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

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

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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.

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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.

Reds’ top pick Howard could follow Lorenzen’s fast track

Nick Howard 580x325 Reds top pick Howard could follow Lorenzens fast trackWhether or not the 2013 MLB Draft was any sort of blueprint or indication of the Cincinnati Reds’ tendencies in the early rounds is hard to confirm, but there are definite similarities between this year’s class and last year’s draftees.

In particular, the Reds like to take starting pitching in the first round. Recently, they’ve taken plenty of it. For the past four drafts, Cincinnati has elected to pick starting pitching in the first round. It started in 2011 when the team selected Robert Stephenson in the first round and followed with Nick Travieso in 2012 and Michael Lorenzen in 2013.

The Reds seem to have an affinity for college talent at the top of the draft as well, with their top two picks of 2013 and 2014 coming from the college ranks. Last June, they tabbed outfielder Phil Ervin from Samford and the right-handed Lorenzen out of Cal State Fullerton.

This season, Cincinnati’s top pick came in the form of another big arm when they selected Nick Howard, another right-handed pitcher, from Virginia. Howard’s Cavaliers just finished their College World Series run, but the 6’4″ hurler may be able to take a path similar to Lorenzen’s when he signs on with the Reds in the coming weeks.

Howard has a similar pedigree to Lorenzen, too. Earlier this year, he was named a third-team Louisville Slugger All-American as a reliever. Lorenzen was a first-team All-American in 2013 with Cal State Fullerton. Howard has pitched in 27 games and holds a Virginia record in saves with 19. Lorenzen’s 35 career saves are a school record as well. While at Virginia, Howard’s been a two-way player and carries a .303 batting average over his three year career. Lorenzen was an outfielder in college, and posted an impressive .335 average during his final season with the Titans in 2013.

In his first year of professional baseball, the now 22-year old Lorenzen rose rapidly through the lower levels of the Cincinnati chain, playing at three different levels before arriving at his final stop of the season with the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos. In total, Lorenzen appeared in 22 minor league games as a reliever, posting an ERA of 3.00 in 21 innings of work.

Now in just his second year with the Reds organization, Lorenzen is back with the Blue Wahoos as a starter after being invited to his first Major League camp this spring. In 14 starts with the Blue Wahoos, he is 4-4 with a 2.61 ERA this season.

While it’s unknown whether or not the Reds have plans for Howard to develop that quickly, he certainly seems to be a candidate for taking the aggressive track. Cincinnati senior director of amateur scouting Chris Buckley told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that the team sees Howard as a starter, and he comes to the organization as a polished collegiate player much like Lorenzen did a year ago.

The Reds have an excellent track record of drafting or signing rotation-worthy arms (see Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto). If early returns are any sort of indication, there are plenty more on the way in Stephenson and Lorenzen, who are teammates in Pensacola. They both could see time in Louisville before the season begins en route to joining the Reds in the coming seasons.

Now that his college career is over and a professional career is on the horizon, Nick Howard is hoping to join that group of prospects as soon as he can.

A LONG TIME COMIN’ | Jumbo’s Journey to the Bigs

Jumbo 580x363 A LONG TIME COMIN | Jumbos Journey to the Bigs

Jose “Jumbo” Diaz made his Major League debut with the Cincinnati Reds on Friday. (Pat Pfister)

It’s not often you see 30 year olds make their Major League debut. At that point in your career, you’ve typically been in professional baseball for about 10 years and are arguably past the prime of your playing days.

However, that’s not the case with right-handed reliever Jose “Jumbo” Diaz, who made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds after appearing in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, June 20.

Diaz made headlines this offseason after appearing at Spring Training nearly 70 pounds lighter than he was when he stepped off of the mound in 2013. Did the weight loss translate into the dedication the Reds needed to see in order to purchase his contract?

Maybe; maybe not, but it certainly didn’t hurt his chances. However, whether or not the physical transformation was the deciding factor, Diaz’ numbers during his time with the Louisville Bats speak for themselves, and it’s been that way for the past year and a half.

The big right-hander came to the Derby City prior to the 2013 season after signing a minor league contract with the Reds on Nov. 20, 2012. Since then, he’s been nothing short of automatic in the Bats back-end of the bullpen.

In 44 appearances last season, Diaz posted a 3-4 record with a 1.66 earned run average. The 1.66 ERA was the lowest by a Louisville reliever with a minimum of 50.0 innings pitched in franchise history. He converted 13 of 14 save opportunities and posted a 2.86 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Still, it wasn’t enough to get the call every ballplayer with big league aspirations waits for. So, what did Jumbo do? He went back to the Dominican Republic, lost the aforementioned weight and returned to the States in the best shape of his professional career.

Additionally, he improved his numbers from last season. Through his first 30 appearances of 2014, Diaz allowed only five earned runs and posted a 2-2 record with a 1.35 ERA. He converted 18 of 19 save opportunities, sitting atop the International League in the category, and turned in a 3.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Ultimately, and most importantly, he got “the call.”

His first Major League appearance didn’t go as planned after allowing a pair of home runs that accounted for three runs in the Blue Jays come-from-behind win on Friday, but Jumbo’s finally in the big leagues, and that’s enough to make a lot of people happy.

“Infectious personality and always happy,” former Louisville Bats teammate Lee Hyde tweeted on Friday. “You’d be hard pressed to find anyone that’s played with him that isn’t really happy right now.”

The Bats Weekly Podcast: June 19

Bats Weekly Podcasts logo 580x290 The Bats Weekly Podcast: June 19

The Bats are two games above .500 for the first time since April and are making a move in the wildcard! Be sure to check in with Chris and George and get caught up on anything you missed during the club’s 6-2 homestand. Also, listen to our chat with Donald Lutz. (Recorded Thursday, June 19)