At Pickin’ Splinters: Red Wings falls back in division with 3-2 loss

Aside

My first game story for Pickin’ Splinters is now up. Be sure to check it out and read about the Wings’ loss last night as well as manager Matthew LeCroy’s thoughts on the game.

Some Personal News: Pickin’ Splinters

I’m sharing some personal news today. Beginning on Friday, I’ll be occasionally covering the Rochester Red Wings and other Rochester-area sports on Pickin’ Splinters.

I will continue, of course, to post on this blog. My Rochester Red Wings Reports will also continue, but will only cover games that I go to as a fan. I will, however, make sure to provide links here to any baseball-related stories I do for Splinters.

Thanks for reading!

Rochester Red Wings Report: One line on every new member of the 2022 Rochester Red Wings

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

Last night’s 3-2 loss to Syracuse was, for such a close game, a rather nondescript one, as the Wings were foiled by a lack of clutch hitting and a would-be tying run being thrown out at the plate.

So, instead, I’m updating my opening day look at the team by having one line on every member of the Red Wings who was not on the opening day roster. I am not including Alcides Escobar, who is on a rehab assignment.

Here we go:

  • Cory Abbott was acquired by the Nationals off waivers from the Giants in May.
  • Joan Adon is looking to get back to Washington after being sent down with a 1-11 record and 6.97 ERA thus far in the show this season.
  • Luis Avilan is an MLB veteran of 458 games, primarily with Atlanta and the Dodgers.
  • Matt Brill came to the Nationals organization after initially being with Arizona, and was moved from AA to AAA in early June.
  • Zack Burdi, currently on the IL, saw some MLB time with the White Sox and Orioles last season.
  • Sam Clay first made his Rochester Red Wings debut in 2019, during the Twins era.
  • Matt Cronin had a minuscule 0.55 ERA in AA Harrisburg before being called up to the Wings in late May.
  • This is Danny Dopico‘s first year in the Nationals organization, having previously been with the White Sox.
  • Aside from Cade Cavalli, Cole Henry is likely the biggest pitching prospect in the Nationals system.
  • Patrick Murphy has pitched in 35 career MLB games.
  • Sterling Sharp is not related to former NFL player Sterling Sharpe, as should be clear by the fact their last names are spelled different.
  • Mason Thompson has a 3.86 ERA in 25.2 career IP in Major League Baseball.
  • Taylor Gushue had a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2021.
  • Curacao’s Junior Martina has leapfrogged AA to join the Red Wings.
  • Ildemaro Vargas has seen MLB time with Arizona, the Cubs, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh.
  • Josh Palacios‘ uncle, Rey Palacios, is both a former big leaguer and a longtime Rochester firefighter.

The Red Wings continue their series against Syracuse through Sunday.

2023 WBC Team Dominican Republic: The “ideal” roster

Here’s a fun fact: one of my most popular posts ever was an early projection of what Team Dominican Republic’s roster would look like for the 2017 World Baseball Classic. So now that I have finished my June update for Team USA, it is time to look at another tournament favorite: the Dominican Republic. It’s a topic that others have already brought up: reporter Hector Gomez tweeted out one possible lineup, while no less than Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gave his opinion back in April. Now, it’s my turn.

Much like the Team USA rosters, at this point this is a “pie-in-the-sky” roster. It assumes, probably wrongly, that every player I mention would be willing and able to play. That, needless to say, is highly unlikely. There are always injuries, spring training superstitions, or transaction considerations that cause players to back out. While this has not been as big of a problem in the past for the Dominican as it has been for some other countries, it still happens. So keep that in mind while reading this: it’s highly unlikely that the final roster will look like this.

That said, even with this being a pie-in-the-sky exercise, there are two rules I have in place while making this:

  • Teams are made up of 28 players, of which 13 of them must be pitchers and two of them catchers.
  • The pitch count rules make relievers extremely important.

Go below the jump for more:

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The “ideal” 2023 Team USA WBC roster 2.0

Last month, I speculated as to who would be on the Team USA World Baseball Classic roster next year. We’re now over a month later, so based on how the season is going, how much has changed?

Again, this is not the most likely (that will happen when I begin doing projections). Instead, it is what the best possible team would be if I could wave a magic wand and ensure that every player we’d want would be playing regardless of any injuries, off-season concerns, or spring training routine.

In other words, think of this as a sort-of rough draft or best-case-scenario. It will likely provide a bit of a skeleton for more-serious projections, but it’s unlikely to come to pass as it currently exists.

That said, even with this being a pie-in-the-sky exercise, there are two rules I have in place while making this:

  • Teams are made up of 28 players, of which 13 of them must be pitchers and two of them catchers.
  • The pitch count rules make relievers extremely important.

Go below the jump for more:

Continue reading

Fictional Fields: Parks Department Field No. 2

An often-underappreciated part of fiction is setting and set design. We focus on the characters and special effects flying around, all of that is meaningless without a sense of place. What would Captain Kirk be without the bridge of the USS Enterprise? Would The Shawshank Redemption have worked as well if we could not see the prison walls that Andy Dufresne chips his way through? What would Mario be able to do if there weren’t blocks, castles, hills, and tubes around for him to jump on and explore? The places where our fiction takes place help dictate how that fiction occurs.

The same can be said for baseball. Alone among the major sports, massive differences exist between ball fields. They can be anything from an open field with no boundaries to a gigantic stadium with walls of various heights. How that ball field is laid out affects how the game is played: what will and won’t be a home run, how deep the outfielders will play, and how likely it is that a long hit becomes a double, triple, or out.

Now, I combine the two to look at FICTIONAL FIELDS- baseball fields from the land of fiction. We begin with Parks Department Field No. 2 from the classic Backyard Baseball.

About The Field: Debuting in the classic Backyard Baseball of 1997, Parks Department Field No. 2 (PDFN2) was in some ways the most ubiquitous and least-wacky stadium in the series. Initially only available if you played in season mode, it became available for single games in later installments. Sadly, after the 2003 installment, PDFN2 disappeared from the series.

As mentioned above, it was the least-wacky stadium of the series. While other fields in the games are generally in actual backyards, back alleys, or playgrounds, this one has a more official feeling. The fact that it was what was used in season mode suggests that it was (and perhaps still is) the home facility of the local sports organization.

Great Players: The field was used by almost every team in season mode, from the Melonheads to the Taters and everyone in-between. There were also pint-sized versions of MLB teams. The only teams that couldn’t be encountered there were those that could only be found in post-season tournament play. As a result, PDFN2 saw many of the greats: Pablo Sanchez, Pete Wheeler, Stephanie Morgan, Achmed Khan, the works! Add in the kid versions of MLB stars from the sequels, and it’s possible that PDFN2 has seen the greatest assemblage of baseball talent in video game history.

Dimensions:

So, before we figure out the field’s dimensions, there is a need first to get an idea of what type of field this is. There is reason to believe it is a Little League-size field. Why? When you see the length of home runs in Backyard batting practices, you see that the balls that die at the left-center wall are only going 196 feet (note that in BB they count the rolls and bounces for distance). Dead grounders ahead of the pitcher’s mound are in the 30s as far as distance, and a ball clearly past the pitcher’s mound is 62 feet. Look below at a screenshot of Eauxps I. Fourgott’s video:

This would suggest that this is a little league field. So about 46 feet from the mound to home and 60 feet between the bases. This is not surprising, of course, given that the Backyard Baseballers are children, but it’s still important to know as we figure out the lengths.

So, looking over various videos of home run derbies, I’ve come to the conclusion that the following distances are definitely true:

Left Field: 175 ft

Left-Center: 196 ft

Right-Center: 196 ft

Right Field: 175 ft

So, we still need to figure out how long it is down the lines and to straightaway center. To do that, we’ll need to do the highly-unscientific-but-the-best-we’ve-got method of pixel measurement. In this case, we measure something on the computer in pixels and then use that to get an idea of the scale. Since it isn’t a “straight-on” view but rather at an angle and further distorted by it cartooniness, we’ll have to use the balls closest to the area we’re aiming at to set a scale.

So, for example, it appears that the hit towards center that went 180 feet was 1274.5 pixels. This suggests that 7.080555555 (repeating) pixels is equal to one foot. Since straightaway center is about 1306 pixels, that suggests that it’s about 184.4 feet to center. This means, of course, that the right-center and left-center alleys are actually deeper than straightaway center.

Now, time to figure out the lines. The ball hit closest to the line is the 136 hit to left. So to get something close to that scale, we find 1299.1 pixels equals 136 feet. That suggests that down the lines we should assume one foot is represented by just over 9.5522 pixels. It looks like the lines are 1310.5 pixels, so that equals out to about 137.19 feet down the lines. So, the final dimensions of PDFN2 are:

Left Field line: 137 ft

Left Field: 175 ft

Left-Center: 196 ft

Dead Center: 184 ft

Right-Center: 196 ft

Right Field: 175 ft

Right Field line: 137 ft

Now, this was highly unscientific, and no doubt the “real” lengths are rounded up or down. Still, it gives a “ballpark” figure. And, yes, that wordplay is intended.

Just for fun, given that Little League fields are 2/3rds the size of adult fields, we can figure out what the MLB equivalent of PDFN2 is with a little math. That comes out to…

Left Field line: 205.5 ft

Left Field: 262.5 ft

Left-Center: 294 ft

Dead Center: 276 ft

Right-Center: 294 ft

Right Field: 262.5

Right Field line: 205.5 ft

You’ll notice that this is still hilariously small (and also that the shape would become more exaggerated). Doing some work with the OOTP Parkgen website suggests it’d be the ultimate hitter’s park:

Yes, if you are reading that right, it should literally be impossible to hit a double in play on that field. So this leads to the question: why was it so small? Even going by the Little League standards (where the deepest parts are 196), the deepest parts of PDFN2 are far closer to the plate than the walls at Lamade Stadium in Williamsport. Given that Pablo Sanchez can smack it over 700 feet, it becomes even more absurd.

Alas, we have no way of knowing. Still, we now know the dimensions for PDFN2, so use this knowledge only for good.

Capacity and Amenities: By default, 16 people are seen in the stands when seen from overhead in Backyard Baseball. Based on the empty spots, it looks like another 16 probably could fit on those stands for a total capacity of 32. It’s possible that additional stands existed outside of camera view, but those were never seen, at least in the classic games. And, of course, there probably is room for blankets and other standing-room options.

As far as amenities, PDFN2 is and was top-of-the-line. Perhaps even over-the-top. It possesses a large scoreboard in dead center for replays and statistics, as well as a blimp that flew over to celebrate home runs. It also had an awesome sound system to blast out the theme songs of all the players. Some sort of broadcast facilities are/were also present since Sunny Day and Vinny the Gooch were able to cover all games.

For fans, less is known. However, given the Gooch’s chili dog, we must assume that some concession stands are/were present.

Other Notes: PDFN2 is part of a series of fields run by the Parks Department. Parks Department Field No. 3 is used for (American) football, while Parks Department Field No. 7 and Parks Department Field No. 8 are used for soccer (although PDFN8 lacks grass and is instead a sandy field).

Final Thoughts: The Parks Department Field No. 2 is a classic of Backyard Baseball, but lacks much of the charm that other fields in the series have. This is, admittedly, by design. While other playing fields are odd and quirky, PDFN2 is fair, without giving an advantage to left-handed or right-handed hitters. It also had a more professional look, like an actual youth stadium on steroids. This made it the perfect stadium for the season mode that Backyard Baseball had. It may not have been the place you’d want to play with your friends, but it was definitely the place you’d want to play against your opponents.

Rochester Red Wings Report: The Ghosts of Strasmas Past and Present

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

It is May 19, 2010. The second game of a day-night doubleheader. Over 12.5 thousand people pack Frontier Field to watch the best prospect in baseball face the Red Wings. His name is Stephen Strasburg. He is young, but already accomplished. He won awards at San Diego State, a bronze medal in Beijing, and a $15 million dollar contract with the help of Scott Boras. The world is seemingly watching, with national media in the stands and seemingly every camera in the photo city aimed at the clean-shaven kid. Among those cameras in mine. It’s a clear view from behind the visitor dugout, and I see it all as he dismantles the likes of Trevor Plouffe, Matt Tolbert, and Danny Valencia to the tune of nine strikeouts. He leaves the game to a round of applause from the fans of the team he held to three hits. Admittedly, the 2010 Red Wings end up not being anything particularly special, finishing 49-95. As he enters the dugout, some boo him for not tipping his hat. It’s a silly controversy which fades quickly, the Ghost of Strasmas Past.

Within a few weeks, Strasburg is striking out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates. Within a few years, he’s an all-star. Within a decade, he’s the World Series MVP.

It is June 3, 2022. Over a dozen years have passed. Now, the great Stephen Strasburg returns to Rochester. He’s no longer the wonderboy of 2010. Time and injuries have forced him to go from the high heat to more finesse. Where once he could seemingly send it at 95 on demand, now his most dangerous pitch is likely the curve. Regardless, he is Stephen Strasburg, hero of the 2019 World Series. Over 10.5 thousand people pack Frontier Field to see the now-bearded veteran. While the eyes of the world have turned elsewhere, there are still plenty of cameras. One of those cameras is mine, shooting around the protective netting that slightly obstructs the view behind the visitors dugout. The Buffalo team Strasburg faces is a far better opponent than the Wings team he faced in 2010. The Red Wings he’s rehabbing with are better, too. The two Western New York teams are in a fight for the lead of the International League East. When he leaves the game after six innings, the Wings are leading 1-0 thanks to a Donovan Casey solo shot off a nearly-as-dominant Max Castillo. Strasburg has thrown 83 pitches, 50 of them for strikes. He has struck out four, walked one, and given up just a single hit. Early on, he humiliates the Blue Jays’ top prospect, Gabriel Moreno. Outside of a few at-bats that saw deep counts and a few possible would-be hits that are prevented by Rochester gloves, he never really struggles. The Bison eventually tie the game, but the Red Wings win it in the bottom of the ninth as Joey Meneses gets a bases-loaded single that just falls out of the third baseman’s glove. The win extends Rochester’s lead in the division to 2.5 games. By then, I imagine, Strasburg is already on a flight back to join the Nationals. After all, when he leaves the game after the sixth to applause he does some fist-bumps, talks to coaches quickly, and then disappears into the clubhouse. Gone. The Ghost of Strasmas Present.

And so now, he is gone, likely to never see Frontier Field again barring any future injuries. What the future holds for him is anyone’s guess, but in the near-term, it almost certainly sees him stepping on the mound in Washington once again. It will be a far cry from that night he struck out 14 Pirates as the world watched. Still, he is Stephen Strasburg. The best pitcher on a team having a horrific year. The greatest pitcher to spend the vast majority of his career in Washington since Walter Johnson. Beyond that, who knows? Perhaps this is the twilight of his career. Perhaps he’s just one more injury away from hanging it up. Or perhaps this is still just the end of the beginning or middle stage. Perhaps he has many years left in him. Perhaps it even leads to Cooperstown. Right now that feels iffy, but who knows how the career of Stephen Strasburg will end? Nobody knows, save perhaps the Ghost of Strasmas Future.

The Red Wings (without Stephen Strasburg) finish up their series with Buffalo over the weekend.

BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE 2.0: “Mr. Go” is about a GORILLA PLAYING BASEBALL IN KOREA

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball In Bizarre Baseball Culture 2.0, I take an updated look at some of the more unusual places that I previously covered where baseball has reared its head in pop culture and fiction. In the process, I clean up some mistakes of mine and add some more perspective.

NOTE: The original form of this post ran here. It has some grammatical mistakes and out-of-date information that has been corrected in this post but remains up for posterity. In addition, I have added some extra stuff.

In 2019, the Bong Joon-ho film Parasite took the world by storm. The tale of a poor Korean family that integrates its way into the life of a wealthy family, it became the first film not in the English language to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It spurred a greater appreciation and interest in Korean cinema amongst cinephiles and even general audiences.

This post is not about that film. No, this is about the exact opposite of the award-winning works of Bong Joon-Ho. This is a post about the 2013 film Mr. Go, a Korean-Chinese co-production (more on that later) about a gorilla trained to play baseball.

This was a film much beloved by people throughout the baseball internet at one point for the sheer curiosity factor of its existence. Places like the now-defunct Big League Stew did posts about it, but few actually saw it. I, however, was able to procure a copy of the film in 2014. It was in the form of a DVD from Hong Kong, acquired from a Canadian seller on eBay. All for you, the readership of the Baseball Continuum (and anybody who found this link). Times have changed since 2014, though. Now, you can watch it streaming for free (with advertisements) on the Amazon FreeVee service and on Tubi.

So, buckle up. Below the jump, we dive deep into Mr. Go. Prepare yourself, because gorilla baseball, MLB cameos, banana-shaped thunderstix, pizza commercials, a bullpen-cart chase, and other madness awaits you:

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Rochester Red Wings Report: Can’t Win Them All

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

For two batters on Tuesday night, it appeared that the Rochester Red Wings were going to win their 10th straight game and further solidify their place at the top of the IL East and one of the bright spots for the Washington Nationals organization. For two batters on Tuesday night, Cade Cavalli was the best pitcher in the minors.

Alas, the game did not end after two batters. After striking out Matt Vierling and Austin Wynns in quick succession to begin the game, it all fell apart. While Cavalli maintained the high speeds that have made him the Nationals’ best pitching prospect, the control left him and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies) found themselves able to sit on the pitches he was able to get in the zone. Four hits, two walks, and eventually five earned runs later, and the Wings found themselves down 5-0 after the first inning, with Cavalli only going 0.2 on the day as his ERA increased to 7.62.

It was undoubtedly a disheartening display for prospect-watchers. Cavalli has yo-yo’d a bit in quality this season. At times, such as a 5.1 IP no-hit performance in late April, he has been every bit the future MLB fireballer that Nationals fans are hoping for. On other nights, such as Tuesday, he has been a messy pitcher who calls to mind Nuke Laloosh early in Bull Durham, with plenty of pure talent but none of the refinement needed to make it to the show. Whether he settles into one or the other as far as results is one of the things that Nationals fans and Red Wings fans most want to know.

While the Wings lineup was able to make it something of a game again later, the deficit was just far too great to truly make it competitive, as they fell 11-5. Outside of two good two-inning stints by Jace Fry and Andres Machado, the pitching just couldn’t hold off the IronPigs enough to allow for another comeback.

Luis Garcia, who remains by far the position player on the Wings most likely to become a mainstay in Washington, also had a rough game, going 0-3 and leaving four on base before being pulled later in the game. While the hitless game wasn’t entirely his fault (Lehigh’s Vierling made a nice diving catch to rob him in the first), the same couldn’t be said for his fielding. Often mentioned as his weakest tool and one reason why he hasn’t become a permanent fixture in the bigs yet, Garcia sadly lived down to that complaint on Tuesday, committing his fifth error of the season while also showing a lack of range at shortstop. On a few occasions, there were balls hit up the middle that a top-level shortstop may have been able to make a play on, but Garcia wasn’t able to. Some (but not all) of these may have been because of shifts in play, but it was still concerning. Shifts or no shifts, though, it is pretty concerning. While hardly something that justifies him staying in the minors (after all, Derek Jeter was infamous for his inability to get to balls hit to his left), it does show some of why the Nationals are concerned about his play in the field.

In some ways, the loss on Tuesday was inevitable. The Wings had been soaring this month, but there had been some big caveats. As I mentioned in my previous article, they’d been playing teams under .500 (with Tuesday’s loss they actually have a losing record against teams with winning records). What’s more, some of those wins during their now-ended nine-game winning streak were perilous, involving comebacks and at times shaky play that forced the Wings to win narrowly. It also felt a bit too good to be true for Rochester sports. Last week, the weather was beautiful (so, of course, the Wings were on the road) and the local hockey team, the Amerks, were storming to wins in the playoffs. Between the Wings win streak and the Amerks’ success on the rink, good vibes were at a high for Rochester sports. On Tuesday, though, the weather was cold and bitter, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that the Wings lost and the Amerks lost on the same night.

However, the ultimate reason is the probably the simplest. The thing you say after any loss:

“You can’t win them all.”

The Red Wings continue their series with Lehigh Valley for the rest of the week.

Rochester Red Wings Report: This Team is Good

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

This isn’t about any specific game- I didn’t do a post on the doubleheader I went to on Saturday. Instead, it’s about the season thus far for the Red Wings.

And, to be blunt, the season so far has been… very good! Earlier this month I said that the team could be good. Now, I feel safe in saying that the team as it is now is good. As of the morning of May 12, the Wings are 20-12 and first in the bizarre new International League East division (MLB’s takeover has made everything weird). They also are currently in a three-way tie for second-best record in all of AAA (only Milwaukee’s Nashville affiliate has a better record). They have a five-game win streak and have won eight of their last ten. They are 12-6 at home even without poor weather keeping the crowds lower than they should be.

The hitting has held up. As a team, they remain second in batting average and fifth in OPS. Luis Garcia, as mentioned before, has been extremely impressive, but other hitters have also contributed. Longtime minor league 1B/OF Joey Meneses is hitting .316/.354/.538 with 6 HRs, behind only Garcia on the team. OF Nick Banks hasn’t seen too much playing time, but what he has had he’s used well, slashing .355/.395/.566 in 81 PA. Andrew Stevenson, who has a long history of bouncing between AAA and the bigs, is unexpectedly tied for the league lead in stolen bases with 12.

What has really powered the Wings to their current first-place spot, though, has been the pitching. It has improved sharply since earlier in the month. Since May 2, the team’s ERA has plunged from 5.37 to 4.50, sending them from 17th in the league up to eight. At the start of the month, they were 19th in WHIP (second-to-last), now they have moved up to 10th. The opposing batting average of .237 is fifth in the league. While they still have been walking too many people (4.40 BB/9, 15th in the league), that is still an improvement over the 5.20 BB/9 they had back in early May. The relief corps especially has been impressive: the team’s relievers have a 2.88 ERA, third in the league. They are fifth and fourth in WHIP and opposing Batting Average, respectively.

Individually, long-time MLB reliever Carl Edwards Jr. was recently called up (although his debut didn’t go well), and looking at his stats it’s not hard to see why: he was absolutely shutdown. He had a 0.63 ERA and 0.49 WHIP in 14.1 IP. His call-up came after a perfect week that also saw him get a World Series ring from the Braves for his short stint with them last season.

The relievers that remain in Rochester, though, are hardly slouches. Sam Clay has gone 9.2 IP on the season thus far and still hasn’t given up an earned run. Francisco Perez has gone nearly as far (9.0 IP) without an earned run outside of his stint with the big club. Alberto Baldonado, Reed Garrett, and Jordan Weems haven’t given up runs in over two weeks. Old Nationals mainstay Tyler Clippard‘s season 4.73 ERA is a bit deceiving and is the result of two particularly bad games back in April: he has a 0.75 WHIP and non-existent ERA in May.

In my post early in May, I said that ultimately the Red Wings fortunes would depend on the hitting remaining good and the pitching improving. That has happened. Now the question becomes: can it keep up?

There is surely no way to answer that, and there are definite causes for concern. Sooner or later, Garcia will finally get called up for good, and the bullpen will presumably regress to the mean. What’s more, the teams that the Wings play will be better: the last 15 days have been against Scranton, Syracuse, and Worcester. All three of those teams are under .500 right now. The Wings are currently only .500 against teams with a winning record. So while it is safe to say that the team is good, just how good is still an open question, as most of their wins have come against weaker opponents.

So when will we get a better idea if the Wings truly belong with the big boys of the IL? The start of that answer will come next week against Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia), who are above .500, but the real answer may not come until the start of next month, when Buffalo (Toronto) comes to town. By that point, the roster may be different, and we’ll get a better idea of just how the Wings may do in the pennant chase.