Behind the mask of an 18 year veteran MLB umpire, Chuck Meriwether

image1 2 225x300 Behind the mask of an 18 year veteran MLB umpire, Chuck Meriwether

Game 4 of the 2004 World Series and the Boston Red Sox are up three games against the St. Louis Cardinals. Just imagine seeing the entire field in front of you with over 174,000 spectators behind you, because you’re the home plate umpire, Chuck Meriwether.

Chuck Meriwether is a former Major League Baseball umpire who started umpiring in the minor leagues in 1979 and was the fifth African American to umpire in Major League history. His success on the field is apparent, as he has been involved with many exciting moments over the course of his career. “Just like a player I was fortunate enough to work 2 World Series, 2 all-star games, and numerous playoff games and league championships. I worked home plate in Game 4 for both of Boston’s wins in 2004 and 2007.” In 2004 it was the first time the Boston Red Sox had won the World Series, as Chuck says, “in 900 something years.” (86 years to be exact). It is so bitter sweet for the reflection back on this career to all of the different stadiums, traditions, and games that were captured. “Best atmosphere, to go back on the World Series, I worked in Boston and I remember standing at home plate and of course you have the “Green Monster” in Boston that has all the scores with every team that is playing. Well one umpire said to the rest of the crew while we were standing waiting for the national anthem he said, “You know we are in the World Series cause we’re the only game in the house”.

Following the 2010 season, he retired and in 2011 was named an umpire supervisor. One duty as a supervisor is watching the current umpires in the minor leagues, he says, “These guys are trying to get to the big league!” The changes over the years in the league has not only affected the players, but has also affected the umpires. This is a huge process for umpires, but of course getting to the big league is their ultimate goal. “It’s a tough step for the players, also a tough step for the umpires because we only have so many spots and once you get to the big league its almost like having a Supreme Court Job, just don’t have that much retirement.” By the time an umpire reaches a Triple A appearance Chuck explains that they have 5 or 6 years of experience before reaching this level, “I look for positioning, do they give themselves the best chance to see that play, how they move around on the field, how they hustle, and how they handle situations. If they have an argument with a manager or player, I don’t need them to throw gas on the fire, I need them to try to calm things, so just how they handle themselves on the field.“ This feedback and supervision can help these umpires, but ultimately they can be ready for the majors, but unfortunately can’t move up due to the fact that there are no spots open. “It has changed with instant reply, but I think it is 74 or 78. You know when I came along I did American League for the first 15 years of my big leagues and we only had 32 spots and then we combined and went to 64 and with instant reply added more guys.”

With two sons of his own, his advice and his legacy are prominently living through them as well. Jeremy Meriwether is a recent graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and Christopher is a former student athlete at Vanderbilt University who completed his masters recently. “I have two boys, I am very blessed, never gave me an ounce of trouble.” Not only his sons, but even aspiring umpires or even the youth and civic groups he continues to speak to he explains, “A profession as an umpire, is a great profession, it’s the best seat in the house. But I tell anyone I talk to, any profession you want to get into, finish school, so you have something to fall back on if this doesn’t work out. Only thing about sports is you’re just an ACL or broken ankle or broken foot or something from your career ending. Finish school and then go for whatever your dream is.”

Bats Weekly Podcast: Episode 7

BatsWeeklyLogo2014 580x259 Bats Weekly Podcast: Episode 7

Ryan Ritchey and Robert Davidson discuss time of game and the new pitch clock, also have interviews with Jon Moscot and Chris Hogan rejoins the podcast from 27 Outs Baseball to preview the Pawtucket series.

Bats Weekly Podcast: Episode 6

BatsWeeklySquare Bats Weekly Podcast: Episode 6 Ryan Ritchey and Robert Davidson discuss the International League standings, the week that was, the offense and are joined by Chris Hogan of 27 Outs Baseball to preview the upcoming weekend series with the Gwinnett Braves.

Jon Moscot: Getting ahead and staying ahead

Moscot 580x873 Jon Moscot: Getting ahead and staying ahead

via Pat Pfister, pfoto.com

It is no secret that Jon Moscot is one of the best pitchers in the International League so far this season. He has shown in five starts that he has the ability to be successful every fifth day for this Louisville Bats pitching staff by going 5-0 with a 2.35 ERA. His ground ball percentage of 41% is a recipe for success. He has thrown a quality start in three of his five starts and allowed three runs or less in all five. What has been the reason for his success? That is hard to pinpoint exactly, but I have an idea.

The 20th overall prospect in the Reds system by Baseball America has shown the ability to get ahead and stay ahead of hitters. It is one thing to throw strike one, but it is another to throw a strike in a 1-1 count. You may think the first pitch strike is the most important pitch of an at-bat, but Joe Lemire of Grantland thinks otherwise and I concur.

Moscot has been throwing first pitch strikes 66% of the time this season, the most of any Bats starting pitcher. That allows him to get ahead of the hitter, but what about the 1-1 count? He has been the same when it comes to that count as well. He has thrown a strike in a 1-1 count 37 of 57 opportunities, which comes out to 65%.

Getting the count to 1-2 puts Moscot in a good position to throw his change up for a strikeout pitch which he did quite often in his start on Sunday. Starting with fastballs and going to his changeup ahead in the count allowed him to rack up 15 swings and misses against the Rochester Red Wings, his most as a Louisville Bat.

On the entire season Moscot has gotten opponents to swing and miss 46 times this season in five starts. 15% of his strikes have been on swings and misses, and the major league average is 9.5%. These are still small sample sizes that we will have to revisit down the road, but for now, Moscot is showing great command and swing and miss ability.

Moscot doesn’t have a ton of velocity on his fastball (89-92 consistently), but being able to throw his fastball, curveball and changeup for a strike puts him on another level. With Michael Lorenzen gone to the big leagues, Moscot has stepped in and earned the number one starter role for this Bats team, by getting ahead and staying ahead of opposing hitters.

 

Bats Weekly Podcast: Episode 5

BatsWeeklyLogo2014 580x259 Bats Weekly Podcast: Episode 5

Ryan Ritchey and Robert Davidson are back with the 5th episode of the Bats Weekly Podcast. They discuss the International League standings, the week that was, a couple of call-ups, and a preview of the two series’ with Rochester and Charlotte.

Bats Weekly Podcast: Episode 3

BatsWeeklyLogo2014 580x259 Bats Weekly Podcast: Episode 3

In this edition of the Bats Weekly Podcast Robert Davidson and Ryan Ritchey discuss the International League Standings, Thunder Over Louisville, last weeks action, and upcoming opponents.

IL West Road Trip Preview

David Holmberg 11 580x452 IL West Road Trip Preview

Left-hander David Holmberg will get the start on Tuesday because of the Sunday rainout against Indianapolis. (Pat Pfister)

After a rainout Sunday afternoon against the Indianapolis Indians and an off day Monday, the Bats will begin a six-day road trip, in two different cities. Louisville will start their trip by traveling to IL West-leading Toledo and finish up by playing at Huntington Park in Columbus for the first time in 2015.

The Bats will face Toledo twice, Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday will be an education day, 10:30 a.m. first pitch. Left-hander David Holmberg will get the start on Tuesday because of the Sunday rainout against Indianapolis. Holmberg pitched against Toledo on Opening Night allowing five runs in four and one-third innings in a 13-0 Louisville loss. He will be looking for a different result this evening. A win tonight would be his first of the season.

Getting the ball for Toledo will be righty Buck Farmer. Getting the ball for Toledo will be righty Buck Farmer. Farmer dominated the Bats on Opening Night in Louisville, going 5.1 innings and allowing just two hits and one walk with eight strikeouts in the Mud Hens’ 13-0 win.

In the second game of the two-game series, the Bats will see another familiar face in southpaw Kyle Ryan for the Mud Hens. Ryan has pitched against the Bats once this season, pitching 4.2 innings and allowing three runs on four hits, walking three and striking out one. Toledo won that game 7-6 back on April 10. Starting for Louisville in the second game will be right-hander Dylan Axelrod.

Ivan De Jesus will enter the series for the Bats as the third leading hitter in the International League with a .452 average. He is currently on a nine-game hitting streak and 14 game on-base streak dating back to last season. Toledo’s Jefry Marte – IL Batter of the Week (4/13) – leads the league in RBI with 12 and has led the charge on offense for the Mud Hens. Louisville has had great pitching but they will have their hands full at Fifth Third Field with Toledo’s offense that ranks third in the league in average, first in doubles and third in slugging percentage.

After their trip to Toledo, the Bats will move onto Columbus for four straight games. The Clippers enter Tuesday a half-game behind the Bats in the IL West. Columbus was the division winner in 2014 and has the second-best record in the International League. If you were unaware of Columbus’ history in the International League let me inform you; they have nine IL championships. Only team that has more is Rochester with 10 championships, Louisville stands with one IL championship.

The game schedule in Columbus is as follows, Thursday April, 23rd 6:35 p.m. start, Friday April 24th 7:15 p.m. start, Saturday April 25th 7:15 p.m. start, and Sunday April 26th 1:05 p.m. start. The Bats will start Michael Lorenzen, Raisel Iglesias, Holmberg and Jon Moscot. The Clippers will counter with Shaun Marcum, Toru Murata, lefty Michael Roth and lefty Bruce Chen.

It hasn’t matter who Columbus hands the ball to so far this season as they lead the IL with just 17 runs allowed in 77+ innings. Their 1.85 ERA is best in the league and their four shutouts are also tops on the circuit.

As far as the offense goes, it isn’t as shiny as the pitching. They have had trouble scoring runs, just 22, which is worst in the league. Their .168 average is also last in the IL, but Louisville is right above them at 13th with a .217 clip. So if you are looking for a bunch of runs, this is not the series for you. On the other hand if you like a good old fashioned pitchers duel get on out to Huntington Park in Columbus and watch two great pitching staffs battle it out.

What have we seen so far?

Michael Lorenzen 2 580x326 What have we seen so far?

via Pat Pfister – pfoto.com

The first eight games of the season are now behind us and after dropping the first two at home to Toledo, the Bats have battled back and won four of the last six. A 4-4 record isn’t a dream start, but we have seen pretty good performances from a couple of players.

Keep in mind, the sample sizes used in this piece are too small to make long term predictions for this team, but they are always fun to play around with and look at. Let’s be honest, baseball fans love numbers and we have numbers so let’s analyze them a bit.

The pitching has been fantastic so far, with the exception of the opening night game. The pitching staff has allowed 28 runs this season, but take out the Opening Night game, where 13 runs were scored, and the Bats have the second least amount of runs allowed. Division rival Columbus has allowed the least amount of runs with just five through the first seven games.

Having already made two starts is right-hander and second best pitching prospect Michael Lorenzen. Lorenzen pitched another gem last night in Indianapolis throwing six innings, allowing one run on six hits, walking one and striking out two. He has no thrown a combined 13 innings, allowing nine hits, one earned run, walking three and striking out five. The one earned run was a home run off the bat of Deibinson Romero in Indy.

Right-hander Jon Moscot matched Lorenzen in his first start of the season going five and two-thirds, allowing three hits, two walks and striking out six. Moscot had his off-speed pitches working and his command with his fastball was excellent.

The bullpen has done a tremendous job as well finishing games. The eighth inning has been a troublesome inning but they have been able to work out of the jams without any damage, so you can’t complain. Besides, who doesn’t like a little drama late in a ballgame every now and then? Over the last four games the bullpen hasn’t allowed a run in seven and one-third innings.

Right-hander Nate Adcock has saved two games this season matching his career-high total from last season in Round Rock. He has looked really good, commanding his fastball well and closing out games when the Bats need a big performance out of him.

For the offense, infielder Ivan De Jesus has started out on fire leading the league in hitting with a .478 average, getting 11 hits in 23 at-bats so far this season. He is riding a seven game hitting streak to begin the season and a 13-game on-base streak that dates back to last season. He is almost half way to his season long from last season where he reached base in 27 straight for the Norfolk Tides, the third longest in the International League. Getting to that .478 average he has multi-hit games in four of the seven games he’s played in this season.

Even with De Jesus hitting the way he has it hasn’t really translated into the entire offense. As a team the Bats are hitting .214, the second worst in the league, just in front of Columbus. Outfielder/Infielder Donald Lutz has struggled out of the gate offensively, hitting .087 (2-for-23). Manager Delino DeShields has put Lutz in four different spots in the order trying to get him going, but nothing has worked just yet. April is usually a tough hitting month for most do to the weather being a bit shaky and getting back into regular season baseball again, so expect a turnaround when the calendar flips to May.

So, through a little over a week of games, we have seen all three division teams and the Bats seem to matchup nicely with all three. The pitching has been outstanding, both the starters and the bullpen and the offense will start hitting before long. This is a team with a good mix of young talent and veterans and so far they have shown that they can win games against all three division opponents.

Bats Weekly Podcast: Episode 2

BatsWeeklyLogo2014 580x259 Bats Weekly Podcast: Episode 2

Robert Davidson & Ryan Ritchey are back with the second episode of the Bats Weekly Podcast! This week they discuss the opening home stand, the series with Indianapolis and the upcoming Thunder Over Louisville weekend at LSF.

The Bats Weekly Podcast is back!

BatsWeeklyLogo2014 580x259 The Bats Weekly Podcast is back!

With first pitch of the Louisville Bats 2015 campaign just hours away, Ryan Ritchey and Robert Davidson talk about their season expectations, the Louisville Bats roster, series previews with TOL & COL and interview new Louisville Bats manager Delino DeShields.

Click play to listen to the season premier of the Bats Weekly Podcast! Be patient, audio starts at eight seconds.