Playing the percentages: Gotay leads in wOBA

Ruben Gotay 2 by James Moses 2 Playing the percentages: Gotay leads in wOBA

Ruben Gotay is off to a torrid start while leading the Bats in wOBA. (James Moses)

To start the season one of the hottest hitters for the Bats has been Ruben Gotay. Gotay leads the team in hits, extra-base hits, runs, home runs, rbi, and also weighted on-base average.

Weighted on-base average is a very simple advanced statistic, that can hold some ground in terms of a players value to the team. By definition wOBA is the measure of a hitters overall offensive value, based on the relative values of each distinct offensive event. In simpler terms it is a statistic that weighs each hit in proportion to it’s run value. It is also more accurate than average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

This statistic weighs a double, more than a single, triple more than a double and so on. A double isn’t worth twice as much as a single but it is worth about .30 percentage points in terms of run value. A walk is worth less than single by .15 percentage points and so on. Playing the percentages in baseball is key. Knowing the situation and the percentage of the time you will score, on average, could be the difference between winning and losing a game or division title.

Gotay’s wOBA of .467 leads the team and is also seventh in the International League. To put Gotay’s hot start into perspective, he would rank third in all of Major League Baseball in wOBA, right behind Charlie Blackmon and Troy Tulowitzki. Granted, Gotay is not facing the same pitching, but he is hitting the ball to all parts of the ball park.

Lineup construction really plays into the hand of Gotay as well. Being in the two-hole allows him to see more fastballs in the strike zone than a lot of hitters in the lineup. He has taken advantage of those early on and has found success. If he can continue to do this, he will continue to be a critical component in the offense.

He has yet to hit a triple in 2014, but his five doubles and home runs really set him apart from everyone else.  As you watch games this season or listen on the radio pay attention to Ruben Gotay. See how often the team benefits from his extra-base hits and how many runs he has created for the team as the season goes along.

The Bats Weekly Podcast: April 23

Bats Weekly Podcasts logo 580x290 The Bats Weekly Podcast: April 23

Chris Gehring and George Nunnelley are back for another episode of the Bats Weekly podcast. They recap the previous nine-game homestand and Indy series as well as take a look at what’s next for the Louisville club. Chris also sits down and chats with catching prospect Tucker Barnhart. (Recorded Tuesday, April 22)

Everything you need to know about Indianapolis

victory field 580x299 Everything you need to know about Indianapolis

The Bats’ longest homestand of the year comes to a close tonight against the Indianapolis Indians, but this isn’t the last they’ll see of the Tribe. In fact, the second half of a six-game split series between the two continues tomorrow night in the Hoosier State. While we’ve enjoyed Indy’s company here in the Derby City for the past three days, we’re excited to see what Naptown is all about, too. On this edition of “Everything you need to know”, we’ll take a look at another IL West division rival and the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

First, a quick look at the probable pitchers for the weekend (plus Monday) in Indy:

Sat. 4/19 – LHP Jeff Francis (2-1, 1.69 ERA)
Sun. 4/20 – RHP Josh Smith (2-0, 2.63 ERA)
Mon. 4/21 – RHP Tim Crabbe (1-1, 2.30 ERA)

Here’s everything you need to know about the Indians and Indianapolis, Indiana:

The Veterans

Brent Morel is the first veteran of note on a dangerous Indianapolis roster. A four-year Major League veteran with the White Sox, Morel joined the Indy Tribe for the first time this season. So far this season, he’s hitting .317 in 11 games with a home run and eight RBIs. During his time in Chicago, Morel hit .229 in 194 games.

A familiar face for Reds fans, Chris Dickerson is also spending his first season in the Pittsburgh organization. Dickerson has spent at least part of six seasons in the big leagues, and has hit a combined .262 in 314 career games. During his time with the Reds (three seasons, 148 games), he hit .274 with eight homers and 30 RBIs. This season with Indianapolis, he is batting .278 with two home runs and eight RBIs.

Andrew Lambo is only 25 years old, but his Triple-A action in parts of three different seasons certainly makes him a veteran of the Indianapolis team. He broke through with a big season last year when he hit 18 homers with 53 RBIs with the Indians and earned a call-up for his Major League Debut with the Pirates.  While in Pittsburgh, Lambo hit .233 with a homer and 2 RBIs in 18 games. A current member of the Pirates’ 40-man roster, he’s hitting .324 for the Tribe so far this year.

The Prospects

It depends on who you talk to if you want to know exactly where outfielder Gregory Polanco ranks in the world of top prospects, but nobody will disagree that he’s one of the best in the game. MLB.com ranks him atop the Pittsburgh chain and as the 13th overall prospect in the minors, and they have good reason. So far this year, Polanco is hitting a torrid .423 in 13 games with Indianapolis that includes a pair of homers and 13 RBIs. The Pirates have very capable outfielders at the big league level already, but it won’t be a surprise when one of them makes room for Polanco in the near future.

The only other Indianapolis player on MLB.com’s top-20 list of Pittsburgh prospects is RHP Brandon Cumpton, who comes in as the 12th-best prospect in the organization. Fellow RHP Jameson Taillon would certainly be on this list (ranked as the #2 Pirates prospect, #20 in baseball) if it weren’t for his unfortunate arm injury that required Tommy John surgery earlier this month. Cumpton made his Major League debut last season, going 2-1 in five starts with the Pirates and carrying an impressive 2.05 ERA. He’s back in Indy to start this season, where he is off to another good start with a 1-0 record and 2.25 ERA in his first two starts of the year.

The Ballpark

Name: Victory Field

Opened: 1996

Capacity: 14,230

Dimensions: LF – 320’   CF – 402′ RF – 320’

Ballpark fact: Victory Field draws its name from the Indianapolis Indians’ former home. Originally opened as Perry Stadium in 1931, that ballpark held the name Victory Field from 1942 to 1967 celebrating the United States’ victory in World War II. (via IndyIndians.com)

Best Promotion while Bats are in town: Monday Dollar Menu – Hot Dogs, peanuts, Cracker Jacks, chips and popcorn all on sale for just $1 each. Sounds like something that’s worth a Monday evening road trip.

The City

Indianapolis marks the second capital city we’ve featured on this segment of the blog. The first trip to a state capital for the Bats (Columbus, Ohio) resulted in a 1-1 series tie due to a rainout on the first game of a three-game set. This trip to the capital of Indiana looks like it will be both warmer and dryer, and nobody can complain about that.

Anyway, Indianapolis. It’s the 13th largest city in the United States, and is second to only Washington D.C for number of war monuments inside city limits.  “Naptown” is home to the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which hosts the Indy 500 (IndyCar) and Brickyard 400 (NASCAR).

Also in Indy are the Indiana Pacers (NBA) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the Indianapolis Colts (NFL) at Lucas Oil Stadium. The NCAA is also headquartered in Indy. Two Division I schools (Butler and IUPUI) are located within the city, as is the NCAA Hall of Champions.

Outside of sports, Indianapolis is home to headquarters for Steak n’ Shake, hhgregg, Finish Line and Dow AgroSciences.  Famous natives of the Racing Capital of the World include Larry Bird, Mike Epps, Kurt Vonnegut, Benjamin Harrison (23rd president of the United States) and John Wooden.

That will do it for another edition of “Everything you need to know”. The Bats will be back in town on Tuesday for a four-game set against the Syracuse Chiefs. The next set of cities on the Bats’ IL tour will come next weekend when they embark on an eight-game road trip to New York. We’ll be here with double barrel action telling you all you need to know about Buffalo and Rochester.

See you next weekend.

* All stats are accurate heading into play on April 8. All prospect rankings are according to MLB.com.

The Bats Weekly Podcast: April 14

BatsWeeklyLogo2014 580x259 The Bats Weekly Podcast: April 14

The Bats Weekly Podcast is back for 2014. Co-hosts Chris Gehring and George Nunnelley introduce the show for the new season and look ahead to the upcoming week in Bats baseball. Recorded Monday, April 14.

Chien-Ming Wang brings international attention to Louisville

Baseball may be America’s pastime, but as more and more Asian players have come over to the United States to play professionally, it has grown into an obsession of sorts across the Pacific as well.

Japan has gotten most of the attention as a baseball-crazed nation thanks to the stars that they have sent to Major League Baseball. Yankee outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and Rangers ace Yu Darvish are just a couple of Japanese stars gracing Major League diamonds this season.

While Japan has earned its place as a powerful baseball nation ( it has won two World Baseball Classic titles and three Olympic medals), Taiwan has sent players to Major League Baseball as well. The most notable? Current Bats pitcher Chien-Ming Wang.

Wang has battled injury issues of late, but was once one of the game’s top pitchers. With the New York Yankees in 2006, he went 19-6 and finished second in the American League Cy Young Award voting behind Johan Santana. He would win 19 games again in 2007 before injuries took their toll. Nevertheless, Wang has pitched in the Major Leagues for part of each of the last ten seasons and remains a major figure in his native Taiwan.

Members of the Taiwanese media were in Louisville this weekend to keep tabs on Chien-Ming, and he was recently featured in the China Times. Pictures below show Wang in action during the Bats’ 12-4 victory over the Columbus Clippers on Thunder Day (Thunder Over Louisville fireworks also pictured). The drill using a towel in workouts was introduced to Wang by fellow Bats pitcher Chad Reineke.

BS1Aa413 580x978 Chien Ming Wang brings international attention to Louisville

BS1Aa412 580x977 Chien Ming Wang brings international attention to Louisville

BS1Aa414 580x977 Chien Ming Wang brings international attention to Louisville

 

 

 

 

Schmidt works out at Louisville Slugger Field

Schmidt Schmidt works out at Louisville Slugger Field

Nick Schmidt is eligible to come off the seven-day disabled list on Saturday (Paat Kelly – MiLB.com)

Louisville left-handed pitcher Nick Schmidt participated in a rehab workout prior to Lousiville’s home opener against the Columbus Clippers on Thursday night.

Schmidt, who was placed on the seven-day disable list with a left groin strain retro to April 5, long-tossed with left-handed pitcher David Holmberg before throwing about 20 pitches from the bullpen mound. He appeared to have been throwing about 80 percent of his full capability. The majority of his pitches were fastballs, but Schmidt also mixed in about five curveballs.

The former University of Arkansas Razorback was initially selected by the San Diego Padres with the 23rd overall pick of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. He spent the past two seasons in the Colorado Rockies organization but was signed by the Cincinnati Reds to a minor league contract in December.

The big left-hander is yet to make his Major League debut. He has a career 33-33 record with a 4.55 ERA in 128 minor league games, including 94 starts. Last season, with the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Schmidt went 5-3 with a 4.71 ERA while predominately appearing from the bullpen – made eight starts in 37 appearances.

Schmidt is eligible to come off the seven-day disabled list tomorrow, Saturday, April 12 as the Bats wrap up their five-game split series against the Columbus Clippers. First pitch at Louisville Slugger Field is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. ET.

First pitch strike key to pitching staff success

2013 Chad Rogers 1 by Pat Pfister First pitch strike key to pitching staff success

Chad Rogers has found great success out of the bullpen in throwing first pitch strikes. (Pat Pfister – pfoto.com)

The Bats have finished their first road trip of the season with a winning record of 3-2. During this road trip starting pitcher Jeff Francis earned International League Pitcher of the Week and rightfully so. On Opening Day he pitched six innings, allowed four hits, zero runs, zero walks and struck out six. Those numbers are worthy of an award alone, but why was he so successful? I believe I have the answer.

The first pitch of an at bat is the most important one in my opinion. As a pitcher you want to start out ahead of the hitter so you have an advantage. Francis did that extremely well and he was successful because of it. On Opening Day in Toledo, Francis faced 21 hitters, and 16 of them were down 0-1 after the first pitch of the at bat. Out of the 16 that saw a first pitch strike, only two of them were able to get a hit.

In Francis’ second start yesterday in Columbus, he faced 24 hitters total, starting 17 of them out with strike one. Of those 17, three were able to reach base due to a base hit. Combined in his two starts he is 33 of 45 in first pitch strikes.

It isn’t only Francis, the rest of the pitching staff is finding success throwing a first pitch strike as well. The pitching staff as a whole, has started out hitters with a first pitch strike 61% of the time, or 117 out of 191. Out of those 61% of hitters, 74% end up as an out. What is even more astonishing is that out of those 61%, only 0.26% ended up being walked. The pitching staff has done an excellent job of not only getting ahead, but staying ahead.

This statistic is extremely important for the bullpen. The last thing you want to do coming out of the bullpen is get behind hitters and put them into hitters counts. One name that sticks out is Chad Rogers. Rogers has faced 20 batters in four and two-thirds innings pitched, starting 14 of them out with strike one, with only five of them getting a base hit. In his most recent appearance in Columbus on Tuesday he faced six hitters starting each one with a strike. He has had tough luck early on, but if he continues to get ahead of hitters with a strike on the first pitch, he will find success.

In the first five games of 2014 the pitching staff has given up 15 earned runs, and only five of them came after starting the batter with an 0-1 count. That just means that when the pitching starts to fall apart it is because they are falling behind in the count. The key to success for the pitching staff over the course of the season will be the first pitch strike and if they can continue to attack the zone early, they will find success as they have during the first road trip of the season.

 

 

 

Bats return to Louisville Slugger Field for home opener

Opening Night bkswd95b htqpdmyc Bats return to Louisville Slugger Field for home opener

The Louisville Bats play the Columbus Clippers at 6:35 p.m. ET to kick off the team’s 15th season at Louisville Slugger Field.

Your Louisville Bats return home today to face the Columbus Clippers in their home opener at 6:35 p.m. ET. It will mark the 15th season the Bats have made their home at the downtown Louisville Slugger Field.

With a five-game road trip and 3-2 record already in the books, the Bats are off to a respectable start.

The club took the first two games in Toledo, Ohio, behind a stellar pitching performance from southpaw Jeff Franics on Friday, April 4 – he was named IL Pitcher of the Week for his efforts – and clutch, 13th-inning hitting by center fielder Ryan LaMarre on Saturday, April 5. However, the team couldn’t complete the sweep against the IL West division foe Mud Hens, Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, and dropped the final game, 6-3.

The Bats then traveled approximately 146 miles south to Columbus, Ohio, for what was planned to be a six-game split series with the Columbus Clippers, Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. However, a rain out on Monday night changed the plans and the teams were forced to only play two games at Huntington Park. The Clippers won the first game 6-5 behind the hot hitting of first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who hit two home runs and drove in five runs on the evening. Bats infielder Ruben Gotay also had a good night from the plate and hit two home runs of his own, one from each side of the plate. Francis took the mound again in Wednesday’s late morning game and earned his second win of the season, aided by the recently resigned infielder Chris Nelson’s grand slam in the seventh inning as the Bats trailed 1-0.

In the first two starts of the season, Francis’ pitching line is as follows: 2-0, 0.75 ERA, 12 IP, 10 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 12 SO. His two wins and 12 strikeouts are tied for the IL lead on the young season and his 12 innings pitched ranks tied for second.

Offensively, the Bats have been led by fourth-year outfielder Felix Perez and newcomer Gotay. The two currently rank 14th and 17th, respectively, with .385 and .364 batting averages, respectively. Gotay is currently 8-for-22 on the season with one double, three home runs, five RBI and 18 total bases. His three home runs are tied for third in the IL and his 18 total bases are tied for fourth.

Tonight, the two teams will play the third of the 21 scheduled matchups for the season. Louisville’s Josh Smith (1-0,0.00) will face Columbus’ Josh Tomlin (0-1, 6.00).

The game will also mark the first of a nine-game Bats homestand. For a list of news and highlights regarding giveaways, promotions, etc., click here.

Reds activate Mesoraco, make corresponding roster moves

MEZ Reds activate Mesoraco, make corresponding roster moves

Catcher Devin Mesoraco was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Monday. (USA Today Sports)

Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco has been activated from the 15-day disabled list and is set to join the Reds as they take on the St. Louis Cardinals this afternoon. The 25-year-old catcher missed the latter part of spring training with an oblique injury. He appeared in three games with the Double-A Blue Wahoos this weekend and failed to record a hit in five at-bats. Despite Mesoraco’s return, manager Bryan Price will stick with Brayan Pena to catch starter Tony Cingrani in today’s game.

Consequently, 23-year-old catcher Tucker Barnhart has been optioned to Triple-A Louisville. Barnhart, who made the Reds out of Spring Training due to Mesoraco’s injury, made his Major League debut on Thursday against the Cardinals. In three games, including two starts behind the plate, Barnhart went 2-for-8. He will not be active for tonight’s game against the Columbus Clippers because a corresponding roster move has yet to be made.

Additionally, The Reds have resigned infielder Chris Nelson and assigned him to Louisville after previously releasing him on Saturday, March 29. To make room for Nelson, left-handed pitcher Nick Schmidt has been added to the seven-day disabled list retro to April 5 with a groin strain.

Everything you need to know about Columbus

Huntington Park 580x355 Everything you need to know about Columbus

The Bats are still on the road in Ohio to kick off the week, but tonight they’ll be a little bit closer to home. Following Sunday’s loss in the series finale in Toledo (Louisville won the series 2-1), the good guys headed 146 miles south to Columbus, where they will start a six-game split series with the Clippers.

Tonight’s first pitch at Huntington Park is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. and will feature Louisville’s David Holmberg against Columbus’ Travis Banwart.  The rest of the probable pitchers for the series through Thursday are listed below. The Clippers come to Louisville for a three-game set starting Thursday night at Slugger Field.

Tue. 4/8 – RHP Mat Latos (ML Rehab) vs. LHP T.J. House
Wed. 4/9 – LHP Jeff Francis vs RHP Trevor Bauer
Thurs. 4/10 – RHP Tim Crabbe vs. RHP Josh Tomlin

Here’s everything you need to know about the Clippers and Columbus, Ohio:

The Veterans

The Clippers host a number of both veteran players and prospects as they head into the 2014 season. The first of three notable veterans is catcher Luke Carlin. The Maryland native jumped around between Columbus and Cleveland from 2010-12 and departed last year as he spent the season with the Pacific League Salt Lake Bees – Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Carlin returns for his fourth season with the Clippers and although catcher Roberto Perez may receive the majority of the duties behind the plate, Carlin looks to contribute whenever possible. In the season-opening series against the Indianapolis Indians, Carlin appeared in one game and recorded one hit in three at-bats.

Pitcher Josh Tomlin is the second veteran headliner on this year’s club. The organization’s 19th round selection in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft returns for his second consecutive season and third season overall with the Clippers. From 2011-12, Tomlin pitcher in 47 games for the big league Indians and recorded a 17-15 record, but underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow following the 2012 campaign. He returned last year and emerged all the way from Rookie ball to appearing in a Major League game. During Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Indianapolis Indians, Tomlin pitched six innings and allowed four runs on five hits to go along with three walks and four strikeouts.

The final veteran contributor is outfielder Matt Carson. The former New York Yankee prospect arrived in Columbus prior to last season and wound up leading the team with a .252 batting average accompanied by 14 home runs and 49 RBI. Carson also appeared in 20 games with the Indians during the season and recorded an impressive seven hits in 11 at-bats. He continued his hot streak over to the early part of this season and recorded four hits in nine at-bats in the club’s season-opening series against Indianapolis. Carson is a career .263 hitter with 167 home runs and 642 RBI in 13 seasons at the minor league level. He has also gained big league experience during four separate stints – two with Oakland (2009-10), one with Minnesota (2012) and one with Cleveland (2013).

The Prospects

RHP Trevor Bauer headlines the group of prospects with the Clippers this season. Originally acquired by the Cleveland Indians (the Clippers’ parent club)  in a trade with the Diamondbacks that included the Cincinnati Reds, Bauer made his debut with the Tribe last season. He went 1-2 in four starts in Cleveland with an ERA of 5.29. However, this season, his first start with Columbus proved why he’s so high on the Indians’ list (#3 on the organizational rankings). In six innings of work last Friday, he struck out nine while allowing only one run on a pair of hits and two walks. His matchup with Jeff Francis on Wednesday could be fun to watch.

Coming in at #8 on the Indians prospect rankings is second baseman Jose Ramirez. Ramirez rose quickly through the Indians minor league levels and made his Major League debut with the team last season as a September call-up. In 15 games with Cleveland he went 4-for-12 (.333) at the plate, and this season he is 4-for-16 (.250) at the plate in Columbus with an RBI and a double.

The third-best Indians prospect in Columbus is OF Carlos Moncrief, who entered 2014 as the 10th-best prospect. Moncrief spent last season with Double-A Akron, where he had a breakout year at the plate. In 129 games with the Aeros (now the RubberDucks), Moncrief hit a solid .284 with 17 homers, 75 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. This season is a big opportunity for the 25-year-old to make an impact in the Cleveland chain.

The Ballpark

Name: Huntington Park

Opened: 2009

Capacity: 10,100

Dimensions: LF – 325’   CF – 400′ RF – 318’

Ballpark fact: Huntington Park has also hosted a couple of big name concerts in the Dave Matthews Band (2010) and REO Speedwagon (2012).

Best Promotion while Bats are in town: Dime a Dog night. You can guess what that probably means, and if you want to go eat a lot of 10-cent hot dogs, hurry to Columbus and cheer on the Bats tonight.

The City

Columbus may very well be one of our early favorites for “Everything you need to know”, and it’s not just because they serve 10 cent hot dogs. For one, it’s the capital city of the state of Ohio. Another plus is that it’s home to The Ohio State University, which produced the voice of the Bats, Matt Andrews. Columbus is also home to the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL) and the Columbus Crew (MLS). In the corporate world, it’s home to headquarters of Nationwide Insurance and Wendy’s (you know, the place with the awesome hamburgers).
Famous folks from C-Bus include Jack Nicklaus, Nick Swisher, Archie Griffin, Bow Wow, R.L. Stine and more.

That will do it for the second edition of “Everything you need to know”. We will be back next weekend when the Bats head to Indianapolis. Before that, make sure you have your tickets for the opening home stand of 2014 at Louisville Slugger Field. Tickets are still available for Thursday’s Opening Night and Thunder Over Louisville.

* All stats are accurate heading into play on April 4. All prospect rankings are according to MLB.com.