Dominant Port, Elevator Happiness, The Mad Scientist

After a quick three-game jaunt up to Lansing, Michigan, the TinCaps return home to Parkview Field for three games against the offensive juggernaut that is the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, they feature the second highest team average in the league at .260 and have the second highest team average in May (.257) other than Lansing.

Adys Portillo takes the hill for the TinCaps against righty Parker Markel. Not only has Portillo not allowed a run in 21 consecutive innings, he also has the lowest ERA for a starter (1.22) in the Padres farm system and the Midwest League. He’s given up seven hits in his last 20 innings, while striking out 15 and walking four.

Fort Wayne is hoping he’ll have another dominant performance in today’s game after yesterday’s may have been their roughest of the season. The TinCaps committed three errors, hit three batters and didn’t have things go their way in a 9-3 loss to the Lansing Lugnuts on Friday night. Starter Frank Garces went 2 2/3 innings, a season-low for him, walked four and struck out two batters, fewer than any other game this season.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from pitcher Cody Hebner, who talks about his season, the copious run support he’s received this season, and about the team’s staff as a whole:

WE ALL HAVE A SHOT AT HAPPINESS

As a fact of life, it’s not every day that you can come home, plop yourself on the couch and say, “I feel great.” Sometimes things just don’t go your way. Outlook (not the email system) has a lot to do with that though. How do you view your situation? Do you try and make the best of a bad situation, or do you let the negatives get the best of you and drag you down into the dumps?

Michael Rosenberg, formerly of the Detroit Free Press, wrote his final column for the newspaper about a woman who he had encountered many times, but never actually gotten to know in depth. This woman was always happy, which was a strange thing, as Rosenberg saw it.

“Her name is Betty Erni, but for a long time I knew her only as Betty, and for a long time before that I didn’t know her name at all. She is an elevator operator at Ford Field. She also is the most openly happy person I have ever met.

If you talk to Betty for a minute, you will be convinced her elevator always goes up. “Isn’t life wonderful?” she will ask a man who just wants to get to his suite. “Enjoy this great day!”

Some people pass up rides on the other elevators to ride with Betty. For most of her tenure, the Lions lost at a historic rate. The juxtaposition struck me: anger in the seats, frustration on the sideline, snark in the press box, desolation on the streets … and in the elevator, this little older woman saying, “Welcome to the Happy Elevator! You gotta step on with a smile!”‘

Rosenberg realizes what Betty has known all along–happiness comes from within. Although she was working at Ford Field, in a city struggling with the economy and a football team that until last year hadn’t been very good as of late, she didn’t let any of that bother her.

“Through my work, I have discovered that you have a chance at happiness if you first figure out who you are, then be who you are.”

THE MAD SCIENTIST

Hunter Atkins of The New York Times put together a story on the abundant use of the shift by Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon. The shift, in baseball parlance, involves re-positioning your defense to maximize the chance of retiring the hitter on a batted ball.

One sabrematrician out there is gleaming:

“This whole thing on shifting was a surprise to me because I feel like I’ve been pounding my head on the wall for years, and now I feel like people are getting it,” said John Dewan, the head of Baseball Info Solutions and a co-author of “The Fielding Bible.”

Though shifting comes with risks, like leaving the defense more vulnerable to stolen bases, Dewan said every team could and should be shifting on any hitter who pulls more than 85 percent of his ground balls.

According to Dewan, the 2011 Rays were exceptional in defensive efficiency, a measure of how well teams turn batted balls into outs. He said they saved themselves 85 runs, earning them eight to nine wins, just enough to be in contention on the thrilling final day of the season, when they made the playoffs on a game-ending home run.

This year, he said, the Rays have already saved themselves 28 runs.”

The TinCaps have yet to face the shift this year, but facing a Rays affiliate, might they see one for the first time? It’s very much dependent on the individual manager, but who knows what Hot Rods skipper Brady Williams has up his sleeve.

MUSICAL GUEST

Led Zeppelin…take it away!

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Couzens@TinCaps.com or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

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