Errors Hurt, Roster Moves, Experience
In Saturday’s series-opening action against the Dayton Dragons, the TinCaps lost, 5-2, suffering defeat against their rivals from the Gem City for the first time this year in seven games. With the amount of times that these teams meet (12 overall) the first loss was bound to come at some point. The tough part about yesterday’s game was that the three-run gap was created all due to TinCaps errors, and three of the runs allowed by Fort Wayne pitching were unearned runs.
As our game notes point out today, the TinCaps yesterday raised their season error total to 129, and dropped their season fielding percentage to .967. Only Lake County, Lansing, and West Michigan have committed more errors this year, and those teams all have records below .500. Third baseman Gabriel Quintana, who commmitted an error yesterday, leads the TinCaps with 19 errors in 51 games. His .848 fielding percentage is lowest of all Midwest League position players who have seen action in at least 45 games at one position.
Fort Wayne made a quartet of roster moves prior to yesterday’s game:
-INF Eric Charles released
-RHP Roman Madrid placed on disabled list
-RHP Ruben Mejia reinstated from disabled list
-INF Luis Tejada reinstated from disabled list
The Charles move wasn’t all too surprising, considering Tejada’s return was imminent and someone had to be moved either to Eugene or elsewhere.
Madrid goes on the shelf for a week which, among other things, will allow him to rest a tired arm. He’s second in the league with 39 appearances.
Mejia’s return bolsters the TinCaps bullpen, and Tejada coming back gives the TinCaps their regular four back on the infield for the first time in a long time: Quintana at third, Tyler Stubblefield at shortstop, Maxx Tissenbaum at second and Tejada at first. Minus Stubblefield (who was signed to replace the injured Stephen Carmon), that’s the infield the team had to start the year.
Today on our pre-game show, John will ask Manager Jose Valentin about those roster moves, and he’ll also find out who Jose thinks the best team in the league is. Tune in for our coverage of today’s game, which has a 2:07 start time due to it being televised, at 1:40 on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com.
Prior to yesterday’s game, John Nolan chatted with TinCaps reliever Trevor Gott, who was drafted last month by San Diego out of the University of Kentucky. John and Trevor discuss what it’s been like adjusting to pro ball, and the familiarity Gott has with some of the Midwest’s League’s best hitters from seeing them in the Cape Cod Baseball League or in SEC play while at Kentucky. Have a listen:
GOOD TO KNOW
One of the big things that pitchers in the Midwest League, who are usually in their first or second professional seasons, struggle with is command of their pitches. Pitchers and pitching coaches alike will tell you that a) a repeatable delivery and b) control of pitches are paramount for success not just at this level, but at any level.
Andy Martino, a baseball writer for the New York Daily News, has a good article on that regarding Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler, who was acquired as a prospect in a deal for Carlos Beltran in July 2011 and made his MLB debut last month. Many including Martino, have written that Wheeler has the stuff to pitch in the majors ,but not necessarily the command.
Wheeler’s performance through seven starts has validated those opinions. The 23-year-old has at times used his talent to overcome issues with command and pitch tipping to dominate hitters, like when he shut out the Braves through six innings in his major league debut, and allowed one run in seven innings in San Francisco on July 10.
But in his past two starts, both Mets wins, Wheeler has labored, wading through deep counts, and displaying a lack of command common for young pitchers. On Thursday, he threw 95 pitches in six innings, allowing four runs.
“He’s pretty good,” said a scout in attendance. “He really only commanded the fastball to one side, and was inconsistent with it overall. May be hot and cold for a while at this level, but the pure stuff is great.”
Martino asked Matt Harvey, another young Mets pitching phenom, who has had great success this season, on how he has improved his command:
“In his first few major league appearances, Harvey was surprised to see the quality of opponents’ swings when he fell behind in the count; that spooked him, so he made a point to be more aggressive earlier in at-bats.
“They become really good hitters, a lot better hitters, when you are behind,” Harvey said. “You learn that quickly. When you go 2-0 on a guy and see the hacks that he takes, I’d rather be 0-2 or 1-2. You remember those swings.”
Still, Harvey needed experience, and innings, to hone his command — it was far less consistent last season than in the first half of this year.
“It’s experience,” he said. “It’s knowing yourself, and trusting yourself. That was it for me, trusting my stuff. Obviously there was some mechanical stuff that needed to be done, whether it was staying back a little longer, minor adjustments like that. It was just little things that I needed to learn and change. Once I was able to do that, I was able to pound the zone a lot more.”’
That’s a great translation to the Midwest League. Experience. The pitchers at this level, and the front office folks watching them, aren’t quite concerned about the results as they are about the process and getting the pitchers to trust themselves and their stuff.
Justin Timberlake…take it away!