Kawakami makes scoreless debut

When Adam LaRoche was traded to Pittsburgh, I said, “Please do whatever you can to keep my dad interested in the Pirates until at least the end of May.”

Two years later, Dad’s positive remarks about the Pirates still solely center around PNC Park and their Friday night fireworks displays. It’s been 17 years since the late John McSherry incorrectly ruled Sid Bream to be safe and still it’s downright painful to be a Pirates fan. 

(NOTE:  As somebody pointed out after this post was published, it was actually Randy Marsh who made the call. McSherry started behind the plate and then began feeling ill.  Personally, I didn’t begin feeling ill until Bonds unleashed that toss, which certainly didn’t appear to have  the assistance of any banned performance-enhancing aids.)

But the Buccos do have a great Spring Training park and it’s a beautiful Friday afternoon for baseball.  Kenshin Kawakami worked a perfect first inning and allowed just a bloop single off LaRoche’s back in his scoreless two-inning sting. 

Kawakami threw 18 of his 29 pitches for strikes and ended his afternoon with a strikeout of Jose Tabata.  While pitching in the United States for the first time, the Japanese hurler made a solid first impression.   

In a few innings we’ll gain a better understanding about why members of the Braves front office are so high on Kris Medlen, who actually looks younger than Brent Lillibridge,

Medlen has been described as a poor man’s Greg Madddux.   The 24-year-old right-hander stands 5-10, weighs approximately 185 pounds and has a baby face that might lead some cinema workers to card him if he attempted to purchase tickets to a rated-R movie. 

After moving into Double-A Mississippi’s starting rotation midway through the 2008 season, Medlen worked 92 1/3 innings, recorded 90 strikeouts and issued 21 walks.  In the 25 innings he worked during the Arizona Fall League, he registered 25 strikeouts, issued one walk and limited opponents to a .203 batting average. 

“If he was 6-foot tall, you’d be hearing a lot more about this guy,” one National League scout said.

When asked this morning about who he is considering to use as his leadoff hitter, Braves manager Bobby Cox mentioned Josh Anderson, Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson.  It still appears Anderson is the favorite. 

But the fact that Anderson has recorded a .340 on-base percentage during his Minor League career provides some concern.  He doesn’t possess the same plate discipline as Gregor Blanco and there’s reason to wonder what his OBP would be over the course of an entire big league season.

Some of you have said you would have the perfect leadoff hitter if you meshed the best traits presented by Anderson and Blanco.  Over the past few days, I’ve heard some of the Braves coaches (not Cox) say the same thing.

- Mark Bowman   

48 Comments

Where does this anticipation that Blanco will be on base more come from? The difference between a .340 OBP and a .365 OBP is one time on base per 40 plate appearances. That’s ONE. The fact that Anderson attempts a steal 3 times as often as Blanco, at a better percentage, and that he scores nearly once more per every 10 times on base (excluding homers hit) makes him the obvious choice. Getting on is nice, getting in wins games. OBP can be very deceiving. Blanco is too stationary on the bases for a lead off hitter, and he is way too likely to get doubled off. Sorry. Blanco is a battler, but not a viable answer in that role.

OK, Mark, we can’t get the gameday audio up here in VA and definitely no broadcasts. What’s going on in the game? All I can do is watch the scoreboard on mlb.com and we saw how reliable that was yesterday lol.

It looks like the bats are thawing out, Norton and Chipper have gone deep already. 4-0 Braves so far.

Rother, one argument that I’ve heard is that it’s easier to improve a player’s base-stealing abilities (Blanco) than it is to teach a player (Anderson) how to be more selective at the plate. With this being said, I understand that Blanco would be the better option if you were simply looking for a leadoff hitter who would consistently work deeper counts. But I just can’t see how he would find a way to get to second base with greater consistency than Anderson.

Kawakami was happy with his outing. He’s still working to produce more movement with his cutter. But he showed displayed consistent control with his fastball and had the opportunity to mix in a few curveballs. Somewhat surprisingly, he said he wasn’t nervous. Before Kawakami took the mound in the first inning, Roger McDowell told him “good luck” in Japanese.

Chipper’s 2-run homer and Norton’s solo shot have accounted for most of the early offense. Buddy Carlyle registered three strikeouts in two scoreless innings. After issuing a leadoff walk in the sixth, Medlen struck out the next two batters he faced. Diory Hernandez prolonged the inning with a throwing error. Medlen then issued another walk to load the bases before getting Garrett Jones to fly out to center.

It does get pretty complicated judging lead off guys. OBP for lead off guys needs to factor in their Caught Stealings in my book. Also their activity after reaching first base is important. No running means no added pressure on the pitcher or defense. Scoring runs is everything to a lead off hitter.
The taking extra pitches part is a bigger factor to me when I’m looking for a number 8 hitter. Then OBP translates directly to cycling the line up and is at it’s largest benefit. Stationary guys on first just give the opponent more ways to get an out with the next hitter.
It is an interesting and fun debate.

Where did Mariano Gomez come from? Trade? Waivers? He a big ol’ dude. Does he throw pretty hard as well?

It shows that he played for Rochester (AAA Twins) last season, so we must have gotten a good look at him when they Played Richmond.

Heyward just singled to right. Seriously think about what you were doing when you were 19 years-old. Is there any way you could imagine yourself doing what he and Freeman have been doing this week?

Last year with Blanco or Kelly leading off, the scenario basically played out as.. leadoff hit/walk.. second batter out.. chipper singles.. tex grounds into a double play (before he got hot, pre-july). Obviously with a leadoff guy with speed, that would’ve resulted in a run if he could steal second. that’s how teams with a fast leadoff man produce runs. if you have a guy that can’t score from 1st with a double from chipper, and you don’t have a pure power hitter, you’ll be in trouble. That’s a much nicer scenario than trying to string together 3 hits or draw a walk. Isn’t there some kind of surgery they can give Blanco to make him faster? Maybe some PCP?

Gomez spent seven seasons in the Indians organization and then went 5-2 with a 2.76 ERA for Minnesota’s Triple-A affiliate last year. That was by far the best season of his career. But his control problems were still apparent as he compiled a 45/22 K/BB ratio in 65 1/3 innings.

Also.. Mark, is there a chance to see Heyward or Freeman in the show this year? I mean, if something unfortunately catastophic happens to the outfield or Kotchman. We brought Andruw up at 19 years old.

Oh my goodness, an Anthony Lerew sighting!!!!We can’t cut him, I think he’s on the rare and endangered species list somewhere.

So Gomez makes the Mackay McBride walk ‘em if you’ve got ‘em list. We “certainly” need more of those.

Anthony Lerew retired the first two batters he faced in the seventh and then loaded the bases via a walk, and two singles. He uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the Pirates to score their first run and then uncorked another that led to a run-down that mercifully put his inning to an end.
The Royals are among the teams that have at least showed some minimal interest in trading for Lerew. But it seems more likely that teams would wait to acquire him after they see whether he’s removed from the 40-man roster when Glavine arrives in camp next week.

viva, I guess I’ve reached a point where I’ll never say “never” in this business. But I don’t think you want to endure all of the catastrophe that would open the door for Heyward or Freeman to make it to the Show this year.

Based on what he’s been able to do over the last three years, and assuming he isn’t still here because he married into the Scheurholz family, this will be his one and only guest appearance as a Brave. In with the old, out with the leREW. MGMT is good enough buddies with the Royals guys to throw them a bone. Here it is, come and get it.

Haha yeah.. I can’t take another season like the last one.

Clubhouse thoughts: Bobby actually said that he was impressed with the downward movement Lerew was getting with his sinker…Francoeur said he really felt comfortable while drawing a pair of walks in three plate appearances. Cox also pointed out that Francoeur seemed more relaxed and confident today…This marked the second straight day that Cox raved about Infante’s defense at the shortstop position…It’s also safe to say Medlen made a good first impression on Cox.

In other news, Andruw Jones is now 5 for 5. Up five times this spring, five right turns to the dugout with strike outs.
Can I borrow a fork from somebody?

That’s so depressing. Poor Andruw.

Yep, he’s pretty out of whack. Actually, he may be completely out of whack. When he is released by the Rangers, I’d sign him to a single A contract and see if he can work it out over the course of the summer, at basically no cost to the organization. Of course, being a Boras client, I doubt anyone will afford him that privilege. Very sad indeed.

If I’m going to say it’s too early to make judgments about Francoeur, I guess I have to provide equal treatment to Andruw. But do you at least now see why the Braves weren’t willing to even offer him a Minor League contract.

I heard he was very unimpressive in winter ball as well. Wow, no bat speed at all. Ask Chipper what he looked like in the cages at Turner. he’ll tell you honestly. You absolutely know he was watching him closely, and he knows if it can be fixed. That guy knows hitting.

Make that 6 for 6.

It would seem the outfielders that the Braves avoided signing this summer included the Dunn brothers, Adam, and Completely.

I got to see Lerew pitch last year with Richmond during one of their stops with Norfolk. I was excited to see him, because I remember how highly touted he was when he first came up and then got hurt. He looked like a rock star, but unfortunately his arm didn’t match. Seeing his name mentioned did make me think about something though. With the Triple A team moving to Gwinnett (sp?) will they still be in the International League? If they are, then at least I will get to see some of the young guys when they play the Tides a couple times a year. On a side note, I was able to catch a couple games in Atlanta last year and it just so happened Lilibridge had just been called up. A couple weeks later he was back with Richmond and they were coming to Norfolk, so my seven year old got to tell him that he just saw him play in Atlanta. He really made a big deal about that with him, so I give Lili props for that.

rother, that Dunn comment was award-winning…i just passed it along to our Rangers writer T.R. Sullivan. He got a kick out of it.

The streak is over….I just got word from Arizona that Andruw just recorded an infield single. I still haven’t confirmed whether the infielders were actually paying attention when he stepped in the box.

I always wanted Lerew to succeed. Too bad this looks like it might be the end of his time in Atlanta. I do wish that he and Hudson would put an end to the horrible soul patches they have stuck to their chins. And speaking of terrible facial hair.. remember when the Braves signed Scott Spiezio? I swear, if he had made the team and rocked that disgusting red hanger on his chin I probably would have renounced the Braves completely.

Awww.. they gave him a mercy hit?? I didn’t know that they were playing with some augmented form of the Slaughter Rule.

Kawakami can pitch, mark it down, the guy is a winner, a gun, a gamer

kawakamiskamikazes.blogspot.com

Freeman, Heyward, B Jones and Schafer look awesome

Did anyone even consider that Kawakami could find it offensive that many fans have nicknamed him Kamikazi??? I mean c’mon…do any of you even know what the definition is?

Ok. I’m heading back to the Disney-area. Derek Lowe will take the hill in Dunedin tomorrow and Blaine Boyer is scheduled to make his debut as well. Chipper and Mac will leave for the WBC after Sunday’s game. I’m expecting Vazquez, Campillo and Blanco will be on a similar schedule.

Mark–

Sorry to be nit-picky, but every detail of that wonderful Game 7 is burned into my brain.

It was actually Randy Marsh who made the Bream call. John McSherry started the game as home plate ump, but left the game because he got sick.

Mark,

About that magical game 7 comment I would also add that I have just re-watched, at very slow (and admittedly somewhat blurry) speeds that Sid Bream slide into home. While it was a close play, from the two camera angles I could see, he was definitely safe. His lead foot touched the plate just before the tag. Not sure how serious you were about it being a missed call, but as that is one of my most vivid earliest memories (I was seven at the time of the slide) and one of my most happiest moments, I would have to protest your comment, to protect the sanctity of the slide for all Braves fans :)

While Mark is going down memory lane with the Pirates. Remember that “The Catch” by Otis Nixon was in a game that the Braves won while getting only one hit, a Justice homer. Drabek pitched a gem, but it wasn’t enough. Van Slyke was bummin’.

I don’t know what surprised me more… – the fact that it took over 6 hours for a Braves fan to comment on Mark’s ludicrous statement about game 7… – or that Barry Bonds was incapable of throwing out Sid Bream from deep short-stop.

Rother – The “Dunn” comment is priceless… nice!

Regarding the Andruw “Completely Dunn” comment, it would appear that Rother is already in mid-season form.

Before I left Bradenton, I almost asked why none of you had said something about that slide and I do apologize for forgetting that McSherry fell ill. I guess I felt you guys just were apathetic about these kinds of desperate pleas from a Pirate fan. As a Steeler fan, I can say I feel the same way about some of the ridiculous things Browns fans say.

Bowman, I do feel sorry for those Bucs fans, but Bream was safe. The game would have been tied if Bream had been called out anyway.

They’ll always have the pleasant memories of Bill Mazeroski’s home run to win the 1960 World Series and the overall excellence of guys like Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell to keep them going until the team once again regains some measure of success. But it has been a long time since the Pirates have been anything but one of the league’s doormats.

Going to the game against the Phils tomorrow!

What’s the deal with this “Spectator Experience” ticket for $80 a pop? It says you can watch both teams work out and get as close as possible to the action with a writs band and from behind home plate. You have to pay to get autographs now? Where will they let people stand without the “Experience” ticket? I always go early to watch warm ups. Will they not let me near the field without this wrist band now?

Mark, or anyone else who knows anything about it… what’s the deal?

If the Bucs don’t trade Bream, the whole situation could have been avoided. There are consequences to ALL actions.

He once stole 13 bases for the Pirates.

Here’s a scary thought, that would have led the Braves last year.

Bravo, you get to be ON THE FIELD for batting practice, both teams. Do it!!!!

Rother – Are you sure you get to be on the field and not just in the stands around home plate?

bravo, I believe that is an ESPN promotion tied to their festivities this weekend. I don’t think it will have any bearing on how you typically go about getting autographs. I’ll see if the Braves have any further details about the promotion.

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