If the West Coast League does in fact come to Victoria, we can expect to see a much more stable and better-organized league than the last couple of circuits that came to town. Let's just hope that a deal gets done in the near future and we can start the countdown to the 2013 home opener.

Monday, October 17, 2011

2011 Walter Johnson Awards

The Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (VSBB) is a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA). Once again this year, the VSBB has the honour of casting the Other Baseball Chapter ballot for a number of the BBA awards given to players and managers in both the National and American Leagues.

On Thursday, we posted our ballots for the Goose Gossage Award, which goes to the top reliever in each league. Today we give you the VSBB ballot for the National League Walter Johnson Award, which is presented to the top pitcher (starter or reliever). The Other Baseball Chapter’s American League ballot for the award was cast by Wally Fish at Seedlings to Stars.

Although the Walter Johnson award can be given to a relief pitcher, no reliever had a season that even came closer to the top five starters in either league.

On our National League ballot, I'm giving the nod to 23-year-old Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kershaw posted a spectacular 21-5 record with a 2.28 ERA and a nifty 0.977 WHIP. He also struck out 9.6 hitters per nine innings while only walking 2.1 per nine.

A pair of Philadelphia aces secured the second and third spots on our ballot. Roy Halladay finished in second place thanks to a 19-6 record, 2.35 ERA and a 1.040 WHIP. Halladay's teammate Cliff Lee was penned into the third spot, based on his solid 17-8 record. The southpaw also registered a 2.40 ERA and a 1.027 WHIP.

Two Giants starters finished fourth and fifth on our ballot, in spite of mediocre win-loss records. Matt Cain finished fourth after posting a 2.88 ERA and 1.083 WHIP this season. Madison Bumgarner snagged the last spot on our ballot due to his solid 3.21 ERA and 1.241 WHIP. He also had an excellent strikeout to walks ratio of 3.83.

Honourable mention goes to Ian Kennedy of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Our NL ballot for the Walter Johnson Award stands at:
  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Roy Halladay
  3. Cliff Lee
  4. Matt Cain
  5. Madison Bumgarner

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2011 Goose Gossage Awards

The Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (VSBB) is a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA). This year, the VSBB has the honour of casting the Other Baseball Chapter ballot for a number of the awards given to players and managers in both the National and American Leagues

On Sunday, we posted our ballot for the Willie Mays Award, presented to the top rookie in each league. Today we reveal our National League ballot for the Goose Gossage Award, which will be presented to the league's top relief pitcher. The Other Baseball Chapter’s American League ballot for the Goose Gossage Award was cast by Wally Fish at Seedlings to Stars.

Closer Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves gets our vote as the top reliever in the National League. Kimbrel saved 46 games in his rookie campaign, tied with John Axford of the Milwaukee Brewers for the league lead. He also struck out an incredible 14.8 batters per nine innings pitched, while posting a 2.10 ERA and a nifty 1.04 WHIP.

Second on our ballot is Sean Marshall of the Chicago Cubs. Marshall only notched five saves in 2011, since he spent the year as the setup man for Carlos Marmol. However, he appeared in a whopping 78 games for the Cubs and finished third in the league with 34 holds. Marshall had a 2.26 ERA and a WHIP of 1.10, but his most impressive statistic is the number of home runs he gave up during the season: ONE. That’s right, Sean Marshall gave up 0.12 homers per nine innings in spite of the fact that 40 of his appearances were at Wrigley Field.

We gave the nod to Sergio Romo of the San Francisco Giants for the third spot on our ballot. Romo was the setup man for closer Brian Wilson and he had a spectacular year. Romo appeared in 65 games and sported a stunning 1.50 ERA and 0.71 WHIP. He also struck out 13.1 batters per nine innings and only walked 0.9 hitters per nine – a strikeout to walks ratio of 14:1!!

Honourable mention goes to my favourite Canadian hurler, John Axford, who saved 46 games in 48 opportunities.

Our NL Goose Gossage Award ballot is:
  1. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
  2. Sean Marshall, Chicago Cubs
  3. Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants

Sunday, October 9, 2011

2011 Willie Mays Awards

The Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (VSBB) is a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA). Similar to the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA), the alliance is organized into different chapters. Gus, the founder of the VSBB, is President of the alliance's Other Baseball Chapter. This year, the VSBB has the honour of casting the Other Baseball Chapter ballot for a number of the awards given to players and managers in both the National and American Leagues. On Friday, we posted our ballot for the Connie Mack Award, presented to the top manager in each league. Today we present our ballot for the Willie Mays Award, given to the top rookie in each league.

The 2011 season was full of great performances by rookies, so coming up with a list of the top three newcomers in each league was a difficult job.

In the National League, we believe the most deserving rookie is Danny Espinosa of the Washington Nationals. Although Espinosa only hit for a .236 average, he drew 57 walks and produced a solid .323 on-base percentage. He also played in 158 games, hit 21 homers and 66 RBI and chipped in with 17 stolen bases. He was also excellent defensively, turning 101 double plays for the Nationals at second base.

The Braves’ closer Craig Kimbrel came a close second. Kimbrel notched 46 saves and struck out a staggering 127 hitters in only 77 innings. He also turned in a stellar 2.10 ERA.

Another Braves pitcher, Brandon Beachy, earned a third place finish on my ballot. Beachy started 25 games with Atlanta, registering a 3.68 ERA with 169 strikeouts and only 46 walks in 141 2/3 innings. Honourable mention went to Wilson Ramos of the Washington Nationals.

My National League ballot is:
  1. Danny Espinosa, 2B, Washington Nationals
  2. Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta Braves
  3. Brandon Beachy, SP, Atlanta Braves 
In the junior circuit, I gave the nod to the Michael Pineda of the Seattle Mariners. Pineda’s stuff is electric and he reminds me of a young Pedro Martinez. In 28 starts with Seattle, Pineda notched a 3.74 ERA with 55 walks and 173 strikeouts in 171 innings pitched. He’s likely to have a stellar career.

Another Mariner, Dustin Ackley, finished in the second spot on our ballot. Ackley hit .273 and had a .348 on-base percentage in 2011. He also hit 6 homers and knocked in 36 runs in only 333 at-bats.

The final vote on our ballot went to Ivan Nova of the New York Yankees. Nova had a 3.70 ERA in 165 1/3 innings pitched, while walking 57 and striking out 98. Nova is likely to gain a lot of consideration for the award based on his gaudy 16-4 record, but in my opinion that record says at least as much about the Yankees’ offensive support as it does Nova. Honourable mention goes to Desmond Jennings of the Tampa Bay Rays.

My American League ballot is:
  1. Michael Pineda, SP, Seattle Mariners
  2. Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle Mariners
  3. Ivan Nova, SP, New York Yankees

Friday, October 7, 2011

2011 Connie Mack Awards

The Victoria Seals Baseball Blog is a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. As a member of the alliance, we have the honour of casting a ballot for each of the five awards given to players and managers in both the National and American Leagues. The first award for 2011 is the Connie Mack Award, presented to the top manager in each league.

National League

This year, the Connie Mack Award in the National League is a no-brainer. Kirk Gibson took a team that won only 65 games in 2010 and ended up shocking most baseball experts by leading his squad to 94 victories and the NL West title. Gibson was able to get his team to adopt many of the same attributes that he displayed as a player and he succeeded in completely changing the clubhouse culture in Arizona this year. His intensity ensured that losing was no longer accepted without a fight and this was best demonstrated by the Diamondbacks' 48 come-from-behind victories in 2011.

Also warranting serious consideration was Ron Roenicke, who led the Milwaukee Brewers to their first division title in almost 30 years. He took a team that was nearly identical to the one that won only 77 games in 2010 managed to post an impressive 96 victories, in spite of distractions such as the ongoing Prince Fielder free agency issue.

Tony LaRussa proved once again why he is one of the most successful managers of all time. Although the Cardinals suffered some early season turmoil in the clubhouse, LaRussa rallied the troops down the stretch and the team erased an 8 1/2 game deficit in September to snag the wildcard birth.

Accordingly, my NL ballot is:
  1. Kirk Gibson - Arizona Diamondbacks
  2. Ron Roenicke - Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Tony LaRussa - St. Louis Cardinals
American League

Speaking of comebacks, Joe Maddon continued to pull miracles out of his hat in 2011. The Tampa Bay Rays overcame a 9-game deficit to win the wildcard on the last day of the season. Somehow, a team with a $41.9M payroll managed to squeak past the Red Sox and their bloated $161M payroll (all figures as of opening day). Moneyball is alive and well and the proof is in Tampa Bay.

Ron Washington led the Texas Rangers to their second consecutive AL West division title in 2011. In spite of the loss of Cliff Lee, the team cruised to a 96-win season.

Jim Leyland proved that he can still do the job by managing the Tigers to their first division title since 1987. Their 95 wins was only two behind the New York Yankees, a team with twice the payroll than Detroit.

My ballot in the junior circuit is:
  1. Joe Maddon - Tampa Bay Rays
  2. Ron Washington - Texas Rangers
  3. Jim Leyland - Detroit Tigers
The Baseball Bloggers Alliance has announced that the NL Connie Mack Award winner was indeed Kirk Gibson. In the AL, the award went to Joe Maddon. You can read all of the details on the Baseball Bloggers Alliance web site.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ex-Seal Bibens-Dirkx finishes season strong

When we last reported on the progress of former Victoria Seal pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx, he had been struggling mightily with the Iowa Cubs and had just been demoted to AA. Although he showed only marginal improvement with the Tennessee Smokies, Bibens-Dirkx got the call back up to AAA when the Cubs promoted Casey Coleman to the big club.
Photo courtesy Christian Stewart

After Austin's return to the Iowa Cubs, he reverted back to his dominant 2010 form and gave up a mere six earned runs in 23 2/3 innings pitched, while walking only 7 and striking out out 19 batters. The turnaround has him once again poised to possibly snag a spot as a reliever with the Chicago Cubs out of spring training. To get ready for the upcoming year, Bibens-Dirkx will once again play winter ball in Venezuela for Águilas del Zulia.

The Cubs appear to think highly of the former Seal.  "He's a grinder, a strike-thrower," AAA pitching coach Mike Mason said of the right-hander. "He's not going to overpower you. He fits in the Casey Coleman-Randy Wells mold." Let's hope that Bibens-Dirkx becomes the second ex-Seal to make the major leagues, following in the footsteps of Dane De La Rosa.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Director raising funds to get Bill Lee movie off the ground

Now here's a project that I can support... Director Brett Rapkin is raising funds via to support the production of a feature film on the life of The Spaceman, Bill Lee. Lee of course is one of the most colourful players in MLB history and a wonderful human being. He also became the oldest player in history to win a professional baseball game last season when he won a game for the Brockton Rox of the Can-Am League (the same league that former Seals Jeff Duda and Anthony Pluta currently pitch in).

The Montreal Gazette had a very interesting article on Lee's recent trip to Montreal to search for shooting locations. If you can spare a couple of dollars, click on the link below to add to the film's seed money.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eri Yoshida first woman to win pro game this century

On Tuesday night, Japanese knuckleball pitcher Eri Yoshida became the first woman to win a professional baseball game since Ila Borders accomplished the feat in the Northern League back in 1999. Yoshida, who was recently traded to the Strong Warriors of Maui in the North American League, pitched five strong innings at home to defeat the Edmonton Capitals 4-1.

Hardcore Victoria baseball fans will likely remember Yoshida's start for the Chico Outlaws last July at Royal Athletic Park. As was the case when she pitched in the Garden City, Yoshida's biggest problem is usually finding the strike zone. However, on Tuesday night Yoshida's line was pretty clean:

5.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB and 1 K

There are couple of other interesting observations from looking at the box score. First, it's worth noting that Yoshida's lone strikeout victim was none other than Matt Rogelstad, the man who ignited a brawl at Royal Athletic Park in June of last season. By an amazing coincidence, Rogelstad's combatant in that brawl was Wilver Perez -- Yoshida's only strikeout victim in her July 2010 start against the Victoria Seals!

The other notable fact is that Yoshida's catcher on Tuesday night was none other than ex-Seal Matt Kavanaugh. Apparently, Kavi was pretty pumped about Yoshida's win -- at least judging by his recent tweets:

Congratulations to both Eri Yoshida and Matt Kavanaugh.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wilver Perez is on fire

Wow, talk about taking it to the next level. Wilver Perez had four hits and knocked in five runs on Thursday night to raise his batting average to an impressive .378 on the season, fifth-best in the North American League (NAL). Even more impressive is Wilver's RBI total: 66 in only 60 games. That ranks Wilver second in the league in RBI, and only four behind Daryl Jones of the San Angelo Colts. Not bad for a guy hitting in the number two slot of the Calgary Vipers' batting order.

Wilver got off to a lukewarm start this season and on June 8th his batting average was "only" .280. But in the 180 at bats since that date, he has hit at a torrid .406 clip and knocked in an eye-popping 60 runs.

Last season, Perez hit .317 for the Victoria Seals while setting a new GBL single-season stolen base record (64). Although he hasn't been running as often this season, he is still putting up very good stolen base numbers. Perez has swiped 22 bases in 26 attempts, tieing him with Stantrel Smith of the Edinburg Roadrunners for the league lead.

Nice job, Wilver!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

West Coast League gets rave reviews in Portland paper

The West Coast League (WCL) was the subject of a very positive article in the Portland daily, The Oregonian. As was reported on this blog back in May, it is quite possible that Victoria will be granted an expansion franchise in the WCL for the 2012 season.

You can read The Oregonian article here.  Leave a comment to this blog post and tell us what you think.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dane De La Rosa is first former Victoria Seal in majors!

Well folks, it happened. The first former member of the Victoria Seals has been called up to the big leagues! On Monday night, the Tamp Bay Rays called up Dane De la Rosa from the AAA Durham Bulls. He'll pitch out of the pen and could see action against the New York Yankees on Wednesday or Thursday night.

De La Rosa earned the promotion by going 4-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 35 games with the Bulls.  Back in July/August of 2009, he posted a 2.45 ERA in six relief appearances with the Victoria Seals. However, De La Rosa only pitched on the road for the Seals and he never appeared in a game at Royal Athletic Park.

Congratulations, Dane!

De La Rosa made his major-league debut on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field. He came into the game in the top of the 8th with the Yankees leading 2-0 and a runner on first with one out. He then struck out Mark Teixeira on a 93 MPH cutter to start a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play to get out of the inning. Nerves appeared to get the better of De La Rosa in the top of the 9th, however. After getting Robinson Cano to ground out, De La Rosa walked Nick Swisher. He then walked Canadian Russ Martin on four pitches and was promptly yanked from the game. Unfortunately, De La Rosa's replacement (Cesar Ramos) allowed both inherited runners to score and the Yankees went on to win 4-0. De La Rosa's line for the night was 1 IP, 0 H, 2 ER, 2 BB and 1 K.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ex-Seal Bibens-Dirkx has setback on way to big leagues

Photo courtesy Christian Stewart
At the start of 2011 it looked like Austin Bibens-Dirkx was on track to be the first (only?) former Victoria Seal to go on to make the major leagues. Given the troubles that the Chicago Cubs have had this year, all he had to do was duplicate his fine 2010 minor-league season to get a call-up. But things have not gone quite according to plan for Bibens-Dirkx.

Austin has posted a 3-5 record and a nasty 7.16 ERA with the AAA Iowa Cubs in 2011 after having a respectable 4.61 ERA at that level in the latter part of last season. Although his ERA has taken a big hit this year, many of Bibens-Dirkx's underlying AAA numbers have actually improved:

52 2/3 
81 2/3

It's fair to chalk up his struggles to a run of bad luck and a few horrendous starts like the one on June 18th against the Albuquerque Isotopes in which he gave up 11 earned runs in only one inning of work. Thankfully the Cubs have done their homework and instead of releasing Bibens-Dirkx, they sent him back down to AA yesterday. Given that his confidence has probably taken a big hit, it's likely that he'll benefit from a stint back down with the Tennessee Smokies. In the first part of the 2010 season, Bibens-Dirkx put up stellar numbers with the Smokies: a 3.27 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. Let's hope he can regroup in AA and eventually resume his trek to the big leagues.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Kavanaugh exacts revenge on Vipers

Photo courtesy Christian Stewart
Revenge is a dish best served cold -- just ask Matt Kavanaugh. After being hastily released by the Vipers, the ex-Seal was quickly snapped up by the Strong Warriors of Maui. On Thursday night, Maui just happened to be in Calgary to start a series against the Vipers.

Although Kavi didn't start the game, he still played a prominent role in the outcome. Trailing 4-3 in the 7th, Maui sent Matt to the plate as a pinch hitter. His two-run sacrifice fly in the 7th and two-run double in the top of the 9th lead the Strong Warriors to a 10-4 comeback victory.

Maui used Kavanaugh in left field on Thursday and Friday even though he spent little time in the outfield in his two seasons in Victoria. Not only has Matt made three putouts so far, but on Friday afternoon he threw out a runner at home plate. Nice job, Matt!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ex-Seal Duda off to great start with Québec City

Former Victoria Seals pitcher Jeff Duda is enjoying life in La Belle Province. As reported in an earlier blog post, Duda is playing for the Québec Capitales this season and he has had great success so far pitching out of the their bullpen. In eight relief appearances, Jeff has a 1-0 record with one save and a sparkling 2.20 ERA. He has also struck out an impressive 19 batters in only 16 1/3 innings on the mound, while only walking five. Duda has limited opponents to a .234 batting average, a significant improvement over the .306 mark that he posted last year with the Seals.

Duda's contributions have helped propel Quebec City into first place in the Can-Am League with a 19-6 record. Keep up the good work, Jeff!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Kavanaugh released by Vipers; Rios on inactive list

Photo courtesy of Jonathon Howe;
Graphics courtesy of Bubba
In a surprise move, the Calgary Vipers released ex-Seal Matt Kavanaugh on Monday. Kavi was only hitting .114 with one homer and four RBI in 35 at-bats, but the move seems to be a knee-jerk reaction given his solid performance and steady improvement with Victoria over the last two seasons. The Vipers were using Kavanaugh at first base, but he became expendable once they signed utility man Andy Jenkins this past weekend. Jenkins played at the AAA level as recently as last season. Hopefully, Matt can catch on with other independent team in the near future.

There are still three other ex-Seals still on the Calgary roster, however. Brian Rios was moved to the inactive list on June 5th, likely due to an injury.

Chris Bodishbaugh has improved of late and has now struck out 14 batters in 9 1/3 innings of relief, while he has only walked three. However, he has been giving up far too many base hits and he sports a 5.79 ERA and a 2.11 WHIP. On the plus side, Bodi has notched two saves in his last three appearances.

Wilver Perez is the fourth ex-Seal playing for Calgary and he has been red hot of late. Wilver has raised his average to an impressive .358 with 2 homers and 15 RBI in 67 at-bats. He has also swiped six bases in seven attempts, but he is five steals behind the league leader, Stantrel Smith of the Edinburg Roadrunners.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

National League All Star Ballot

As a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) and President of the alliance's Other Baseball chapter, it is my pleasure to cast a ballot for the BBA's National League All-Star team.

Every year, it's difficult to decide between the established stars who may be having a less than stellar season and the young upstarts who haven't been around long enough to be proven commodities. With that in mind, here is my National League ballot for 2011:
  • Catcher - Yadier Molina STL - 21 R, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 1 SB, .314 BA, .813 OPS
  • 1st Base - Joey Votto CIN - 43 R, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 6 SB, .335 BA, , .987 OPS
  • 2nd Base - Rickie Weeks MIL - 44 R, 11 HR, 26 RBI, 7 SB, .278 BA, .837 OPS
  • Third Base - Chipper Jones ATL - 22 R, 4 HR, 32 RBI, 0 SB, .251 BA, .763 OPS
  • Shortstop - Jose Reyes NY, 42 R, 1 HR, 23 RBI, 20 SB, .341 BA, .906 OPS
  • Outfielder - Lance Berkman STL, 37 R, 14 HR, 43 RBI, 0 SB, .329 BA, 1.071 OPS
  • Outfielder - Matt Kemp LA, 40 R, 17 HR, 50 RBI, 14 SB, .323 BA, .997 OPS
  • Outfielder - Ryan Braun MIL, 45 R, 13 HR, 45 RBI, 14 SB, .311 BA, .967 OPS
  • Starting Pitcher - Cole Hamels PHI, 8-2, 2.58 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 9.03 K/9, 5.06 K/BB
Some of the selections, like Jose Reyes at short, were no-brainers. Others, not so much. Behind the plate, I decided to give Yadier Molina the edge over Brian McCann due to his outstanding defense. I went with Joey Votto over Prince Fielder at first for patriotic reasons: Votto is Canadian and I have to support my countrymen. Of course, as defending NL MVP he has a proven track record.

Third base was another tough call, but I went with the ancient Chipper Jones over Greg Dobbs of the Marlins and Ryan Roberts of the Diamondbacks. Us old geezers have to stick together.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Baseball likely to return to Victoria in 2012

According to two published media reports, Victoria is on the short list of cities to be granted an expansion franchise in the West Coast League (WCL) for the 2012 season. A few months ago, an article appeared in the New Westminster News Leader stating that a WCL team could be playing next year in Queen's Park Stadium in New Westminster. This article also stated:

"The nine-team league, which first called "play ball" in 2005, has an eventual vision of 12 franchises. It is also looking at placing teams in a location "east of Kelowna" and another in Victoria."

Recently, Ballpark Business included a short note about WCL expansion:

"Team owners from the summer collegiate West Coast League will meet in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue (WA) on April 22-23 to discuss league business, including adding one-to-three new franchises to the circuit in 2012.  The markets most recently mentioned were Medford (OR), the Olympia (WA) area, Victoria (BC), and New Westminster (BC)."

The West Coast League features high-level NCAA players and the 48-game schedule (June to mid-August) is a good fit for Victoria's summer weather. League alumni include Jeff Francis of the Kansas City Royals, Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox and Nyjer Morgan of the Milwaukee Brewers.

The West Coast League already includes a team in British Columbia -- the Kelowna Falcons -- so the Victoria team would have another rival in addition to New Westminster. Other teams in the league include the Bellingham (WA) Bells, Bend (OR) Elks, Corvallis (OR) Knights, Cowlitz (Kelso / Longview, WA) Black Bears, Kitsap (Bremerton, WA) BlueJackets, Klamath Falls (OR) Gems, Walla Walla (WA) Sweets and the Wenatchee (WA) AppleSox.

Hopefully, Victoria lands a WCL expansion team and an official announcement is made in the near future. The departure of the Seals has left a gaping hole in the summer sports scene in this city, and a WCL team would be a nice addition. I for one would be excited to watch future major leaguers showcase their skills at Royal Athletic Park.

Let's keep our fingers crossed...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Isaac Hess a Winnipeg Goldeye

Photo courtesy Christian Stewart
Issac Hess, the most dominant pitcher to ever wear a Victoria Seals uniform, is currently playing for the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the American Association. "Zack" has now played for three professional baseball teams in Canada and he continues to pursue his dream of pitching in the major leagues.

Anyone who has been out to Royal Athletic Park over the last two seasons can't help but fondly remember Hess, the crafty southpaw who befuddled Golden Baseball League hitters and swung a big stick at the plate for Victoria. Isaac compiled an impressive 14-6 record and a 3.88 ERA over two seasons with the Seals. He also struck out 170 batters in 171 2/3 innings, while only walking 64.

So far in 2011, Hess has pitched 10 scoreless innings, struck out 11 and only walked three batters. We know that he'll continue to excel in the American Association. Hopefully, his performance will lead to a contract in a higher professional league (Japan or Korea?) and then ultimately a chance to pitch for an MLB organization.

Go get 'em, Zack!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pluta suits up for Newark Bears; Edgecombe and Swinford not so lucky

After being released by the Los Angeles Angels in spring training, former Victoria Seals pitcher Anthony Pluta has signed with the Newark Bears in the Can Am League. The Bears, whose season kicks off on May 26th, are managed by future Hall-of-Famer Tim Raines.
Pluta photo courtesy of Christian Stewart

Pluta made great strides with his control last season and posted a 6-4 record and a 4.56 ERA with the Seals. Hopefully he can continue to progress as a pitcher and get another shot with a major-league organization.

It's possible that Pluta could pitch against another ex-Seal this season, as Jeff Duda is pitching for the Québec Capitales. The Bears and Capitales are scheduled to play each other a dozen times in 2011.

In other news, the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League just released former Seals first baseman Matt Edgecombe. Edgecombe hit .287 with 2 homers and 30 RBI in 251 at-bats last season. Hopefully he'll find another pro team to catch on with.

And finally, ex-Seal Dale "Swinny" Swinford has signed with the Windy City (Crestwood, Illinois) Thunderbolts of the Frontier League. However, Swinny is currently on the Thunderbolts' inactive list and will have to wait for an injury before he can suit up. Windy City's season got underway on the 19th of May. Swinford hit .283 with no homers and 16 RBI in 191 at-bats with the Seals in 2010, before his controversial release in August.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bodishbaugh and Kavanaugh sign with Calgary Vipers

Two former Victoria Seals, Chris Bodishbaugh and Matt Kavanaugh, have recently signed with the Calgary Vipers in the North American League (NAL). The pair join two other ex-Seals in the Vipers infield, Wilver Perez and Brian Rios, who inked deals earlier this year with the Calgary squad.

Photo of Bodi courtesy Christian Stewart
Kavanaugh had a break-out season with the Seals in 2010, hitting .315 with 7 homers and 38 RBI in 235 at-bats. We wouldn't be surprised to see the 26-year-old continue his improvement and earn a spot on this year's NAL All-Star Team.

Bodishbaugh went 1-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 2010 and capped off his season by being signed by the Chicago White Sox in October. Unfortunately, Bodi was subsequently released by the White Sox early in spring training.

Mike Koons (4-1, 4.50 ERA), who pitched in relief for the Seals in 2010, will also play this season in the NAL. He signed to play for manager Garry Templeton in Maui.

The NAL regular season kicks off on Tuesday with a double-header between the Vipers and Scorpions in Yuma, Arizona. The 10-team league has had to adopt a very unbalanced schedule in order to minimize travel costs between the geographically dispersed cities. For instance, the Vipers will play the Edmonton Capitals a total of 29 times this season. That's plenty of time for Wilver Perez and Matt Rogelstad to get re-acquainted...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Italian pro team in 7th place despite Terrence McClain's hitting

As we reported three months ago, former Victoria Seal Terrence "T-Mac" McClain is playing baseball in Italy this summer. Although McClain is leading the North East Knights in just about every offensive category, his team has staggered out of the gate and posted a dismal 4-11 record.
In T-Mac's 48 at-bats, he has racked up a .313 batting average with one homer and five RBIs. Surprisingly, his early-season statistics are lagging the numbers that he posted with Victoria in the GBL last year. In 2010, McClain's OPS was a stellar .915 mark, but up to this point his OPS is a lukewarm .751. Clearly, the caliber of play in the Italian First Division is pretty darn good. It will be interesting to see how T-Mac fares over the rest of the season. It must be a difficult adjustment on a number of levels. For instance, I would expect it to be difficult to only play three games per week, since North American ballplayers are used to playing 6 or 7 per week.

It must also be a challenge to play in front of so few fans. According to the Italian Baseball League website, the North East Knights are only averaging 103 fans per game for their home games. Initially, I thought it might be related to the team's poor showing (7th place in an 8-team league), but the first place Bologna squad only averages 245 fans per game.

One cultural difference between Italian and North American baseball seems to be the prevalency of stolen bases. Based on the statistics that I have seen, Italian managers are hesitant to send runners. For instance, T-Mac has one stolen base (in only one attempt) in his 14 games with the Knights after racking up 19 steals in 85 games with Victoria last season. The entire North East Knights squad has only stolen 5 bases in 10 attempts in their 15 games. Their opponents have only swiped 11 bases in 22 attempts -- also for a dismal 50% success rate. By comparison, the Victoria Seals stole 145 bases in 88 games last year. Either the runners are slow in the Italian Baseball League or the catchers have rocket launchers for arms.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • In a news story that will not make Victoria baseball fans happy, it was recently announced that Fort McMurray is in the Request for Proposals stage to build a new 3,500 seat ballpark. The city is hoping to land a North American Baseball League or Western Major Baseball League team for the 2013 season. It's sad that a Canadian city with less than 80,000 people is about to build a new ballpark, yet the citizens of Victoria are stuck with a decrepit Royal Athletic Park.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Arhart lands coaching job in affiliated ball

Photo courtesy Christian Stewart
Victoria Seals fan favourite Josh Arhart is now working as a coach for the Princeton (West Virginia) Rays. Princeton is in the Appalachian League (Advanced Rookie level).

You can read more here.

Congratulations, Josh. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pluta and Bodisbaugh released

Photo courtesy Christian Stewart
Both Victoria Seals pitchers signed at the end of the 2010 season have been abruptly released by their respective major league organizations. Approximately two weeks ago, the Chicago White Sox released Chris Bodisbaugh after only two appearances in their minor-league camp. Recently, the most loyal reader of the Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (Tyler) has informed us that Anthony Pluta has been let go by the Los Angeles Angels.

Given their performance last year, both players should have no trouble catching on with an independent league team. We at the Victoria Seals Baseball Blog wish Bodi and Pluta all the best in the future.

By the way, if you can provide us with additional information on these two situations (or the status of other former Victoria Seals) then please leave a comment to this blog post.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Terrence McClain leaves for Italy on April 5th to join the North East Knights of the Italian Baseball League. If you would like to follow T-Mac's new team, you can go to their website. Be sure to use the Google Chrome browser so that it will automatically translate the pages from Italian to English. The team also has a Facebook page (search for North East Knights). I'll also try and post regular updates on his season on this blog.
  • There has been much discussion of possible names for Victoria's new WHL team in spite of the fact that there has been no formal announcement (expect that early this week since the Chilliwack Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs last night). My vote is to call them the Victoria Seals. The name already has a positive connotation in the city and with Darren Parker now an RG Properties employee, it shouldn't be difficult to acquire the naming rights. Plus, it would open the door for the return of Seamore Seal. We know one guy who would be all over that....

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Darren Parker hired by RG Properties

The former president and owner of the Victoria Seals, Darren Parker, has been hired by RG Properties as their senior vice-president of sales and marketing. The hiring was announced on Wednesday. The move is a good one for RG Properties, as Parker has proven skills in producing entertaining sporting events that put a lot of bums in seats. His experience in minor-league and independent baseball can only improve the (recently morose) atmosphere at the SoFA.

It's probably not a 
coincidence that multiple media outlets are reporting that the transaction to move the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL to Victoria is a done deal. Darren's father Russ is owner of the WHL's Regina Pats and both Parkers know a thing or two about running a major junior hockey franchise. 

I wouldn't be surprised if Darren Parker didn't do much work for the Victoria Salmon Kings of the East Coast Hockey League (Oops, ECHL -- sorry!). I'm betting that the move of the Bruins to Victoria will be made public as soon as Chilliwack is eliminated from the WHL playoffs. With Chilliwack being down three games to one in a best-of-seven series against the Spokane Chiefs, the Bruins could have officially played their last game in Chilliwack by as early as this Saturday night.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

North American League down to 10 teams?

Originally announced as a 16-to-20 team league, the North American League may have shrunk down to only 10 teams. Ballpark Digest is reporting that a 10-team schedule is being drawn up after the recent eviction of the Schaumburg (Illinois) Flyers from their ballpark. That leaves the Eastern Division with only five squads. Rumours are circulating that one of the Western Division teams would be taken out of play in order to get back to an even number. It's likely that this organization would be the hastily-assembled Henderson (Nevada) Roadrunners, one of three league-owned teams.

The black clouds continue to gather on the North American League's horizon. Unconfirmed rumours that the Rockford Riverhawks are planning to jump ship to the Frontier League continue to circulate. That would leave only one team in Illinois, a scenario that would likely kill the Lake County Fielders (who lack a proper ballpark in which to play anyway). The result would be only three teams in the Eastern Division, all of them in Texas. There is also talk of adding a fourth team in the Lone Star State, but this would be a travelling team named after the city of McAllen.

Another unconfirmed rumour has the NAL considering putting a team in Kamloops for the 2011 season. Victoria fans may remember that the Seals played a pair of mildly successful exhibition games in Kamloops prior to the 2010 season.

It will be interesting to see how things play out for the still unstable North American League.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tampa Bay sends ex-Seal De la Rosa to minors

The Tampa Bay Rays sent ex-Victoria Seals hurler Dane De la Rosa to their minor-league camp today after he struggled with the big club during spring training. De la Rosa posted a 12.60 ERA in five relief appearances this month.

De la Rosa will likely start the season in AAA with the Durham Bulls.

Jeff Duda signs with Québec Capitales

Former Victoria Seals pitcher Jeff Duda has signed with the Québec Capitales of the Can-Am League (roughly AA baseball). Duda had a pretty decent season for the Seals in 2010, posting a 4-3 record in 21 appearances with a 3.90 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in his first year of professional baseball.

Duda was signed by the Seals in June of 2010 after excelling for the Okotoks Dawgs of the Western Major Baseball League. Duda also pitched for Canada in the 1998 Little League World World Series, setting a LLWS record by striking out 17 batters.

Best of luck in 2011, Jeff!!

Photo courtesy of Christian Stewart.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Another North American League team bites the dust

Another blow was dealt to the North American (formerly Golden Baseball) League today, as the Schaumburg (Illinois) Flyers were evicted from their ballpark. This leaves the NAL Eastern Division with only five teams and one of those teams, the Lake County Fielders, is also without a ballpark in which to play the 2011 season.

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out, but don't be surprised if the entire Eastern Division of the NAL collapses and the league pushes forward with only six (sort of) former Golden Baseball League teams -- three of which will be league owned. The Parkers are looking smarter by the day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dane De la Rosa is fourth ex-Seal in the minors

This entire off-season, I have been under the mistaken impression that three former Victoria Seals are currently in the affiliated minor leagues. Well it turns out that there is a fourth ex-Seal and he just might be the closest one to the big leagues.

Dane De la Rosa briefly pitched for the Seals in 2009 before his contract was sold to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League. During his July/August 2009 stay in Victoria, De la Rosa had an 0-1 record with one save and a 2.45 ERA in six relief appearances. We were impressed with his stuff when he arrived, touting him as a potential closer for the Seals. It turns out that his upside was a bit higher than we thought.

De la Rosa was signed by the Tampa Bay Rays prior to the 2010 season and he spent last year pitching for the Charlotte Stone Crabs (Advanced A, Florida State League) and Montgomery Biscuits (AA, Southern League). De la Rosa made 47 relief appearances for Montgomery and sported a nifty 9-3 record with a 1.97 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. Most impressively, he addressed what was previously one of his biggest flaws -- surrendering too many walks. De la Rosa only walked 3.2 batters per nine innings while averaging 9.3 strikeouts per nine. He was even promoted to the Durham Bulls for the AAA playoffs, but he did not appear in any games with Crash Davis' old team.

Just before Christmas, De la Rosa got the amazing news that he was added to the 40-man roster by Tampa Bay and was invited to spring training with the big club. For now anyway, De la Rosa is sharing the same clubhouse as Manny Ramirez. With an impressive spring, De la Rosa could break camp with the big club, but at the very least he'll start the 2011 season at AAA with the Bulls.

The Rays play their first spring training game on Friday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Here is an updated list of the ex-Seals who are currently playing in the minor-league system of MLB teams:

Year(s) played for Seals
MLB organization
Likely starting level for 2011
Dane De la Rosa
Tampa Bay Rays
Austin Bibens-Dirkx
Chicago Cubs
Chris Bodishbaugh
Chicago White Sox
Advanced A
Anthony Pluta
Los Angeles Angels
Advanced A or AA