Bats head east to traverse the IL North

Rey Navarro 1 by Pat Pfister 580x326 Bats head east to traverse the IL North

It’s a Thursday afternoon, and you’re craving trivial knowledge about the final two cities that the Bats are visiting during their eight-game home. You’ll get it eventually, but first we need to take a brief look at what this road trip means to the Bats now that the final month of the season is upon us and the playoff hunt is still very real.

Here are the basics:

Louisville heads to IL North territory for their final games outside of the IL West this season. They’ll play four in Syracuse starting tonight before heading to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for another set of four games. The Bats are a combined 2-6 against the two teams on the season after both walked away from Louisville Slugger Field with 3-1 series advantages earlier this year.

Syracuse is currently leading the North with a 65-51 record – good for best in the IL – and brings a formidable mix to the table. Brandon Laird leads the offense with a .314 average to go with 13 homers and 66 RBIs. The rotation features a two-headed monster at the top, with IL All-Star starter Taylor Hill (10-5, 2.52) and Aaron Laffey (11-4, 3.20) leading the way. Despite being without a pair of offensive leaders in Steven Souza Jr. (called up to Washington) and Zach Walters (traded to Cleveland), they’ll be a potent offense and difficult staff to face this weekend in New York.

The second half of the trip will take place in Moosic, Pennsylvania, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. While the RailRiders took three of four from the Bats in May, they have struggled to keep up in the tough North. At 57-60 on the year, they sit in fourth place in the division. The Yankees aren’t known for having a particularly fertile farm system, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some players worth watching in Scranton/WB this season.

Infielder Jose Pirela and outfielder Adonis Garcia are the two best all-around talents in the RailRider lineup, and played big roles when the Bats saw them in May. Garcia is currently carrying a team-best .322 batting average with nine dingers and 44 RBI. Pirela is right behind him with a .312 average, eight homers and 48 RBI. While he doesn’t hit for as good of an average, the power bat of Zoilo Almonte – who holds team highs in homers (17 ) and RBI (61) can’t be slept on.

Rotation-wise, the RailRiders don’t have a pitcher on the staff with more than five wins. Furthermore, the best ERA from a Scranton/WB pitcher who has ten or more starts on the year is Joel De La Cruz’ 4.52 mark. This is certainly an area that the Bats, who have proven their ability to produce runs in bunches this season, should look to exploit before they head home.

A final note before we get to the fun (albeit relatively unimportant) stuff, the Bats currently sit just four games back from the top of the IL West despite being in last place in the division. This late in the season, every game counts.

Alas, it’s time for the fun facts about the final two cities to host the Bats in 2014. Here we go.

Syracuse

Located in the heart of New York (it’s literally right in the middle), The ‘Cuse is the fifth-most populous in the state. It was names after the Italian city, Siracusa, which is on the Eastern coast of the island of Sicily. Top employers in the city include Wegman’s Food Markets, Lockheed Martin Corporation and, you guessed it, Syracuse University.

The Orange may be the biggest sports show in town, but the Chiefs and fellow minor league franchise Crunch (AHL Hockey) round out the sports entertainment options in the city. Famous Syracusans include actor Tom Cruise,  basketball player Andray Blatche, ABC News anchor David Muir and Olympic gold medal swimmer Kim Black.

Scranton

The sixth largest city in Pennsylvania and county seat of Lackawanna County, Scranton is a city that boomed in the mid-1930′s thanks to the coal mining industry. Today, it may be most recognizable as the home and setting of the NBC sitcom The Office. Scranton is also home to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins, the AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Notable people from Scranton include Vice President Joe Biden, NBA coach and broadcaster P.J. Carlesimo, Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin and famous television host Bill O’Reilly.

That’ll do it for our authoritative preview of the upcoming road trip for the Bats. Listen in to Matt Andrews on 790 KRD for the action and make sure to check out the Bats Weekly Podcast to hear more about the road ahead for the Bats.

The Bats Weekly Podcast: August 7

Bats Weekly Podcasts logo 580x290 The Bats Weekly Podcast: August 7

The Bats are coming off a split four-game series with Rochester and diving into the last 26 games of the season. Listen up for all of the relevant news and notes surrounding the organization as we head into the home stretch. Also, Chris sits down to chat with Bats infielder Rey Navarro. (Recorded Wednesday, August 6)

The Bats Weekly Podcast: July 31

Bats Weekly Podcasts logo 580x290 The Bats Weekly Podcast: July 31

Listen in to catch up on the Bats previous 4-5 homestand and take a look at what lies ahead as they try to bounce back from being no-hit by Tyler Cloyd in last night’s series opener at Columbus. Also, George sits down to catch up with Louisville leadoff man and center fielder, Jason Bourgeois. (Recorded July 31)

Mascot Mania 2014: Why Buddy Bat deserves your vote

Mascot Mania Vote Buddy Bat voou2l1d b617iwfm Mascot Mania 2014: Why Buddy Bat deserves your vote

OK, we know that we don’t need to convince Bats Nation to vote Buddy Bat for best mascot. We get to watch him work 72 nights a year and more, and we know that he’s the GOAT. So before we get to the bulk of our case, here are all the essentials you need if you’ve already decided that Buddy is the best mascot in MiLB.

1. CLICK HERE to vote online now.

2. You can tweet to vote as well by following these steps:  Follow @MiLB, tweet the hashtag #MascotMania and include #VoteBuddyBat. Retweets count, too, so follow us @LouisvilleBats and retweet away.

If you’re still not convinced, you will be after reading the following things that make Buddy Bat the best mascot in MiLB. Buckle up.

1. Buddy regularly finds himself with celebrities.

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2. Buddy is romantic.

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3. Buddy is the only one that can pull off “Superman riding a horse” for Halloween and still hold his own next to a phenomenal Corky Miller costume.

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4. Speaking of Corky Miller, Buddy knows him.

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5. He’s great with the kids

Buddy Kids 300x200 Mascot Mania 2014: Why Buddy Bat deserves your vote

6.  Buddy could be a bullpen arm if he wasn’t so good at his day job.

B81F0737 200x300 Mascot Mania 2014: Why Buddy Bat deserves your vote

7. Buddy has been spotted repelling down large buildings.

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8. He also likes to skydive with the Army’s Golden Knights.

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 9. When he’s not on the field, he’s in the community.

DSCN6057 300x225 Mascot Mania 2014: Why Buddy Bat deserves your vote

10. Finally, Buddy is number one. In his own mind, sure. But most importantly, in our hearts. #VOTEBUDDYBAT

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| Paid for by the Campaign for Buddy Bat 2014 |

The Bats Weekly Podcast: July 17

Bats Weekly Podcasts logo 580x290 The Bats Weekly Podcast: July 17

It’s good to be back! Chris and George return after the All-Star Break to sum up the Bats’ season thus far, have some fun with a few theoretical superlative awards and, of course, talk about the #RealSelfie craze going on in the clubhouse. Also, Chris sits down to chat with Louisville manager Jim Riggleman. (Recorded, July 17)

Who’s got next? Blue Wahoos making their way to Louisville

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Robert Stephenson continues to sit atop the list of up-and-comers in the Reds’ minor league chain. (Paul Sancy/AP)

While Major League Baseball inevitably steals the spotlight each summer, the minor leagues always play an entertaining supporting role. The age-old question that accompanies the minor league system goes something like this:

“Who are my team’s top prospects and when will I see them with my team?”

It’s a relatively impossible question to answer with accuracy, but plenty of people get paid to try. That’s why we’re going to take our crack at it here on the Bats Signal and see what the Reds have cooking down south in Pensacola.

Before we get to the Cincinnati prospects that are still in Pensacola, we’d be remiss in excluding the Blue Wahoos that have already made it to Louisville this season. Infielders Juan Silverio and Rey Navarro have been excellent additions to the Bats lineup since they arrived in June, while reliever Justin Freeman has been solid out of the bullpen in his return to Louisville Slugger Field this season.

For more on how the trio of former Wahoos have given the Bats a shot of energy during the dog days of summer, click here.

While the Pensacola of the past continues in Louisville’s present, a new crop of exciting prospects have arrived at Cincinnati’s southern-most stop on the farm. Without further ado, here’s the rundown of who Reds fans need to keep an eye on down on the Florida panhandle.

Pitchers

Top Reds prospect Robert Stephenson is the obvious starting point here, and he’s produced some mixed results in his first full season. Despite his 4-6 record, he is carrying a 3.97 ERA that is on its way down, and Stephenson is still considered to be a top arm in all of the minor leagues. Baseball America’s Mid-season Top 50 was recently released, and Stephenson came in at #20 on the list, the highest mark for the Cincinnati chain.

Perhaps the most impressive pitcher this season at Pensacola has been right-hander Michael Lorenzen. A year older than Stephenson, Lorenzen came from the college ranks, which may explain why he’s been a bit more polished to this point in his career. Lorenzen boasts a team-best 2.45 ERA through 16 starts, making him a prime candidate to potentially see late-season time in Louisville this summer.

Rounding out our group of pitchers to watch is one of Pensacola’s newest Blue Wahoos, righty Ben Lively. His tremendous success at Class A-Advanced Bakersfield earned him a call up in June after going 10-1 with a 2.28 ERA for the Blaze. He was named a California League Midseason All-Star for his efforts. While the success on the West Coast hasn’t yet translated to the Gulf Coast (he’s 0-3 with a 4.38 ERA in five starts with Pensacola), Lively is worth keeping an eye on as we head down the stretch of the 2014 season.

Infielders

Rossmel Perez isn’t an infielder (he’s a catcher), but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll let him kick off the list of infielders anyway. Perez has been Pensacola’s best hitter that hasn’t already graduated to Louisville this season. He’s posted a team-best .316 average with three homers and 35 RBIs. While the likes of Tucker Barnhart and Bryan Anderson have filled the catcher’s position well this season, Perez may be one to look for in Louisville next year.

There’s certainly added sentimental value on this blog for former Louisville Cardinal Ryan Wright, though he’s done plenty to make him worthy of this list on the field as well. The second baseman that won All-America honors as a Card has just reached the doorstep of returning to Louisville as a pro. He started the season with Bakersfield, but received a June call-up after hitting .313 with eight home runs and 41 RBIs in 55 games with the Blaze. He’ll likely be in Pensacola for the remainder of the season, but is another Blue Wahoo who could become a Bat by 2015.

Outfielders

Jesse Winker headlines a crowded group of talented outfielders at the Double-A level of the Reds organization. A 2014 California League All-Star and Futures Game selection, Winker has skyrocketed up the ladder of baseball’s top prospects. Baseball America ranked him 29th in all of the minor leagues in their Mid-season report, and Winker’s torrid first half has certainly helped him earn that recognition. With Bakersfield this season, he hit .317 with 13 homers and 49 RBIs. In 20 games with Pensacola since his June call-up, Winker has hit .213 with a pair of home runs and eight RBIs.

Juan Duran is one of two Blue Wahoos outfielders currently listed on the Reds’ 40-man roster. His sturdy 6’7″ frame would suggest that he’d be a candidate to hit for power, and so far this season he’s delivered on that potential. Duran has hit 11 homers this season, driving in 39 runs in 79 games with Pensacola this season. Duran will only turn 23 in September, so the Reds may be content with letting him develop at his own pace.

Even younger than Duran is Pensacola’s other 40-man outfielder, Yorman Rodriguez. Rodriguez will turn 22 in August, and has already made a steady climb through the Cincinnati ranks. Because of his age, he’s another player that likely won’t make it to Louisville this season, but could in 2015. Rodriguez is batting .246 with five homers and 25 RBIs this season.

Jesse Winker’s Bakersfield teammate from the beginning of the year, Kyle Waldrop, rounds out our look at the Blue Wahoos’ roster. Waldrop was one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball during the first half of the season for the Blaze, hitting .359 with six homers and 32 RBIs in 65 games in the California League. It goes without saying that he was a California League All-Star, and was named the Top Star for the game. Like Winker, Waldrop was called to Pensacola in June. He’s hit .269 since the call-up in his first Double-A action of his career, adding two homers and 11 RBIs.

The Cincinnati Reds have proven to be a highly productive farm system in the past, with countless homegrown players currently contributing at All-Star levels in the bigs. If the current Blue Wahoos are any indication of the future of the franchise, things certainly continue to look bright.

Rule 7.13 affects Bats at Louisville Slugger Field

In the top of the sixth inning on Wednesday night at Louisville Slugger Field, Rule 7.13 came into play for the first time this season.

Rule 7.13 by definition states: unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. 

Click on the following link to view the play: Rule 7.13

Reading the rule above, and seeing the play, Anderson looked to be at no fault in this particular play in my opinion. He had the ball in his possession when the runner Worth was attempting to score. “The throw took me up the line and took me to that spot and there was no where for me to go,” said Anderson.

This is where the rule becomes very debatable because it is in the judgment of the Umpire to make the call and to determine if the catcher was blocking the plate or not. Home plate umpire Brian De Brauwere made the call that Anderson was blocking the plate on Wednesday. “I saw Bryan slide to his left to take away the lane from the runner [Worth], before he possessed the ball, so that is why I made the call,” said De Brauwere.

I am in no way blaming De Brauwere for making the call he did, but I do believe that the “experimental” rule needs to be adjusted. The rule in place now, puts the catcher, umpire and runner in a bad position, because of the different amount of plays that can happen at or around home plate. If the MLB can change the rule just a bit, I believe it will be a rule that will keep the runner and catcher safer in the future.

This rule is one of the most debatable rules in all of baseball, so let’s hear your opinion! Post in the comments below whether you agree with the call, or believe that Anderson was at no fault in the matter.

 

But first, let me take a #RealSelfie

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Example of a #RealSelfie

It’s not a secret that the selfie epidemic has taken over the world. From duck-faced girls in their bathroom mirrors to grown men posing (selfieing?) the best way they can with their favorite athlete; it’s a trend that has become almost down right annoying and in some instances disturbing. That is until the Louisville Bats took over.

The #RealSelfie isn’t just any old selfie. It is a sign of victory. An indication to Bats fans that yes, the team did indeed win, so here is a picture of your boys proving it by being as ridiculous as they can. And it is glorious.

“It started on team picture day. Shelley Duncan came out and did a team selfie and everybody gravitated to it. We said if we get this win tonight let’s keep going,” said Jason Bourgeois. “Sure enough we got the win, started the selfie and it’s been taking over the world.”

In case you have been living under a rock and aren’t quite sure what exactly a #RealSelfie is, let me explain. After every win dating back to June 12, the Bats head to the clubhouse after the game, grab whatever props and costumes they can get their hands on and proceed to take an epic group selfie. Usually the star of the game or the newest member of the team will be front and center of the picture with the rest of the team contributing however they can in the background. That my friend is what the #RealSelfie consists of.

Every win Bats fans constantly refresh Twitter in anticipation of what the Bats could have possibly thought of to top themselves this win. Not one time have they disappointed.

“It’s something to look forward to, like ‘Hey, it’s the eighth inning, let’s get ready for this selfie,’” said Bourgeois. “We’ve been playing well after we started doing it so we’re going to keep it going.”

The next time the Bats add another W to the win column, be sure to give the #RealSelfie a retweet so the world will know once and for all just who created the actual #RealSelfie.

A Rey of sunshine

Navarro Article A Rey of sunshine

Rey Navarro has done nothing but get on base since May 23. He has reached in 16 straight games as a Bat, 39 in a row overall. ((c) Pat Pfister/pfoto.com)

In his first season in the Cincinnati Reds organization, Rey Navarro, has made an impact at each level he has played at. He started the season at AA Pensacola, where he was named a Southern League All-Star playing in 67 games. In those games he hit .271 with 17 doubles, nine home runs and 40 runs scored. After playing in the Southern League All-Star Game he was called up to Louisville on June 18. He reached base in his last 23 games at AA, starting on May 23.

Since joining Louisville he has done nothing but hit. He has played in 18 games, 16 of which he recorded an at-bat. In the 16 in which he had an at-bat he has at least one hit. His 16 game hit-streak for the Bats is the longest since Zack Cozart had a 17 gamer in June of 2011. Since joining on June 18, the Bats as a team have an 11-8 record.

Rey has been working with Louisville hitting coach Tony Jaramillo since joining the Bats. In particular he has been working on one thing. “I’ve worked on my hands, getting whip with my top hand, through the zone,” said Navarro.

In seven games in his new home, Louisville Slugger Field, he is hitting .409 including a pair of doubles. He has also reached base in each home game this season.

Where Navarro has really earned his stripes is with runners in scoring position. He has driven in seven runs including a game-winning two RBI double on July 7. Manager Jim Riggleman, has put Navarro in the sixth spot in the order giving him plenty of opportunities to drive in runs.

Something that doesn’t change is his approach with runners in scoring position. He still tries to make the pitcher work early in the count and take off speed pitches. He wants to be at the advantage every change he gets. “I want to be ahead in the count so I can drive the ball in the gaps, down the lines, or in the air for a sacrifice fly. I want to sit on the fastball always and hit it hard.” said Navarro.

In each post I like to use an advanced statistic to show just how well a player is playing. Today I chose to use wOBA for Navarro. wOBA takes each play separately and weighs it in accordance to it’s run value. So in simpler terms it means that a double is worth a little bit more than a single. A double is not worth twice as much as a single.

Navarro’s wOBA is .376 and according to FanGraphs.com that is in the GREAT category on a Major League scale. In recent years, a second baseman averages a .309 wOBA so, Navarro is way above the league average as a hitter since May. You can use the following equation to calculate any player at any level’s wOBA.

wOBA = (0.691×uBB + 0.722×HBP + 0.884×1B + 1.257×2B + 1.593×3B +2.058×HR) / (AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP)

Don’t judge a book by its cover: David Holmberg

David Holmberg 2 by James Moses 2 Dont judge a book by its cover: David Holmberg

David Holmberg has been stellar since May 17. (James Moses)

Louisville left-hander David Holmberg came over to the Reds organization on the third of December in a three team trade involving the Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Reds traded away Major League catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Rays and got back Holmberg in the deal from the DBacks. He made his Reds organizational debut on April 8 as he pitched five innings, allowed two runs and got the loss against Columbus. Not a bad start, but it would lead to a string of frustrating outings.

Over his next three starts, stretching over nearly a month due to a disabled list stint, Holmberg was unable to make it out of the fourth inning in any start. He allowed at least five runs in each of his starts and saw his winless streak rise to four. His ERA rose to 13.50 and he was stuck in a groove that he needed to get out of. He made one more start on May 17 as he pitched four and two-thirds, allowed one run and got a no-decision. His winless streak was up to five straight starts, but his ERA was down to 10.50.

On May 23 he was back on the DL with a left shoulder strain missing nearly a month before being activated to pitch against Gwinnett on June 11.  Taking it easy directly off the DL he pitched four innings, allowed three runs, two earned, and received another no-decision. It was that start that seemed to turn things around for the lefty.

He would take the ball five days later at Louisville Slugger Field against the Durham Bulls and have his then best performance of the season. He threw a season high six innings, allowed zero runs, walked two, and struck out a season high six batters. Everything was different for Holmberg on the mound, except the result. He earned another no-decision and was still winless as a member of the Bats and the Reds organization.

He has made two more starts since facing the Bulls on June 16 and has done much of the same on the mound. He has kept the Bats in the game while on the mound, but is still winless. Sunday night against the division leading Indianapolis Indians, he pitched six and two-thirds, allowed zero runs, on three hits, and struck out four. His second start in which he hasn’t allowed a run and you guessed it, he is still winless. The difference between his first four starts and his last five has been that the Bats have won the game in each of his last five starts.

Holmberg’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) since coming off of the DL on June 11 is 3.55. On a Major League scale that is above average. The point of using FIP in this situation is to show just how good Holmberg has been over his past four starts. FIP by definition measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average. In simpler terms it means what a pitcher can control, strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and home runs. If we were to include his start against Durham on May 17 before hitting the DL for the second time, his FIP from May 17 to today is 3.43. That would put him closer to the GREAT range on a Major League scale according to FanGraphs.com.

The phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover” applies in this situation with Holmberg. Don’t judge a pitcher by his win-loss record. Holmberg may be 0-4 in the scorebook, but by all means he has been one of the best pitchers in Minor League Baseball over the past month and a half. His luck will begin to change and he will eventually earn that coveted first win of the season, but look deeper and you will see he has been one of the best to take the mound for the Bats in their hot run since the beginning of June.