Eight Sliders Sliding

Got my coffee. Got my Neko Case. Like when I drove from Asheville to Durham en route to Cooperstown for Tony Gwynn’s Hall of Fame induction. So many trees. I miss the road.

* * *

jody-gerutJody Gerut rocks the ’69 uni

Stupid game Tuesday night at PhoneCo. Top of the fourth, Kevin Kouzmanoff bangs a double off the Levi’s sign in right, misses a homer by maybe two feet. Adrian Gonzalez at second, Chase Headley at first.

Kouzmanoff’s drive caroms past right fielder Randy Winn, but center fielder Aaron Rowand pounces on it and fires a strike to first baseman Travis Ishikawa, who spins and throws home to a waiting Bengie Molina. Both Padres runners arrive about the same time. One of these guys — you know which one — is molasses tortoise sundial slow.

Molina swipes at a sliding Gonzalez, who catches the plate with his left foot and who is ruled safe. Molina then tags Headley trying to leap over the sprawled Giants catcher. Molina is furious. He wants the crazy Carlton Fisk double play.

Such baserunning. Where’s Ruben Rivera when you need him?

The bottom of the fourth is worse. Molina punches a leadoff single up the middle off Jake Peavy. Rowand follows with a check swing roller to second that advances the runner. Peavy drops Pablo Sandoval with a fastball high and tight. Sandoval responds by slashing a grounder down the third-base line. Kouzmanoff dives to his right and stops the ball but struggles to transfer it to his throwing hand, and Sandoval beats the throw with ease. Even with a clean transition, Sandoval is safe. He is built like a soup can, but he scoots.

Then it’s Peavy versus Ishikawa. What I see:

  1. Slider, outside corner at the knees; called strike, 0-1
  2. Slider, same spot; Ishikawa bounces it foul to the right side, 0-2
  3. Slider, outside; ball, 1-2
  4. Slider, just outside; ball, 2-2
  5. Slider, out over the plate; another grounder foul to the right side, still 2-2
  6. Slider, just outside; ball, 3-2
  7. Slider, down and away; Ishikawa walks (Pitch f/x calls this a curveball)

Why is Peavy nibbling with a guy like Ishikawa? And what’s up with seven straight sliders? When Edgar Renteria steps to the plate, do you suppose he might be looking for that pitch? When he gets it down the middle, belt high, do you suppose he might deposit it a dozen rows back in the left-field bleachers?

Peavy says the pitch was a cutter designed to induce a grounder. It looks like a slider to me, and Pitch f/x identifies it the same way. Whatever the case, like the seven that preceded it, the pitch runs 81-88 mph and breaks laterally away from a right-handed hitter. It also carries well when struck with wood.

* * *

Wednesday’s game isn’t televised, which is good. Nobody should have to watch their team get shut down by Barry Zito.

* * *

One of my writing heroes, W.S. Merwin, received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. I haven’t read the award-winning collection, but his Second Four Books of Poems is seldom far from my reach. Merwin’s language is clean, simple, and powerful.

I almost met him in the mid-’90s, when Mrs. Ducksnorts and I visited a friend who lived on his property in Maui. Alas, while we were eating lunch at my friend’s house, Merwin went out for a walk on the grounds. By the time he returned, we had left.

Life is like that.

* * *

Friday we watch Stephen Strasburg pitch against TCU. Sellout crowd. Largest ever at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

Strasburg gives up three runs on four hits over seven innings. Fourteen strikeouts.

First hit is a grounder to deep shortstop in the third. Then two bloop singles in the seventh, ahead of a home run to left by TCU catcher Bryan Holaday, the only hard-hit ball of the night. Comes on a 3-1 fastball out over the plate.

Two of the strikeouts merit further discussion. In the first inning, Matt Carpenter tries to check his swing on a 3-2 slider. The pitch bounces in the dirt and skips onto the screen behind home plate, out of play. Then in the sixth, again on a breaking ball, the pitch clanks off catcher Erik Castro and rolls out toward the mound, where Strasburg picks it up and fires to first to complete the putout.

Strasburg has the stuff and command to succeed in the big leagues. He could hold his own right now as a reliever, using two pitches, an inning or two at a time.

Two open questions: How will he handle adversity when he faces hitters who don’t wilt at his pitches? Also, does he love his slider too much? I don’t know the answer to either of these, but he is fun to watch.

* * *

After stopping for sushi and ramen, we come home to watch the final few innings of the Padres game. Great job by the bullpen: Edward Mujica, Luke Gregerson, Heath Bell, and Edwin Moreno are fantastic.

Bell works a scoreless ninth to hold a 3-3 tie. One good thing about Trevor Hoffman being gone is that Bud Black can bring his closer into a non-save situation at home without everyone getting their panties in a bunch.

It must have been satisfying for Moreno to pick up his first big-league victory after blowing the save walkoff style in Philly last week. I still don’t believe in him, but I hope he makes me look like a jackass for saying that. We need Moreno to be better than I think he is.

Good to see Brian Giles get the game-winning hit. People were starting to panic with less than 10% of the season complete, and we can’t have that.

* * *

Geoff, Elsewhere

Shameless bit o’ self-promotion. My latest stuff on the tubes:

  • Once upon a shortstop (THT). Remember when Garry Templeton was better than Ozzie Smith, and Rick Burleson was better than both of them?
  • It’s Early, Things Are Weird (BDD). It concerns me that my teams are doing so well in the early going. If this were September, I wouldn’t know what do with myself. Thankfully it’s still only April, so there’s plenty of time for normalcy to be restored…
  • The cult of the sure thing (THT). With all the hype surrounding SDSU right-hander Stephen Strasburg this spring, I got to thinking about prospects and predicting their future. It’s harder than it looks. In fact, it’s impossible. The best we can do is make educated guesses based on assumptions and then hope we are right…
  • Pitch for the Minors (BDD). I attended my first minor-league game in 1987. Opening Day at Old Orchard Beach, Maine. The Maine Guides hosted the Columbus Clippers. Veteran Al Holland started for Columbus. Prospects Jay Buhner and Orestes Destrade were the big names behind him…

* * *

Pancakes for breakfast. Write a little, then drive to San Juan Capistrano to meet the ‘rents for lunch. Fish and chips, cole slaw, decaf black, cherry pie, good conversation. Tempted to take the long way home, but we have a game tonight.

The Padres are celebrating their inaugural 1969 season. Replica jersey giveaway. Players rock old school unis for the game. They should wear these more often (or look to the guys at Sacrifice Bunt for other ideas).

Five members of the original team — Steve Arlin, Chris Cannizzaro, Roger Craig, Fred Kendall, and Ed Spiezio — come out to throw the first pitch. Padres then add a touch of authenticity to the proceedings by playing like the ’69 squad and losing to the Pirates, 10-1.

Shawn Hill looked terrible. Not surprising given that his reconstructed elbow is hurting again (Chad Gaudin is expected to take his spot in the rotation). Josh Geer looked worse, but lasted twice as long.

Frankie De La Cruz? Five walks in two innings. I don’t care how hard you throw; if it’s nowhere near the plate, you’re not a pitcher. Ask Wil Ledezma. Ability to throw strikes isn’t a luxury, it’s part of the job description.

Highlights? Scott Hairston tripled to lead off the sixth and scored the Padres only run. In the third, David Eckstein did something I’d never seen. Backed up first base on a ground ball to pitcher Geer off the bat of Eric Hinske. Eckstein ended up in foul territory down the right-field line.

It’s fashionable in certain circles to poke fun at Eckstein’s “grittiness.” That’s fine, as long as people recognize that the guy plays good baseball.

* * *

toby-and-smitty-at-mission-baySmitty and Toby at Mission Bay

Wake up early, take the dogs to Mission Bay. Sniff grass, dig sand. Smitty loves it. So does Toby.

My head hurts from lack of sleep and caffeine. I fix a big batch of oatmeal and sift through the week’s notes in the hope that something will make sense.

* * *

Up to Elsinore for another Storm game. No such thing as too much baseball.

Stadium is packed. Nearly cloudless sky, but not too hot. Soothing breeze rolls in off the lake.

cory-luebkeCory Luebke delivers

We’re in Section 101, Row E, with the pitchers and scouts. Cory Luebke starts for the Storm and gets pounded. Preston Mattingly and Scott Van Slyke play for the 66ers. I don’t know if these kids are any good, but their dads were.

Get my first look at Logan Forsythe. He does nothing to impress at the plate, but makes a few nice plays on short hops at the hot corner.

Yefri Carvajal cripples a hanging curve in the sixth. Lines the 1-2 offering from Kendy Batista over the left-field wall to tie the game, 4-4. Carvajal looked terrible against the breaking ball earlier in the game. He is strong, but his swing gets long.

Felix Carrasco works deep into the count several times. Walk, two singles — one a screaming liner off the right-field fence.

Missed Sunday’s 8-3 loss to the Pirates. In looking at the box score, the problem seems obvious: The Padres allowed too many runs and scored too few. Fix that, win the game. There’s your plan; go implement it.

* * *

I am relieved that the Padres have lost five out of six. I’ve said that this team will win 72-75 games. When they shot out to a 9-3 start, people began asking questions. My catch phrase became, “I have no idea,” which is a terrible catch phrase.

We grow uncomfortable when our team does well. Shoes get upset, applecarts drop.

I also get a kick out of hearing people fall off the bandwagon. Twelve games is enough to make you believe, six enough to make you doubt? This is a calculus I do not understand.

The ones I feel for are the pundits that thought the Padres would threaten the ’62 Mets in terms of futility. The season is young, but right now San Diego would need to go 31-113 the rest of the way. That doesn’t seem likely. Then again, neither did 99 losses last year.

The future doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone’s predictions. The world does what it does, whether we like it or not.

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19 Responses »

  1. After three weeks I think the strangest numbers of all are the ones that indicate that the Padres are playing above .500 and that Jake is below .500!

    I think Adam LaRoche had a quote regarding yesterday’s game and how he had never seen Peavy nibble so much…..after reading your column and Jake’s sliders ad nauseum last Tuesday, I have to ask, “What’s up?”

    Any extended analysis about Jake’s troubles? Or can we just chalk it up o the World Baseball Classic Syndrome?

    Good column!

  2. Just noticed that Khalil Greene is leading NL SSs with 5 errors in 71 TC for a fielding % of .930

    That while batting just .230/.338/.361

    Not sorry to see those stats move east, though I miss watching KG play. (Doesn’t seem to be slowing the Cards down either)

  3. I am rooting for the 73+ wins…not only because it is fun when the Pads win, but also because it would score me two different dinners.

    The over under I gave was 73…both buddies took the under.

    I think I have a good shot.

  4. Geoff, you are living the life, My Man! So Cal, ball games, lunching in SJC and hanging at MB with the pups; awesome! Great to hear Smitty is enjoying himself. I’m sure you and Mrs. DS are making the most of your time with him. Enjoy!!!

  5. re: the 69 throwback uni’s … got RAVE reviews at uniwatchblog … with this exception …


    The Padre pitcher has got his socks mixed up..one leg has the sock with high opening in front, the other has the low opening in front…Still, these look incredible.


  6. For you draftniks out there…


    The June 6 draft’s first 3 rounds will take place during prime time.

  7. Caught both games in Pacbell –> SBC –> AT&T Park. Unusually warm, bad outcomes.

    Living in SF you start to think the Giants are alright. Then I go to the games and remember how much I dislike watching my team lose. And Molina; what a buzzkill. His game winning hit looked like he was fooled and lunging.

  8. Hoffman got his first save for the Brewers tonite. Still not used to him in a Brewers uni.

  9. I missed it, but did Adrian Gonzalez really steal a base?

    This is big news!

  10. Appreciate your comparison of Kouzmanoff to Joe Crede. I wonder how long the Padres will stick with Kouz as their everyday third bagger. He seems to get less selective at the plate as his career trudges along. Although it’s still very early in 2009, Kouzmanoff has showed very little power (only 4 extra base hits in 80+ PA’s) which makes me wonder if his power potential has hit its peak- as even last year his power numbers were significantly worse than his rookie campaign.

  11. #7@LynchMob: They should at least be part of the regular rotation. Maybe they already are for this year.

    #8@Coronado Mike: That’s like asking me to wait until evening to open my Christmas presents. Chances of me being productive at work that day are still zero, much as they have been the last 9 years or so.

    #9@jay: A decent LF catches that ball, but I don’t remember if Macias was even with the big club then, and in a tie game it would have been hard to pull Headley. Still, it seems like Molina only breaks out his corked bats for the Padres.

  12. HEADS UP!!!

    Check out this week’s BA PHS “Blast From the Past” …


    Ben Davis, rhp, Reds. Yes, you read that correctly. That’s Ben Davis, righthanded pitcher. The Padres 1995 first-round pick hung up his catcher’s mitt last summer, then worked at making a comeback as a pitcher in the Atlantic League. The Reds signed him this offseason, and he’s now working on learning the trade as a pitcher, striking out one in one inning in his high Class A Sarasota debut. Davis is joined in Sarasota’s bullpen by a fellow former big league position player Jerry Gil.


  13. Went to the game at Coors today. Poor hitting, poor pitching, and a couple meaningless Gonzalez homers. Got a few pictures. Nothing special, but they are here: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=2955782&l=42b1e6ca2b&id=587935287

  14. #7@LynchMob: The throwbacks were awesome. I hope they bust ‘em out a few more times this season. I didn’t think I would like that look (too bland), but it really worked.

    #12@clyde: Indeed, he did. Standing up… without a throw. This will be addressed in next week’s article.

    #13@Tex Padre: Kouz is a tough one to figure. When he hits the ball, he hits it hard, but he doesn’t get a lot of loft. His swing is compact and he seems to have a clue (even if the K/BB ratio doesn’t show it). He looks like a guy who should hit .300 in his sleep. He has the strength to hit 30 homers a year, but not the swing. He’s a good player but as you say, it’s possible that he’s already peaked.

    #15@LynchMob: Okay, that is crazy… Speaking of which, the Long Beach Armada of the Golden Baseball League have signed Hideki Irabu, the man who helped launch Ducksnorts back in ’97:


    #16@Geoff B: Nice. Thanks for the pix!

  15. I love MLB TV…I really do.

    So, when I woke up this morning and turned it on, I saw the Pads were playing…sweet. An all-time great game with the Pads.

    Then I hit the info button and saw that it was the 4-HR game against the Dodgers.


    Of course I watched the entire thing…

    Why do I subject myself to such torture?