Friday, April 27, 2012

Curiosities

When you play a game at 10:35 in the morning, the rest of the day can be wonderfully reserved for all different matter of things, like listening to Joe Pug's new album, "The Great Despiser," catching up with friends, and catching up with sleep.

Right before going to bed tonight, though, I happened to look at the Lugnuts' current stats.  Here's what occurred to me:

* The highest ERA on the team belongs to closer Ajay Meyer (5.73), who also happens to lead the league in saves, games, and games finished.  Aside from Ajay, no pitcher on the team has an ERA above 3.46 (Tyler Ybarra).

* Two pitchers (Aaron Sanchez and Justin Nicolino) have yet to allow an earned run.  Sanchez hasn't allowed any runs at all, as a matter of fact.

* No pitcher has more than two wins or more than one loss.

* Two pitchers don't have victories yet:  reliever Tyler Ybarra and standout lefty Justin Nicolino.  In fact, Nicolino's the only pitcher without a decision yet.  Weird.

* The Lugnuts have a team ERA of 1.99.  That's ridiculous.

17-5, baby.  This has been a heck of a start to the season.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Back From Vacation

Those of you who were fans of Jack Bauer and “24” know that a lot can happen in 24 hours. It can feel like it lasts months.

The same goes for a 24-hour break from broadcasting during the season.

With a day game on Sunday and a night game on Monday, Jesse and I have 26 hours away from the mic. That kind of break during the season is just lovely.

Anything more than 24 hours off, without travel, feels like a vacation. Both Jesse and I had a chance to grab dinner with some friends in the area last night. I was able to watch TV, read and workout. I almost feel like a real person!

Sidebar: We watched The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters last night. It is a spectacular documentary about the world’s best video gamers trying to set the World Record for the highest Donkey Kong score. I know, I know, sounds a little odd and geeky. Trust me, the story was beautifully told and if you appreciate a well produced, edited and directed film you will get a kick out of this documentary.

Anyway, back to a life in baseball…

During the season my entire mind is focused on baseball. I’m on-air every night talking about baseball. I am reading scouting reports. I am researching the background and history of the opposing players, coaches and franchises. Weekends and weekdays are totally blurred. The only way I know it is a weekday in April is when the crowd is light and I can talk to my 9-to-5 working friends on Google Chat. I know when a weekend is about to start because every self-respecting team has a “Thirsty Thursday” promotion.

It’s a strange and exciting life we live as broadcasters.


Well, the batteries are recharged after our 26-hour vacation and tonight the Lugnuts try to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time in 2012.

Negatives: The Lugnuts offense came to a screeching halt seven days ago. Remove the nine run output against Burlington on Friday and Lansing is averaging 1.8 runs per game in the last six.

Positives: Chris Hawkins is still torching the ball. He clobbered two balls on Sunday afternoon, one to center and the other to right. The wind caught them both and gently placed them in the glove of Peoria’s centerfielder and rightfielder.

In the three games against Burlington, Hawkins went 6-for-12.

Kevin Patterson’s plate discipline has improved…

First 16 plate appearances of 2012: one walk and eight strikeouts
Last 18 plate appearances of 2012: five walks and two strikeouts

Just for the record, the pitching is still lights out

First thing the players looked for when we showed up at the ballpark; which way are the flags blowing? They are blowing toward the rightfield foul pole. It looks like a strong cross wind for tonight’s game.

Bonus weather lingo from Jesse: “Pneumonia Weather”

This is when the sun is shining and it looks warm out so you leave your coat at home. When you step outside it is actually 50 degrees out and the wind makes it feel like 40. Because you did not bring your coat, you catch pneumonia.

That is the best way to describe the weather in the first two games of the Peoria series.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Playing in Peoria

Will the Lugnuts play in Peoria?  They sure will, starting today.  Game time is 3 p.m. Eastern, 2 p.m. local.

O'Brien Field, home of the Peoria Chiefs and Bradley University Braves.

Yes, those are palm trees.

Keaton prepares for the broadcast... and a future career as hand model.

Anthony DeSclafani and Noah Syndergaard were unusually off their game yesterday, but the Lugnuts' offense promptly picked up the slack in a highly satisfying 9-6 victory.  Lansing is now 13-3 this year.

Also yesterday:
 * The Dunedin Blue Jays are now 13-2, having won six straight games.
 * Jon "Bones" Jones defeated Lansing's own Rashad Evans in a UFC main event that the entire bus was glued to.
 * Drew Hutchison won his Major League debut.  (Have a look at the Lugnuts' MLB alumni page now.)

David Rollins starts the opener today at O'Brien Field against the 6-10 Chiefs and P.J. Francescon.  Tune in via Big Country 92.1 FM and we'll see if the Nuts can reach 14-3.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Before the finale in Burlington

I'm in a good mood:  my song is playing here in Burlington.

Community Field, home of the Burlington Bees:  beautiful and old school.

Why, yes, the Bees are golfing today before the game.

Shane Opitz has been promoted to Lansing today from Extended Spring Training, replacing the DL'd Jorge Vega-Rosado.  A profile of the newest Lugnut.

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I love this LSJ gallery in the season preview.  Look at those pictures!

I wholeheartedly recommend that you read this Johnny Anderson piece on his TJ surgery.

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The Lugnuts' runs scored this season, game to game:

3, 4, 4, 8, 6, 7, 3, 4, 5, 5, 3, 3, 3, 2, 0

There was that brief three-game series at Dayton (8, 6, 7) where the offense was in fine form.  Aside from that, though, there's nothing much to write home about.

Chris Hawkins is batting .346, Jon Berti's batting .293 and Kevin Pillar's at .288...

On the other hand, Markus Brisker (.171), Andy Burns (.213), Kellen Sweeney (.217), Kenny Wilson (.167) and K.C. Hobson (.190 after a three-hit debut) aren't doing so well.

On the bright side:

2, 2, 3, 0, 2, 4, 2, 5, 4, 4, 0, 0, 4, 0, 2

Those are the runs allowed by the pitchers this year, in case you're wondering why this team is 12-3.

*

Meanwhile, the Dunedin Blue Jays have caught fire and are now 12-2 this year. Marcus Knecht leads the Florida State League with 14 RBIs despite a .232 average, helped by batting .346 with runners on base (compared to a .133 average with the bases empty). Only Jake Marisnick has truly impressed so far among the 2011 Lugnuts alumni in Dunedin --

That is, if you don't count the perpetually awesome Kevin Nolan.  I'd promote Kev to Double-A in a heartbeat just to see if he could tread water near a .300 average with his consistent line drive singles to the gaps.  Then again, I'm biased.  He's one of the best guys I've met in baseball.

*

Drew Hutchison debuts tonight for the Blue Jays...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lugnuts Podcast, Week 3: the 12-2 Lugs

In our third Lugnuts Podcast of the year, Keaton and Jesse review the Lugnuts' 12-2 start to the season and chat with second baseman Jon Berti.

I'm still here

Before Opening Day, it's a good idea to say farewell to your loved ones and friends, waving handkerchiefs in the same manner as the lovers in those old newsreels, leaning over the railing of the ship as it pulls away from the pier.

During the season, there's nothing but baseball.  It takes over your life.

I know, I know, that I've been living my life one day at a time.  That's the cliche, isn't it?  Take it one game at a time.  It's not true, though.

In reality, you blink your eyes and the first month of the season is nearly done and you've missed several birthdays and anniversaries, your emails have built up, there are dozens of facebook messages and phone messages and text messages that have gone unreturned, and you're not quite sure where the days have gone - but you are sure that you've been eating far too much pizza, popcorn, soft pretzels, peanuts, and ice cream.

*

The headline right now is that the Lugnuts are 12-2.

The sub-head is a bunch of words about pitchers Aaron Sanchez, Anthony DeSclafani, David Rollins, Jesse Hernandez, Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard.  (See how I threw Anthony and David in there in the 2nd and 3rd spots?  People need to start talking about them.)

The ignored storyline is defense, porous in 2011 but top-notch this year.  Jon Berti is a sensation at second base.  Kellen Sweeney has outstanding hands at third.

Other observations:

* I'd like to see Pierce Rankin more, but I understand why Carlos Perez is getting the lion's share of starts.
* Tyler Ybarra's going to get better and better.
* Brandon Berl's ready for a call-up to Dunedin.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Off on the Right Foot

With a sixth consecutive victory to open up the 2012 season coming on Wednesday, the 2012 Lugnuts set the franchise record for the best start in their 17-year history.

Why?

Has it been the great defense? Is it the offense that posted 21 runs in the sweep of Dayton? What about the pitching staff sporting a Midwest League-best 1.76 ERA?

The defense, offense and pitching have all been great but I think the better question to ask is, how did this much talent end up in Lansing at the same time?  The simple answer… the 2010 draft.

The long answer begins with a look back at where the Blue Jays organization was at two years ago.


It was GM Alex Anthopoulos’ first year. J.P Ricciardi failed to sign three picks in the first three rounds of the 2009 draft. Also, SS Marco Scutaro, who had just completed a career year and veteran catcher Rod Barajas left via free agency.

Because of the Scutaro and Barajas departures, along with the inability to sign their top draft picks, the Blue Jays had nine selections in the first three rounds of 2010. All of a sudden, that 2010 draft was a huge moment in the Blue Jays recent history. Toronto’s new GM had a chance to stockpile talent and make an immediate stamp on the organization.

What kind of impact did that draft have on the 2012 Lugnuts? Take a look for yourself. Here is a list of those 9 picks and where they came from. See how many names you recognize.

1st RD – #20 overall - Deck McGuire - RHP

Supplemental 1st RD – #34 overall - Aaron Sanchez – RHP (compensation for type A free agent Marco Scutaro signing with Boston)

Supplemental 1st RD - #38 overall – Noah Syndergaard – RHP (compensation pick received because they failed to signed the 2009 #37 overall pick James Paxton)

Supplemental 1st RD - #41 overall - Asher Wojciechowski – RHP (compensation for type B free agent signing with the Mets)

2nd RD - #61 overall – Griffin Murphy – LHP

2nd RD - #69 overall – Kellen Sweeney  - 3B (compensation pick received because they failed to signed the 2009 68th overall pick Jake Eliopoulos)

2nd RD - #80 overall – Justin Nicolino – LHP (received from Boston because they signed Scutaro)

3rd RD pick - #93 overall – Chris Hawkins – OF

3rd RD pick - #113 overall - Marcus Knecht – OF (compensation pick received because they failed to sign 2009 99th overall pick Jake Barrett)

All five of those players in bold are currently with the Lugnuts and they are all making significant impacts.
Here is a look at their combined numbers…

Hawkins and Sweeney have both played spectacular defense and they have not committed an error yet. 

Their combined numbers in the first six games…
.333 average (13-39) 4 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 4 BB 6 K

Sanchez, Syndergaard and Nicolino’s combined stats…
2-0 record, 12 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 17 K, .122 opponent batting average

In addition, an interesting streak came to an end on Wednesday night against the Dayton Dragons when Syndergaard’s throwing error allowed an unearned run to score in the fifth inning.

That was the first run that any pitcher signed by Toronto in 2010 had allowed this season for the Lugnuts. In addition to Sanchez, Syndergaard and Nicolino, Anthopoulos inked Brandon Berl (40th round, 1,206 overall) and Jesse Hernandez (signed as a nondrafted free agent in 2010). Those five guys, who were all a part of Anthopoulos’ first draft class as Toronto GM, have put up great numbers in the first week of the season…

2-0 record, 21 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 6 BB 27 K.

The Lugnuts looked head and shoulders above the Dayton Dragons in their most recent three-game series sweep. Who knows how long Lansing will stay on this run. By looking a little closer at Anthopoulos short tenure as GM of the Blue Jays we can get a better idea of how so much talent reached Lansing at the same time.

We are only six games deep into the 2012 season but, for Lugnuts and Blue Jays fans alike, it has been fun so far.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lugnuts Podcast, Week 2: Undefeated

In our second Lugnuts Podcast of the year, Keaton and Jesse recap the Lugnuts' quick start to the season and chat with first baseman Kevin Patterson.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Let the Games Begin

The Lugnuts unofficially opened their season last night in front of a Cooley Law School Stadium record 12,997 fans.  If you talk to anyone about the business of baseball one of the first things they tell you is that they are not selling the product on the field, but the experience at the ballpark. The Crosstown Showdown on Thursday night was quite the experience.


Last night was my first ballgame in Lansing. I was very impressed with how much the community bought into the game. A number of fans that wanted to buy tickets a half hour after the game started were turned away because there was simply no more room in the stadium. The community was interested after the game as well. Local bartenders, waitresses and other members of the community that were not in attendance asked fans that were about the game and who won.

That being said… the product on the field will be pretty good this year.

*

Defense is supposed to win championships, right?
 This Lansing squad is excellent defensively, especially the infield. Kellen Sweeney at 3B, Andy Burns at SS and Jon Berti at 2B made some difficult plays look easy Thursday night.

Sweeney made a great play early in the game to his left. He flashed some great range and fielded the waist high hop with an outstretched left arm. Sweeney then spun 360 degrees to his left and fired a frozen rope to first.

Andy Burns and Jon Berti each flashed an excellent backhand. Burns ranged deep into the hole at shortstop to backhand a groundball. After showing off his range Burns stopped his momentum, set his feet and got rid of the ball in the blink of an eye. The throw was right on the money.

Jon Berti made a similar play from the 2B position. It was a groundball up the middle just to the right of the second base bag. I thought it was ticketed for centerfield. Instead, Berti snagged the grounder thanks to his long range. He stopped on a dime and dropped a few jaws in the press box with his powerful arm coming from small man (listed at 5-10 185 lbs).

*

Lansing officially opens their season tonight against the Great Lakes Loons with a top prospect on the mound; Texas-fireballer Noah Syndergaard. The pitching on this 2012 squad is worthy of a separate blog post so check back later and tune in tonight.
All the games are on Big Country 92.1 FM and online by clicking right HERE 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2012 Season Preview - Lugnuts podcast


The 2012 Lansing Lugnuts have arrived!

The team took batting practice for the first time on Wednesday afternoon. They open the season with the Crosstown Showdown on Thursday against Michigan State.

In our first Lugnuts Podcast of the year, Keaton and Jesse break down the roster while the sounds of the year’s first batting practice filter up to the press box at Cooley Law School Stadium. 


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Must-Read


Emancipation of the Minors, by Lily Rothman of Slate.com.

The lead paragraph:

In one of America’s most fabled industries, there’s a hidden underclass of workers that has a starting salary of $1,100 a month and gets paid for only half the year. They are subject to territorial monopolies, restrictions on labor movement, and caps on salaries that are illegal in other businesses. Though not members of a union, their lives are influenced by one of the most powerful labor associations in the country, a group whose members—people who work in the same industry for the same organizations and were once in the same position—have a vested interest in keeping them down. They are minor-league baseball players.


You need to read this piece.

Hello...


Allow me to introduce myself. I am Keaton Gillogly. I will be working with Jesse to cover the 2012 Lansing Lugnuts this summer. If you read Jesse’s posts from Saturday, it is easy to see why I’m excited and there is a buzz around Cooley Law School Stadium right now. The Blue Jays have some of the top prospects in baseball and a good handful of them will be wearing Lugnuts black and red this summer.

Some but not all basics facts: I studied radio, print and television journalism at Valparaiso University in Indiana. I was born and raised in Chicago three miles from Wrigley Field. I used to take the CTA Blue Line to get to high school and did not get my driver’s license until college. You just do not need to drive in Chicago.

To Avoid Confusion: My name is Keaton Gillogly. While I contribute to Jesse’s blog throughout the summer, I will be writing under the name Keaton Cory. It is my way of paying homage to my grandfather (Terance) and great-grandfather (Virgil) on my mother’s side. Virgil was a sports writer/editor in Wichita, Denver and St. Louis. Terance, or Terry as he was more commonly known, was a producer for ABC World News for 35 years and continues to write fiction novels in retirement now. I am following in their journalistic path that began in the late 1920’s when Virgil was editing the sports page of the Wichita Eagle while still in high school. There are no more males in the Cory bloodline after Terry however. To keep the Cory name alive I have written as “Keaton Cory” for the last three years and plan to continue that tradition throughout the summer and my career.

I look forward to the season and meeting other Lugnuts, Blue Jays and baseball fans all summer long. I hope you enjoy my insight into the game of baseball. Follow me on Twitter @Gillogly and ask me any questions your can come up with during the Lansing Lugnuts 2012 season.