Wednesday, May 4th, 2005
2:35 pm - Catching Up  
Been busy at work, and not very energetic at home. I did finish painting the office Friday night, although that doesn't mean I've put away the paint and necessary paraphernalia yet. Mostly I've been trying to decide on what to do in there next. More on that in a bit.

Saturday afternoon, it was off to McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket with VeeJane to watch the PawSox pound Scranton 13-2. It's still one of the best places around to watch a ballgame. We had great seats, fifth row, right at the end of the backstop screen on the first base side. It did rain on and off during the game, but our seats were under the roof, so we stayed dry, if not particularly warm. The structural members of the roof make for some interesting rebounds on foul balls that hit its underside. One ball that unhindered would've landed well away from us to our right (probably out in the parking lot) caromed around and was caught by a guy two rows back and one seat to the right of us. He made a brilliant bare-handed catch, then casually handed the ball to his daughter as non-chalantly as you please, as if he does it every day. For more on the game itself, you can check out Vee's recap.

This was the second time I've been to McCoy since it underwent major renovations a few years back. I was somewhat disappointed the first time I went, because the main part of the renovation was the building of an addition to the grandstand down the third base line, replacing the old picnic area. They had to build the addition to meet newish AAA requirements for minimum seating capacity. The old picnic area, which was the Best Place Ever to watch a ballgame, was just behind third base, adjacent to the Sox bullpen, and close enough to spit on the players if you had a mind to. They replaced it with a new picnic area out behind right-center field, which is okay, but it's quite bit farther from the action. They could have just as easily built the addition on the first base side, but I do understand why they didn't. As originally built, the sun used to set directly behind the old picnic area, i.e., directly in the eyes of not only the spectators sitting on the first base side, but occasionally the first baseman as well. The new addition is well situated to keep the first baseman from losing throws from the other infielders in the sun.

It seems though, that I wasn't the only one disappointed by the loss of the old picnic area, because they've since created a new area on the first base side, the mirror image of the old one. It's actually an even better spot, what with being right behind first and all, so now I'm pleasantly pleased about the renovation.

There is one other bit of clueless stadium design at McCoy that I noticed for the first time Saturday. The refreshment stands on the concourse have their own roofs, so I guess the architects decided they didn't need to be under the main roof. In fact they start about six inches out from where the roof overhang ends. The problem with this is that the roof slants outwards, directing any rainfall towards the outside of the stadium, where it drips down into that six inch gap, creating a curtain of dripping water directly in front of the refreshment stand. On rainy days it's like the refreshment stand is behind a waterfall.

As I said, it's a great place to watch a game, and the most expensive ticket is only $9. Can't beat that.

• Fellow Seton Hall alum Craig Biggio is quietly closing in on a major league record. He's currently fourth all time in getting hit by pitches. In true internet fashion, a blog has sprung up to track his progress towards the mark, Plunk Craig Biggio, which has all sorts of interesting info about baseball players and the pitches that hit them.

• Speaking of getting hit by pitches, things got a bit ugly between the Dodgers and the Rockies this weekend. In the series they played a week or so ago, Rockies' pitchers hit seven Dodger batters in two games. Sunday afternoon, there was a bizarre at bat in the top of the ninth by the Rockies' Luis Gonzalez. Brad Hawpe was on first, no outs, and Gonzalez was sent in to pinch hit against Yhency Brazoban. Gonzalez took a ball, then started fouling off pitches by throwing his bat at the ball. He threw his bat three consecutive times in his appearance. One time it wound up near Brazoban's feet. The last time he threw his bat, he completely missed the ball for strike three. Hawpe was running on the pitch, and after throwing his bat, Gonzalez stepped directly in front of Jason Phillips as he attempted to throw Hawpe out, so Hawpe was called out on Gonzalez's interference, resulting in the ever popular "2 (unassisted)" double play. Dustin Mohr came up next, and I guess that by this time Brazoban had just had enough of the Rockies. He drilled Mohr in the back with a fast ball. The next series should be interesting.

• Speaking of Yhency Brazoban, he's done very well filling in at closer while Eric Gagne's been on the DL. So well that some of the folks over at Dodger Thoughts have been applying a version of Gagne's nickname, "Game Over," to Yhency. They've been calling him "Ghame Over."

• Speaking of Dodger Thoughts, I was taken aback a bit the other day when a discussion of serial commas broke out in the middle of a ballgame watch & post.

• At the PawSox game, Vee and I were discussing wild pitches, and why they weren't considered errors, and whether or not runs resulting from them are considered earned. I now have the answer to at least one of these questions, thanks to Derek Lowe. Sunday night, Lowe struck out Aaron Miles, but the ball was also a wild pitch that got by Phillips, which allowed Miles to reach first base. Miles subsequently came around to score, and there was, of course, much discussion about the play during the watch & post, and whether the run was earned or not. Lowe was, in fact, charged with an earned run. The official rule turns out to be quite clear. "A wild pitch is solely the pitcher's fault, and contributes to an earned run just as a base on balls or a balk." (From Section 10.18 of the official rules). Now, had Miles reached on a Lowe fielding error instead, the run wouldn't have been earned. That seems a bit non-intuitive, but I think the reason is that once the ball has been put into play by the batter, the pitcher is no longer a pitcher, but is rather just another fielder, which is a totally different set of statistics.

• Speaking of weird pitching stats, here's one I forgot to mention from spring training. Back on March 25th, Kelly Wunsch won a game without throwing a single pitch. He came into a tie game with two outs in the seventh, and promptly picked off the runner on first to end the inning. The Dodgers then pinch hit for him in the next inning, and scored the game winning run while he was still pitcher of record. Easiest win for a pitcher ever.

• I'm liking the Dodger radio broadcasts a lot. The first three innings are Vin Scully's one-way conversations with the audience, which are wonderful, and then Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday take over for the rest of the game. Steiner's been great. He was always good on ESPN, and he brings a level of snark to the booth that is rare indeed. There was this exchange Sunday, after Monday mentioned a quote by the Rockies owner about the team's awful start. The owner had said "Outside of the bullpen, we are very happy with the young guys we have, and how they are performing."
Monday: But if you're part of that bullpen you start to feel a little uneasy.
Steiner: Well you should feel uneasy. You've got an ERA of 9!

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Veejaneveejane on May 4th, 2005 - 12:43 pm
All my questions answered. Except I still am not sure exactly where the boundaries of "wild pitch" lie (as opposed to scoring it a passed ball). Like, I know if it's in the dirt it's a WP, and if it beans the mascot it's a WP, but are there formal spatial constraints for marking it a WP as there are for balls and strikes? And if you catcher is Spiderman, are those spatial constraints different?

Also, how do you pronounce Yhency? I am thinking "YEN-see," but am totally guessing.
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DXMachinadxmachina on May 4th, 2005 - 01:12 pm
That was my thought, too, but the announcers pronounce it "YAN-see." Like Yancey Derringer, a very old TV western that you've never seen.

As you say, if the pitch hits the ground before it reaches the plate, it's automatically a wild pitch. (I never realized that was actually in the rules until I read the cite on scoring.) Beyond that there are no formal spatial constraints. It becomes the judgement of the scorer as to whether or not the catcher could have caught the ball by ordinary effort, which is the same criterion that's used for determining whether or not a fielding play is an error. It's purely a judgement call by the scorer. If the scorer thinks the catcher could have stopped the ball without making an extraordinary effort, it's a passed ball. Otherwise, wild pitch.

That ordinary effort thing, of course, allows for a huge gray area. Most people who watched the ball get by Gedman allowing Mitchell to score in the '86 Series think Gedman should've had it. Instead, the scorer charged Stanley with a wild pitch.
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Hecubothecubot on May 4th, 2005 - 03:24 pm
As somebody who caught for a couple years in Little League, my rule of thumb regarding "extraordinary effort" would be pitches outside my reach while I'm in my squat. As a catcher you will still get most of those, but your ordinary effort is to catch the stuff that's over the plate. Balls that go under the catcher are obviously the catcher's fault, unless they bounce before the plate.
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