Results tagged ‘ Dodgers ’

2012 NL West Predictions & Preview

Today, I’ve decided to focus on the final remaining division in my 2012 MLB Predictions series. In case you missed my division previews, you can read my AL East Preview, AL Central Preview, AL WestNL East  and NL Central preview by clicking on the links provided.

I’ve used the Major League Baseball Yearbook magazine to provide the statistical projects.

Here’s how I think the NL West will end up:

1st Place: San Francisco Giants.  (My prediction 88-74)
The Giants finished in second place to the Diamondbacks last season, but I think that they’ll win a few more games in 2012 with the return of Buster Posey to the lineup.  I had trouble picking a winner for the NL West, because I love the Giants starters, the Diamondbacks are solid offensively and pitching wise, and the Rockies offense looks great.  Ultimately, I had to go with the starting pitching.

Posey suffered a gruesome injury on a home plate collision that cut short his 2012 campaign.  The former Rookie of the Year is healthy now, which should help an otherwise below average offense.

Aubrey Huff struggled a bit last year, hitting just .246 with 12 homers.  At age 35, you have to wonder how much he has left in his declining skill set.  Ideally, you’d like to see more production from your first baseman than Huff offered last season.

Freddy Sanchez dealt with shoulder issues last year and hopes to be ready for opening day.  The former NL batting champ gives the Giants good defense and a solid average year in a year out.

“The Kung Fu Panda” Pablo Sandoval should provide the most pop in the lineup. He walloped 24 dingers last year.  Sandoval just needs to keep his weight in check so it doesn’t hinder him defensively.

The Giants outfield is sub par.  There’s Melky Cabrera, who has bounced around in recent seasons and would classify as an above average outfielder,

but then there’s Angel Pagan, who doesn’t offer much of anything offensively,

and Nate Schierholtz, who doesn’t offer much either.

The Giants playoff aspirations will hinge on Tim Lincecum and the starting staff.  Lincecum has arguably been the best pitcher in the National League since his debut several seasons ago.

Matt Cain, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season, should be motivated to put up huge numbers in his ‘contract’ year.  Cain would be the ace of most staffs, but fits in nicely behind Lincecum as the #2 of this staff.

Is it just me, or does Cain look eerily similar to this guy in that picture:

Actor John C Reilly.

Madison Bumgarner had a 3.21 ERA last season.  That’s amazing for a #3 starter.

Ryan Vogelsong had the comeback of the decade, rebuilding his career and posting a 2.71 ERA while becoming an All Star at age 34.  Vogelsong struggled mightly in Pittsburgh when he was the centerpiece of the Jason Schmidt deal that sent Schmidt off to the Giants.  After a couple seasons as a mop up man in the Pirates bullpen, Vogelsong disappeared – he went and played in Japan for awhile – before resurfacing last year to baffle NL batters.  What a story.

The 5th man of the rotation will be Barry Zito, who will make 19 million dollars in 2012, and still hasn’t posted a winning record or sub 4.00 ERA in his 5 seasons with the Giants.  His contract has really hurt the Giants, who could’ve used those millions and millions of dollars to add more offense.  Maybe he should focus more on pitching and less on guitar and destroying his liver:

The closer will be the crazy Brian Wilson.  I vote for his 2013 Topps Card to be a landscape of this shot:  Nothing more:

Wilson surely will look creepier and creepier as the season progresses.  What’s he planning on doing with his beard?  Will he ever cut or trim it?

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Buster Posey .297-18-75
1B Aubrey Huff .258-15-63
2B Freddy Sanchez .291-8-56
3B Pablo Sandoval .306-24-77
SS Brandon Crawford .243-6-38
LF Angel Pagan .272-10-73
CF Melky Cabrera .314-11-65
RF Nate Schierholtz .273-11-53

SP Tim Lincecum 14-12, 2.91 ERA, 213 IP, 223 K
SP Matt Cain 12-11, 2.97 ERA, 218 IP, 174 K
SP Madison Bumgarner 13-11, 3.05 ERA, 195 IP, 176 K
SP Ryan Vogelsong 11-10, 3.89 ERA, 204 IP, 174 K
SP Barry Zito 5-9, 4.73 ERA, 116 IP, 85 K
RP Brian Wilson 2.85 ERA, 35 SV, 60 IP, 67 K
RP Sergio Romo 1.99 ERA, 1 SV, 50 IP, 65 K

2nd  place: Arizona Diamondbacks (My prediction 85-77)
The Diamondbacks won the division last season with 94 wins, which shocked baseball, especially since they had only won 69 games the year before.  25 win improvements are very rare.  Nearly the same team returns in 2012, with new additions Trevor Cahill and Jason Kubel.  However, I think that the Diamondbacks greatly overachieved in 2011, and probably won’t quite duplicate their success.

Miguel Montero is one of the better young catchers in the game.  He’ll also be a free agent soon and may look for Yadier Molina type money.

Paul Goldschmidt will man first base.  He’s some power, but he’s a young player who could face difficulty.  He’ll be one to watch.

Aaron Hill used to be really good with the Blue Jays, but lost his way last year when he only hit 8 homers. He hit 36 homers in 2009.  What happened?

Ryan Roberts is a defensive liability, but has some power to go along with all of those crazy tattoos.

Stephen Drew had a down year in 2011 and could bounce back after only hitting .252-5-45 in 2011.

The outfield of the Diamondbacks is solid – way better than the Giants.  They’ve got Justin Upton, who hit 31 homers last year,

Chris Young, who also has pop – 20 homers in 2011, but has struggled with his batting average and on base percentage,

and Jason Kubel, who only hit 12 bombs in 2011 with the Twins, but hit at least 20 in his previous three seasons.

The starting rotation is anchored by Ian Kennedy, who had the best record in Major League baseball last year at 21-4.  Can he duplicate it?  I say not likely.

Daniel Hudson will be the #2 starter, who posted a record of 16-12 last year.

Trevor Cahill, and Josh Collmenter are slightly above average and round out the rest of the rotation.  The #5 job could go to Barry Enright or Wade Miley.

The Diamondbacks were extremely strong in the bullpen last year.  Their weakest link was Craig Breslow, and his ERA was a decent 3.79.  JJ Putz had the second best season of his 9 year career when he posted a 2.17 ERA with 45 saves.

Bullpen pitchers are tough to predict though from season to season.  I think the Diamondbacks may see a bit of a regression in the later innings this year.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Miguel Montero .292-17-80
1B Paul Goldschmidt .275-24-78
2B Aaron Hill .265-15-76
3B Ryan Roberts .247-16-57
SS Stephen Drew .261-11-68
LF Jason Kubel .264-20-87
CF Chris Young .235-19-69
RF Justin  Upton .286-30-90

SP Daniel Hudson 17-12, 3.23 ERA, 231 IP, 180 K
SP Ian Kennedy 17-8, 3.13 ERA, 207 IP, 185 K
SP Trevor Cahill 15-13, 3.86 ERA, 200 IP, 143 K
SP Josh Collmenter 13-13, 3.50 ERA, 193 IP, 125 K
SP Wade Miley 10-10, 4.32 ERA, 154 IP, 127 K
RP JJ Putz 2.41 ERA, 40 SV, 52 IP, 57 K
RP David Hernandez 3.98 ERA, 6 SV, 75 IP, 72 K
3rd place place: Colorado Rockies.  (My prediction 82-80)
Even though the Rockies have used the humidor for a few years to negate the effects of high altitude offense, the Rockies look to have a potent lineup for the coming year.

Ramon Hernandez, formerly of the Cincinnati Reds replaces Chris Iannetta at catcher.

Todd Helton, who once put up ridiculous stats, hasn’t hit 20 homers since 2005, but still can deliver a decent batting average.

Second base could feature Eric Young Jr, Jonathan Herrera or Chris Nelson

I’m not a fan of Casey Blake as the team’s third baseman.  He’s 38, and the Rockies should be nervous that this is the season where everything kind of falls apart for him and he needs to be a backup or retire.

Troy Tulowitzki is the Rockies best player, and could possibly win the NL MVP award if the Rockies have a decent year.  Not too many shortstops in the game can provide 30 homers and 100+ RBIs anymore.

The outfield looks great.  The speedy Dexter Fowler, rumored to have increased his muscle mass, will roam center field.

At the corners, the Rockies have a star in Carlos Gonzalez – who belted 26 homers last year,

and free agent acquisition Michael Cuddyer.  Cuddyer hit 20 bombs for the Twins and has been a consistently solid performer.

The Rockies rotation looks iffy.  Without Ubaldo Jimenez, there is no clear ace.  Possibly Jhoulys Chacin could fill that role.  He pitched well at just 23 years old last year.

There’s also Jorge De La Rosa.  He was injured last season, but went 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA when he did pitch.

Who will be the closer this year?  Rafael Betancourt?  He’s got good stuff, but his career high in saves is 8.  How will he handle the pressure?  I guess we’ll find out.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Ramon Hernandez .278-13-42
1B Todd Helton .292-13-66
2B Chris Nelson .263-7-32
3B Casey Blake .281-15-73
SS Troy Tulowitzki .311-34-117
LF Michael Cuddyer .301-26-101
CF Dexter Fowler .268-7-51
RF Carlos Gonzalez .307-32-110

SP Jorge De La Rosa 10-4, 3.33 ERA, 127 IP, 126 K
SP Jhoulys Chacin 13-13, 3.58 ERA, 193 IP, 161 K
SP Juan Nicasio 9-10, 3.95 ERA, 171 IP, 140 K
SP Tyler Chatwood 8-13, 4.54 ERA, 157 IP, 86 K
SP Esmil Rogers 9-11, 5.35 ERA, 168 IP, 137 K
RP Rafael Betancourt 2.82 ERA, 27 SV, 61 IP, 78 K
RP Matt Belisle 3.16 ERA, 0 SV, 83 IP, 72 K

4th place: Los Angeles Dodgers (My prediction 76-86)
The Dodgers went 81-81 last year thanks mostly to the MVP caliber season of Matt Kemp and the Cy Young season of Clayton Kershaw.  Kershaw was valued at 7 wins above a replacement starter,

and Matt Kemp, a whopping 10 WaR.  That’s 17 wins.

Without those 2 guys, the Dodgers might have been 64-98 last year.  The fact of the matter is, that they have those two guys, and although I think Kershaw and Kemp will do great in 2012, I don’t think they’ll match their 2011 campaigns.

Matt Kemp however, disagrees.  He’s projecting a 50 homer, 50 steal season from himself.   For the Dodgers sake, hopefully he can, because the rest of their team is very average.

AJ Ellis as the starter?  Replacement level player.

James Loney hasn’t nearly done anything close to what he’s capable of doing.  As a youngster in 2007 he hit 15 homers with a .331 average.  He’s never bettered either of those numbers since.

Mark Ellis is average at best.  He had some good seasons in Oakland years ago, but he’s 35 years old now.

Dee Gordon brings blazing speed to the top of the lineup.  He has no power whatsoever, but will make pitchers sweat a little extra when he takes his lead off of first base.

Juan Uribe was horrendous in 2011, hitting just .204 with 4 homers.  Ugh.

Andre Ethier didn’t contribute much last year, hitting only 11 homers in 135 games.  Where did his power go?

Juan Rivera could take the other outfield spot, hitting 11 homers last year, although personally, I’d rather see Jerry Sands there.  Sands hit 35 homers in 2010 and 33 in 2011 between AAA and the bigs.  Big power.

Besides Kershaw, the Dodgers also have Ted Lilly – who is a class A jerk during batting practice.  Lilly is a soft tossing lefty who has been moderately successful in the major leagues.

Chad Billingsley has had some decent seasons in the past, and is young enough that he could return to the Billingsley of 2007-2008.

The other starters, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, are just average at best.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C AJ Ellis .279-8-54
1B James Loney .287-12-72
2B Mark Ellis .260-7-43
3B Juan Uribe .227-8-36
SS Dee Gordon .285-0-29
LF Juan Rivera .261-13-73
CF Matt Kemp .308-35-115
RF Andre Ethier .287-14-66
SP Clayton Kershaw 18-7, 2.41 ERA, 224 IP, 234 K
SP Ted Lilly 11-12, 3.67 ERA, 189 IP, 160 K
SP Chad Billingsley 11-11, 4.03 ERA, 185 IP, 156 K
SP Aaron Harang 13-9, 3.80 ERA, 211 IP, 168 K
SP Chris Capuano 9-10, 4.65 ERA, 163 IP, 149 K
RP Javy Guerra 3.11 ERA, 30 SV, 64 IP, 55 K
RP Kenley Jansen 3.69 ERA, 9 SV, 63 IP, 69 K

5th place:  San Diego Padres (My prediction 65-97)
The Padres are in rebuilding mode and went 71-91 last season, quite a disappointment after winning 90 games in 2010.  I expect things to get a little worse before they start to get better in San Diego.

Of all five players in the infield, none hit more than 9 home runs in 2011.  That’s a major offensive power outage.  Granted, the Padres play their home games at the cavernous Petco Park – but they also get to play 81 games on the road.

Nick Hundley looks to be the starter until top prospect Yasmani Grandal, acquired in the Mat Latos deal, is ready.

Yonder Alonso, also acquired in the same deal, will man first.

The O-Dog, Orlando Hudson, has had a nice career as a middle infielder, and will hope to rebound from a .246 avg from last year.

Remember when Jason Bartlett was an All Star and getting votes in the MVP award race as a Rays shortstop?  Well he’s far from that now, hitting just 2 homers last year to go along with a .245 average.  His WaR last year was a 0.1, meaning he was basically a scrap heap replacement level player.  He definitely needs to improve or the Padres could give at bats to Everth Cabrera.

Chase Headley was once a top prospect, ranked #32 overall in the pre-2008 season.   It’s four years later, and he only has 36 homers in 2,114 plate appearances to go with a .269 average.  He needs to produce, or could risk being non-tendered after the season.

The outfield features Carlos Quentin, Kyle Blanks, and Cameron Maybin.  They all possess the potential to put up power numbers and should make for interesting batting practices.

Quentin is still only 29 and may have some good years left in him.

Maybin is the face of the franchise now, signing a five year, $25 million contract in the offseason.

There’s also big Kyle Blanks, who could potentially hit 20 homers.

The rotation features Edinson Volquez, acquired for Mat Latos.  Volquez needs a bounce back season after posting a 5.71 ERA in 20 starts last year.

Tim Stauffer could be the ace, posting a 3.73 ERA last season.

The closer this year will be Huston Street, brought in to replace Heath Bell.

It’s going to be another long year for the Padres.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Nick Hundley .286-13-45
1B Yonder Alonso .285-13-67
2B Orlando Hudson .256-8-53
3B Chase Headley .276-6-46
SS Jason Bartlett .254-3-38
LF Carlos Quentin .251-19-74
CF Cameron Maybin .260-11-42
RF Will Veneable .248-11-47

SP Tim Stauffer 9-12, 3.47 ERA, 171 IP, 118 K
SP Edinson Volquez 7-9, 4.32 ERA, 144 IP, 140 K
SP Clayton Richard 12-11, 4.00 ERA, 191 IP, 130 K
SP Cory Luebke 12-10, 3.64 ERA, 195 IP, 184 K
SP Dustin Moseley 8-11, 3.46 ERA, 182 IP, 106 K
RP Huston Street 3.99 ERA, 27 SV, 56 IP, 51 K
RP Luke Gregorson 3.06 ERA, 4 SV, 65 IP, 59

So there you have it.

How do you think they’ll finish?

There’s only 19 more days.  NineTEEN – we are officially in the teens.  It won’t be long now.  Also, you could win this CC Sabathia shirt tomorrow, so check back for that.

LA Dodgers Shirt Winner

Amy and I just made the LA Dodgers Shirt video. And here’s your winner:

Congratulations!

Here’s your past winners:
I’ve given away a Matt Wieters shirt to Joey Orr,
a Brandon Phillips shirt to Matt Jackson,
a Dustin Pedroia shirt to Stephen D,
a Phillies shirt to Connor,
and this Dodgers shirt shirt…

Check back tomorrow for the next giveaway.

There’s only 32 more days until Opening Day!

Los Angeles Dodgers Shirt Giveaway

I’ve been posting everyday (38 consecutive so far) leading up to opening day, and giving stuff away to thank my readers.

To date,
I’ve given away a Matt Wieters shirt to Joey Orr,
a Brandon Phillips shirt to Matt Jackson,
a Dustin Pedroia shirt to Stephen D,
and a Phillies shirt to Connor.

This week’s shirt is a Los Angeles Dodgers Majestic Classic Print shirt:

Here’s a close up view of the front:

And it still has tags.

The winner may choose a medium or large size.

I post blog entries every day.  All you have to do is leave a comment or retweet my blog link on twitter.

So, again,  to enter:
1)  Leave a comment.
You can enter up to seven times per week simply by leaving a comment.  Non-pertinent, spam, or inappropriate comments will not be accepted.  If you comment multiple times on the same blog entry, it still counts as one entry.  For example, if you commented on three different blog posts from this week, you’d have three entries.  If you’d comment three times on the same blog posting, it would could as one.

2)  Retweet (RT) my posts on Twitter
You can find me on twitter under 333greystreet.  Simply retweet my daily posts of my blog link and I’ll count that as an entry.  My blog is connected to my twitter so that I automatically tweet once I post a new entry.  Each day, I’ll search who’s retweeted me and enter those users into a hat along with the commenters.  By the way, you do not need to retweet my every tweet, only the tweets that announce a new blog post and url.  For example, if I tweeted, ‘Rerun of the Pirates Opening Day 2011 on tonight,’ if you retweeted it, it wouldn’t count as an entry.

At the end of the week on Sunday, I’ll have Olivia, Amy or myself choose a name from a hat and announce the winner.

I haven’t yet done a preview of the NL West, but I think the Dodgers will probably battle it out for third place.  They were in turmoil last year, as owner Frank McCourt’s divorce drove them to the brink of bankruptcy.  Last time I heard, the Dodgers were going to be put up for sale.  New owners could help put the franchise back on track.

The Dodgers were frustrating for me last year when they came to PNC Park.  They refused to toss a single ball into the stands, likely as a result of their financial problems.  I reckoned that players might have been prohibited by coaches.  Nonetheless, I still have one really decent game against the Dodgers, snagging 11 balls.

The Dodgers are led by Matt Kemp, who didn’t let Hollywood or his superstar girlfriend Rihanna slow him down in 2011.

He was many fans’ choice for MVP, and finished second to Ryan Braun as he hit .324 while leading the league with 39 homers and 126 RBI.  Oh yeah, he also stole 40 bases.  Had the Dodgers even been somewhat in contention, I believe he would’ve been the MVP.

It can be argued that the Dodgers have the best position player and pitcher in the National League.  Clayton Kershaw led the league in wins with a record of 21-5, in ERA with 2.28, and strikeouts with 248.  He won the Cy Young for his amazing season.

The 2011 Dodgers won 82 games.  They need some more offensive punch besides Kemp to win in 2012.  Their starting 2B, 3B, SS, and LF combined for 6 home runs last year.

How do you think the Dodgers will do in 2012?  Leave a comment and throw your hat into the ring for the shirt.

There’s only 38 days until opening day, and 5 days until the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies).  Also, the first listed Spring Training game on the MLB schedule is Wednesday 2/29 when the Phillies take on the Seminoles.  Baseball is here my friends.

5-11-11 PNC Park

My day got off to a great start before the gates even opened.   I spent 4:15-4:50 on the Riverwalk outside of the stadium.  I did the same thing yesterday, but not even one ball came out. 

Today, that would be different.  I misplayed one ball that rather than knocking down with my body, I let hit the concrete to play it on a bounce.  The ball took a gigantic hop and went right into the river. 

The second ball I had a chance on, I made sure to knock the ball down with my body.  It was another home run that ripped through a tree, hit me, and settled in the grass, where I smothered it.  It was my first ball of the day.  It all happened here.
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A few minutes later, I cleanly snagged another home run ball on the fly as it one-bounced out of the stadium here:
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When the gates opened, Ross Ohlendorf tossed me ball #3.  Ross is probably the best BP shagger in the National League.  He really hustles after everything.
DSC01006.JPGMy fourth and final ball of the Pirates BP was hit into the upper bleachers.  I raced up and claimed it about six rows back.

When the Dodgers came out to hit, I was able to glove trick ball #5 here:
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Then snagged a ground rule double here,
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and was tipped off by the guy in the picture below about another glove trick opportunity, which I reeled in for ball #7.
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I went over to right field at 5:30 to look for balls, but there were none.  I looked down at section 139, and there was a ball literally at another ballhawk’s feet that he didn’t see.  From the front row of the right field wall, it was unmistakeably white and round – an easter egg.  I ran down and picked it up for ball #8.  It was laying in a little bit of water here:
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but it wasn’t completely soaked.

I stayed in center field as Andre Ethier was hitting.  I was robbed twice, but managed to get my glove on one of his home runs that I momentarily dropped, but recovered to pick it up here:
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I had to reach down and try and make a basket catch, and it hit the bulge of string that I keep in my glove and popped out.  Luckily, no one else was in the area though to grab the misplayed ball.

I only needed one more ball for double digits.  I still had twenty minutes of batting practice to get it, and Jay Gibbons, the Dodgers best BP hitter was up.  I moved up to the steep Clemente wall, where Gibbons had routinely peppered hoome runs the past two days.  He hit a home run to my right so I took off to make the catch.  However, the right field wall has cupholders that are low to the ground. 
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I stumbled on one and went straight down, tumbling down into the row below. 
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I tried to use the seat below to break my fall, but my left arm basically went right through the folded up chair.  I bashed the side of my lower left leg, hit the outer portion of my left bicep, and left thigh on the seats and arm rests.  It hurt bad, but I popped right up as the ball was about ten feet away in the row I’d fallen into.  However, some random guy hastily climbed over three rows and snatched it from me at the last second.

Minutes later the same damn thing happened again.  Gibbons hit a home run, I tripped on a cupholder, and this time sort of rolled down into the second row.  The ball actually tipped off my glove as I was falling.  Again, a random gloveless fan picked it up. 

Double digits just wasn’t to be.

I got shut out for the rest of batting practice.  I decided that I needed to get 10, so rather than leaving after BP like I had originally planned.  I stayed.  I decided to get 10 out of the way before the game started, so I went to this building on top of the scoreboard area to claim an easter egg that had to have been thrown there by a player, because its too far to have been hit:
DSC01019.JPGSee it?
DSC01020.JPGWell, the area was off limits, so I quickly went in, expecting to see a ladder or something on the other side.  Instead, I saw this:
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Bathrooms.  Apparently there’s no possible way to get on top of that roof.

I waited around until the game started and was able to get Garrett Jones to toss me ball #10 after he warmed up before the second inning began.
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I added ball #11 before the sixth began with Andrew McCutchen’s outfield warm up ball:
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That was all for today.  Double digits!  A great day.

Here are today’s baseballs:
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Sweet spots:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  11 balls (5 hit, 3 thrown, 2 device, 1 found)
Season:  113 balls (43 hit, 30 thrown, 24 device, 15 found)
Games: 18 games
Average:  6.28 balls per game
Career:  1,235 balls
Attendance: 12,910

5-10-11 PNC Park

Let’s get right to it.

My first two balls of the day were off the bat of Chris Snyder.  The first was a home run that landed in section 133 near the foul pole.
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There was no one there, so I simply had to run over and pick it up.

Snyder hit another ball that bounced over the fence.  Several fans reacted to slow and deflected the ball right to me here:
DSC00984.JPGAt 5:30, I ran into the center field seats and found ball #1 laying in the front row, it was in the middle section here:

It was also ball #100 of the season.
DSC00987.JPGSince the Dodgers batting practice was so awful, I stayed in right field because Jay Gibbons was the only batter really putting anything into the seats.

He didn’t hit nearly as many home runs as yesterday, but he did hit one home run that I chased down as it hit a seat a section away from me, and a few rows back:
DSC00985.JPGThat was it for batting practice.  It was really lame.  The Dodgers again, are the worst batting practice team I’ve seen all year.

During the game, I snagged Andrew McCutchen’s warm up ball before the first inning began.  I stood in the third row, in the exact spot where the threw it yesterday, and he delivered a perfect strike to me.  It was my fifth ball of the day.
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That was it for my snagging.  I was really tired, so I sat for much of the game.  The Pirates ended up losing, knocking them back to .500 on the season at 18-18.

Today’s baseballs:
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Sweet spots:
DSC00995.JPGSTATISTICS:
Game:  5 balls (3 hit, 1 thrown, 1 found)
Season:  102 balls (38 hit, 27 thrown, 22 device, 14 found)
Games: 17 games
Average:  6.00 balls per game
Career:  1,224 balls
Attendance: 13,497

5-9-11 PNC Park

Today got off to a great start.

I got to the stadium around 4:25 PM or so and went down to the Riverwalk.  Look what was waiting for me. 

It was just laying there. 
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It had a nice scuff on it, so it likely bounced out of the stadium and just died in the grass.  None of the passers by noticed it.  Amazing stuff.

After a few minutes, several other ballhawks joined me on the riverwalk. 
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There were two younger ballhawks, Nick Pelescak, and another guy who stayed farther down towards the foul pole.

While there, a ball bounced out that the youngest of us grabbed, and another one bounced out that I completely misplayed.  I notice a high fly ball that looked like it had a chance.  I ran up to the wall, because it looked like it might just barely clear the wall.  It did, after bouncing at least twice in the stadium.  When the ball reappeared into my field of sight, I was to far to the left, and totally misplayed it.  I tried to dive for it, but missed the ball, and one of the ‘new’ ballhawks grabbed it.

The rest of the time we spent staring at the sky, but nothing else came out.
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When the gates opened, I ran in and found ball #2 laying on the cross aisle by the handicapped seats in left field.  A food service employee actually pointed it out to me.  He saw me sprinting, assumed I was looking for baseballs, and said, “There’s one right there.”

My third ball was hit by Steve Pearce.  It was a ball that landed in section 133 and it rolled down the stairs under the bleachers and I just waited for it and picked it up.

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Despite having empty bleachers and doing a ton of running around, Nick and I both had really sub par games.
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Here we are just coming up short on one of several scrums.
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The Pirates had put several righties in their last group, and it was a good round of BP, but after about 9 minutes, they ran off the field and the Dodgers came out.
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My fourth ball of the day came after the Dodgers came out to hit.  Here I am in my useless Dodgers gear:
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Ball #4 was a ball that rolled to the wall that I glove tricked.
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The guy in the Waner jersey below told me to give the glove tricked ball away to a kid.  I told him no.  
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The kid just got three anyway.  I hate it when people try to tell me what to do with the balls that I snag.  He clumsily got a ball, but I didn’t see him giving it away.  For the record, I gave two of my decoy balls away to kids yesterday.
In the meantime, it seems like most of the Pittsburgh ballhawks change their jerseys now.
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Dodgers BP absolutely sucked.  There was a lot of time to just stand around.
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Whenever a ball looked like it had a chance, it died and was routinely caught by one of the Dodgers pitchers.
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At 5:30, I headed over to center field,
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but found no balls there.  I stayed there for a few minutes, and had three opportunities, but failed on all three.  The first was a ball that was over my head, hit in the fourth row and bounced back onto the field.  The second was a ground rule double that bounced into the fourth row that a random fan beat me to, and the third was a ground rule double that I had tip off my glove after a fan in the front row also tried to snag it and knocked my glove out of position at the last second.
I returned to left field, talked with one of the friendly supervisors who gets a kick out of our ballhawking antics,
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and waited around for a home run.
They were few and far between.  I lost out on one scrum, 
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and the caught a Russell Mitchell home run ball on the fly for ball #5.
Here I am getting a read on the ball.
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The photo of the catch was obstructed as Nick was backing up the play.  
The ball was brand new without a spec on it.
That was it for batting practice.   Amy and I went up to the club level and ate, and made our way back down to the outfield for the beginning of the game.  Our seats were on the Clemente wall.
Before the game started, I meandered into the center field seats, but came up empty on the first inning toss up ball.  It went to the folks in the second row.
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Also, in the first inning, a ballhawk named Harold who has snagged 1,000 baseballs in 30 years had a prime opportunity to catch a home run ball off the bat of Garrett Jones.  He completely muffed it, and the ball fell back on the field.  Harold was booed mercilessly.  His botched catch caused the umpires to look at the replay and rule what should’ve been a home run a ground rule double.
Here’s Harold:
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In the top of the second inning, Jones warmed up, turned, and fired me his warm up ball.  It was ball # 6 on the day.
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#6, rubbed up, an ex-gamer:
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After that, Amy and I left to go have some time to ourselves as we have a busy week ahead of us.
Here are today’s baseballs:
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Sweet spots:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  6 balls (2 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device, 2 found)
Season:  97 balls (35 hit, 26 thrown, 22 device, 13 found)
Games: 16 games
Average:  6.06 balls per game
Career:  1,219 balls
Attendance: 11,373

4-7-10 PNC Park

I was expecting a low output today.  I wasn’t able to get to the park until almost 5, and I also had to leave during batting practice to take care of a prior commitment.

When I arrived, my friend Jim saved me a couple minutes by allowing me to join him and Nick at the front of the line.

As I was showing my season ticket ID to get into batting practice early, I noticed a ball bounce into section 138, the section closest to the bullpen.  I ran in and located it, putting me on the board quickly.

Seconds later, the Pirates ran off the field, ending batting practice.  They literally ended BP as we were entering the bleachers.  Unacceptable.

The Dodgers weren’t ready to start yet, so we had to wait for them to throw and stretch their arms out.  After about ten minutes of wasted time, the Dodgers started to hit.

I would get my second and third balls with my glove trick.  Fellow ballhawk Jim gets an assist on both balls for pointing them out to me, as they were near the bullpen entrance, and I was stationed about three sections away.

Here’s the area of detail, snapped after the snags:
asdsd (3).jpgI would go on to snag my fourth and final ball of the day off the bat of Russell Martin.  He hit a home run off of a bleacher in section 138 that rolled down a few rows to me.

I was hoping that Manny Ramirez would put some balls into the seats, but he didn’t.  He hit one home run ball, snagged by fellow Ballhawk League member Nick Pelescak.

I had set up a video camera hoping to capture a few home run catches during the Dodgers second round, which included Manny and Matt Kemp.

Unfortunately, all the video captured was standing around,
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STATISTICS:
Game:  4 balls (2 hit, 2 device)
Season:  9 balls (5 hit, 0 thrown, 4 device)
Games: 2 game
Average:  4.50 balls per game
Career:  587 balls
Streak:  98 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  31,061

Spent@Game:  $7.50 ($5 Ticket, $2 Transportation, $0.50 Parking)
Spent in 2010: $21.50 ($10 Tickets, $4 Transportation, $2.50 Parking, $5 Food)

9-27-09 PNC Park

Today would be my final game of the season at PNC Park. 

After missing yesterday’s (Saturday’s) game due to rain, I decided that I had to make it to the park one last time, even though it was raining when I left my house.

When I arrived at the park, there was basically no one there at all.  Many people stayed away early, which turned out to be a good thing. 

Around 11:15, pitchers began to meander out of the Pirates dugout and head toward the bullpen to sit and await to rain to ease up. 
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I stood by the fence above the bullpen and hoped someone would begin to throw.

Eventually, Charlie Morton (hidden by the bullpen roof) started to throw with Luis Dorante, the Pirates bullpen coach.  I watched them finish up at 11:29, one minute before the gate would open to allow me to get close enough to ask for a ball. 
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There were two pairs of Dodgers playing catch.

I noticed that Ramon Tronsoco didn’t have a partner.  I held up my glove and asked him if he wanted to throw a little bit.  He nodded and tossed me a ball.  Wow.  I was finally going to play catch with a major leaguer.  In uniform.

We began to throw, and after about ten tosses, I handed my p
hone off to a random guy behind me to take some photos.  He had been asking me questions like, “Do you play for the Pirates?  Are you friends with him?  How do you know him?” 

He got the following photos of me:
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When I got home, I checked out Youtube for #1 Joe Beimel fan TroyfromWV, sure enough, he had uploaded a partial video of me and Ramon throwing together. Click here–> VIDEO PROOF!
URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tytId_U-9vQ

After we threw for awhile, Troncoso’s throwing partner finally emerged from the dugout, and Troncoso tossed me the ball and indicated that he was done.   I had ball #5.  What a way to get it!  I thanked Troncoso, and gave one of my decoy balls to the daughter of the guy that snapped some pictures of me.

When the game began, center field was too crowded to have a great chance at toss up balls. 
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Plus, the usher told me I had to stay out because I didn’t have a ticket.  He was nice about it, and told me there was a big issue on Saturday Night where someone was injured in a fight for a toss up ball.  He said the man was going to sue the Pirates, and that outfield between inning toss ups would be discontinued after this year.  I was hoping he wasn’t serious, but he seemed to be.

In the second inning, I went up on the right field wall, and got Garrett Jones to pick me out and throw me ball #6 – oh wait, he grossly underthrew me, and the ball hit some guy that was sitting down.  The ball caromed off of him, and rolled behind his wife’s backside and sat on her seat.  It took them about 10 seconds to find it – and I could’ve easily grabbed it, but it would’ve been too awkward.  I watched them oodle over the ball they had just snagged by accident, much to my frustration.
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I decided to quit ballhawking and went up to sit in my season ticket seats one last time.  I hadn’t sat there much at all this year, but I felt like I needed to say goodbye.
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Even though the seats are cheap, and offer no chance at getting a ball – I always liked to just sit and watch a game there.  In my seats you’ve got a great view, and they are in the front row of the section.
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In the 7th inning, I sat behind home plate,
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in hopes of snagging some promotional items from Pirates announcer Steve Blass in the “7th inning throw down.”  Blass threw out a bunch of left over giveaway hats, grocery bags, Pirate dolls, candy, etc. 
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I got my finger tip on a Pirates Alternate hat, but it was just out of my reach and floated down to a lady two rows below me.  I didn’t come away empty handed – I caught a piece of Double Bubble bubble gum.  Yay. 

For the 8th inning, I snuck down and sat behind the Pirates dugout.  The Pirates ended up scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to acheive a walk off win.
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photo(502).jpgI was expecting the players to toss their hats and a few baseballs into the crowd as a thank you to the fans – they’ve done it the past three years on Fan Appreciation Day.

It didn’t happen.  The players disappeared into the dugout, gave their jerseys to those fans whose seats had been chosen, and
disappeared for good.  Nothing was thrown into the crowd.  Very disappointing. 
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I stayed around until almost everyone was gone, and took one last look at PNC Park.
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Was this my last game of 2009?  Maybe…

Today’s baseballs:
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Sweet spots:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  5 balls (5 thrown)
Season:  405 balls (211 hit, 124 thrown, 70 device)
Games: 80 games (10 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  5.06 balls per game
Career:  571 balls
Streak:  95 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  26,831

9-25-09 PNC Park

Today’s game may be my final batting practice of the season – I may only attend one more game, and it’s a day game after a night game.  You know what that means…

Meanwhile, I had been watching the weather, and decided that I would not attend tomorrows (Saturday’s) game.  It is a Skyblast date, and the chance of rain is 100%.  That means no batting practice, large crowds, and an all around tougher time snagging balls.  I would need to have a huge day – I wanted reach the 400 balls snagged in one year benchmark.

Chaos had broken out in Pittsburgh the night before due to the G20 summit.  I was hoping that this would scare people away from coming out early to batting practice – even if the Pirates were giving away Bobbleheads to entice folks to watch a potential 100 loss team.

I was second in line at PNC Park, arriving an hour and a half early.  Helicopters hovered over my head,  regiments of soldiers passed on foot patrol
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and there was even the cavalry passing by.
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We were standing directly next to each other.  Manny turned and lofted the ball at us.  It was no contest.  I had longer arms, and made the catch about a foot in front of the other guys glove.  It was ball #6.  I also think it may have been the only ball that Manny threw into the crowd in his time in left field.

Another few minutes passed by, and two
more balls rolled to the wall.  I reeled up ball #7 with the glove trick, and did the same with ball #8.  Randy Wolf was coming over to pick up ball #8, but realized that I had it covered with the glove trick, and let it go, turning back to left field.

The ballpark had only been opened for 25 minutes, and I had already snagged 8 balls.  Could I challenge the Jabs/Pelescak PNC Park record of 14? 

No, as things slowed way, way down.  The Dodgers’ batting practice approach reminded me of the Cardinals’ in that the hit many balls to the opposite field.

I was getting frustrated.  The place looked like this around 5:30:
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Which is nice, but there were still some folks clogging up rows, making me readjust my routes to any ball that was potentially coming into the stands.

These people got in my way a few times:
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And this guy was the worse, because he stayed in virtually the same spot, but kept moving up or down one row, so I had to keep checking on his location.  
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I try to always familiarize myself with my surroundings almost before every BP pitch so I don’t crash into anyone or get blocked off from going for a ball.

In the last group, Ronny Belliard lofted a high fly ball that bounced on the warning track.  I moved over a section and positioned myself perfectly to catch the high bounce.  It was ball #9.

I only needed one more ball to complete my quest to get 400 balls.  I had began the 2009 season with a goal of 300, but after reaching that last month on August 20th, I had made 400 a new goal for the season, to keep me motivated for the last five weeks of the season.

It was about 6:05ish, and batting practice was about to end in a few minutes.  I was then faced with a tough decision.  Stay in left field, which looked like this at 6:00….
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or head over to center field to try and glove trick a ball that had rolled to the wall.

I decided to go give the ball a try.  I rigged up the glove trick on the way over to center field, and non-chalantly made my way down to the front row.  (I didn’t want to draw attention from the ushers by sprinting in there).

I looked around at the Dodgers players.  No one was in a hurry to come get the ball, which was directly below me at the base of the wall.
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With that in mind, I lowered my glove down over the ball, and reeled in ball #10.

Ball #300 and #400 of 2009 had both come via the glove trick.  Snagging 400 balls in a season is quite an accomplishment.  I believe only Zack Hample, myself, and probably the Happy Youngster (who will likely do it soon) have snagged 400 or more regular season balls in one season.

After snagging the ball, I asked my friend Nick (who is closing in on 300 balls in one season) to snap my picture.
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I then got 25 extra tickets scanned, and lugged the bobbleheads back to my car.  Noticing a large crowd waiting to get in the stadium (due to all the extra security measures), I decided to leave and not stay for the game. 

If I end the season on an even 400, that would be a pretty cool thing anyway.

Today’s baseballs:
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Sweet spots:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  10 balls (3 hit, 2 thrown, 5 device)
Season:  400 balls (211 hit, 119 thrown, 70 device)
Games: 79 games (9 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  5.06 balls per game
Career:  566 balls
Streak:  94 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  19,452

9-17-08 PNC Park, Dodgers @ Pirates

The Dodgers do not hit many home runs in batting practice.  They are also especially stingy when it comes to tossing balls into the stands.  Maybe it’s the pressure of the playoff race, but they ignored every polite request that I made for a ball.

I got ball #1 of the day completely by accident.  Since this was a Wednesday game, there weren’t many people at batting practice.  About 5 minutes in, a Pirate hit a long home run that ended up going onto the concourse behind the bleachers.  I ran over a section but the ball sailed 20 feet over my head.  As I got to the spot, I slightly twisted my ankle on something.  I looked down, and there was ball #1, just sitting there on the concrete.  My first reaction was that maybe someone had dropped it, but there was no one even in the section.  The ball must have been hit prior to the gates opening, and none of the ushers bothered picking it up.  You’ll see in the picture at the end of this blog that it has a big scuff mark above Rawlings from hitting on the concrete.

917manny.jpgWhen it came time for the Dodgers to hit, Manny came out to left field to shag fly balls.  Some fans, including myself, tried to get his attention, but he didn’t so much as even glance over.  Most left fielders, when shagging fly balls, will throw to second base after catching the ball. Manny however, kept throwing his balls to home plate, where they would roll in and interfere with the batter that was taking batting practice.  I thought it was pretty funny, but that’s just Manny being Manny.

I only caught one ball during the Dodgers portion of batting practice.  I think Casey Blake hit it, but I’m not positive.  Anyway, when it was hit, I drifted to my right and made the easy catch.  The ball looked brand new!  Ball #2 was my final one of the day. 

By the way, legendary ball hawk, Jim Saylor caught Adam LaRoche’s first home run of the night.  He’s in the white shirt and dives onto the ground to get the ball.  He has caught more home run balls in PNC Park history than anyone else.  Click HERE for the video.

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Statistics:
Game: 2 balls
Season:  119 balls
Career:  157 balls
Hit List:  157 ties me with Ricky Otero for #4,013th place all time

Attendance: 11,883 (31% full)
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