Opening Day

April 8, 2009

On the eve of opening day, I guess I should check in and say hello. It’s been a long offseason, and one of the longest spring trainings in baseball history, buy finally Minor League Opening Day is upon us. And after a few frantic days the last couple of weeks, I can actually say I think I’m ready. So that’s nice.

I’ll make sure to put out a real entry here on the blog this weekend from Lake County, Ohio where the Suns will be taking on the Captains.

Until then, tune in to WJEJ AM 1240 at 6:15 on Thursday for Opening Night, or if you’re not in the tri-state area, you can always listen live at hagerstownsuns.com.

Have a wonderful evening, and go Suns!

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Pitchers and Catchers

February 16, 2009

Well, the day many of us have been looking forward to for so long is finally here: The return of The Sun Also Blogs baseball that comes with pitchers and catchers reporting.

In case anyone hasn’t heard yet, the Nationals did re-up with us here in Hagerstown for another two years, something we as a front office staff are very excited about.  From all I’ve gathered the Nationals organization is also pleased with the relationship and are looking forward to two more great seasons in the Hub City.

But, with the season just around the corner (less than two months until Opening Day!), I figured it’s about time to fire up this here blog.  I know posting was fairly sporadic last season, I guess you could call it a beta-run for me.  I’d not really been involved in a blog before and just when I got a player excited about posting on it, he got promoted.  Hopefully I’ll find someone willing to share their experiences with you on a regular basis a little earlier this year.

But the purpose of this post is to ask you guys, the fans and readers, what you’d like to see on this blog for the season.  I can’t guarantee accommodation of all requests, but I bet we can make this a pretty cool place to check out on a regular basis.  All I need to know is what you would like to read.  I’ll still do my posting, and I have two interns on staff already that I will be introducing on here soon enough, but is there anything specifically you’d like to see?  Or know?  Or anything?  Just post a comment here, or shoot me an email (ryanmock@hagerstownsuns.com), and I’ll do what I can.

Hope everyone had a nice winter, but the long offseason is nearly over, and I for one am very excited for the season.

The Problem with Promotions

July 29, 2008

Ryan Buchter made his debut for the Suns last night, and in doing so became the 50th player used by Manager Darnell Coles here in 2008.  Of the players no longer with the Suns, just six of them have been sent down or released at this point; the rest of the players passing through have been promoted.

There are currently 24 players on the roster, and Jake Smolinski on the DL, so there are 26 players who have played for Hagerstown in 2008 but are currently elsewhere.  Twenty of those players have moved up after their stint in the Hub City.  That means 77% of them have been promoted, which is an excellent figure.

However, there are downsides to that much promotion as well, namely that as the season goes on the team has to figure out a way to replace the production of the players who have left.  Bill Rhinehart’s promotion is a perfect example of this phenomenon: Rhinehart was the starting firstbaseman and when he was promoted Tim Pahuta took over the role.  Now, Tim is a very good middle-of-the-order hitter, but he was already in the lineup as the regular DH when Rhinehart left, so he is not really Rhinehart’s replacement even though he is playing first base and hitting in the three-hole, just like Rhinehart did.  The gap that opens instead is at DH, and the Suns have not had a regular DH since Pahuta moved to the field.

A combination of Garret Bass (11 games at DH), Robby Jacobsen (4 games), Valerio Heredia (1 game) and Jake Rogers (1 game) have pretty much taken over the load (a few others, Stephen King last night for example, have had DH starts, but the above players have then played in the field in place of whomever DH’d that night, so they don’t really count as they were in the lineup regularly anyways).  Those four players are currently hitting a combined .182 with a .234 OBP and a .236 SLG on the season.  And while not all of those at-bats are at DH, the numbers are a pretty general good indicator of how they hit as DH’s (Heredia and Rogers have also played extensively in the field and their defense has been, in a word, excellent, for what it’s worth).

There have been some recent flashes of brilliance from this group (both Heredia and Jacobsen had four-hit games in the last series, though neither were at DH at the time) and I think if I were to dig in to some more advanced stats (batting average on balls in play and the like) it would show that some of these guys, especially Rogers just from memory, have been very unlucky at the plate and should start seeing a general increase in average and everything else just due to an increase in luck.  However, that’s not what this post is about.  It’s about replacing players who get promoted.

The team has had a couple weeks to adjust without the top of their order (Boomer Whiting, Dan Lyons, Rhinehart and Aaron Seuss hit 1-4 for most of the first half), and I have a feeling that the series win over Greensboro, as well as some flashes of offensive outpouring during the last road trip, is a pretty good indicator of what is to come from the Suns.  They may never find a player to fully replace some of the guys that have moved on, but as people settle into their allotted roles, I expect to see the offense kick it up a notch as the season winds down.

That is, at least, until the next round of promotions.

An Incredibly Rainy Season

July 8, 2008

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s been raining quite a bit this year. After last night’s rain out, 21 games have been effected by weather this season. 21! Out of 86! Nearly a quarter of the games so far in 2008 have seen bad weather, compared to last season at this point when only 17 had been similarly effected.

Now, as a broadcaster, the rain doesn’t usually bother me too much one way or the other. If I’m on the road by myself it will have some effect as I need to prepare my voice for at least 14 innings of baseball. With average game times for a seven innings hovering just above two hours a piece, plus pre-game and post-game shows it means I’ll have somewhere between four and half and five hours of talking. As long as I have some throat lozenges (throat lozenge, much more fun to say than cough drop) and plenty of material I’m usually fine. Home double headers are relatively easy, as I’ll usually call the first game and allow either Christian or Justin (the other two Suns broadcasters) to call game two. So that makes it a piece of cake.

As for the players though, the rain can either be a blessing or a curse, depending on the timing of the weather. If a game gets rained out or suspended on the road, it doesn’t make too much difference for the players as the visiting team usually doesn’t do nearly as much side-work before a game as the home team. So they might get to the park an hour earlier than normal, but all-in-all, not a huge change. Home games make things tougher as all of the extra work going on before a game has to either be canceled or pushed up depending on the timing of the game.

Either way though, the location of a delay is not as big of a deal as the time. To roughly quote Darnell Coles, “When you’re going good, you don’t want a rain-out; you want to play. But when you’re playing poorly, you look forward to that day off…and right now we needed that day off.”

I guess the unscheduled off-day after a 16-1 loss at the hands of the SAL North leading West Virginia Power should then be a good thing for the Suns. Either way, the Suns will be playing a pair of seven inning games against the Asheville Tourists tonight, so we’ll see what happens.

Also, just for future reference, there were just five games delayed, postponed or canceled due to weather after this point in the season in ’07, so hopefully the worst of the weather is behind us.

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

June 25, 2008

Coming into the season, it looked to me as if the strength of the Suns would be the pitching staff.  The Nationals Short-Season A team, the Vermont Lake Monsters, had a nice and tidy 3.81 ERA and with a rotation consisting of Colton Willems, Jordan Zimmerman, Glen Gibson, Hassan Pena and Cole Kimball it seemed the Suns would be the pitching envy of the league.  Well, baseball has a funny way of fooling you, especially attempting to predict what players will start the season at a specific level.  Gibson got traded and Zimmerman started with the Potomac Nationals, but Willems, Kimball and Pena all started with the Suns.

Unfortunately, the first half of the season was tough on the Suns rotation, as they ended with an ERA north of 5.00.  The SAL’s best offense kept the Suns in the playoff race until late May, but in the end the Suns fell short.

However, the standings reset in the second half of the season, and perhaps the three day All Star Break was therapeutic for the Suns staff.  While still early, just six games in, the Suns starting pitchers have yet to allow more than two earned runs in any start.

Willems, the staff ace, has been brilliant twice.  In the second half opener, he pitched 8 2/3 and allowed just one unearned run in Delmarva and again last night was excellent: one earned in six innings of work.  Kimball had one his best starts of the season as well, striking out eight in 5 2/3 to earn the win.  Josh Smoker, Brad Meyers and Erik Arnesen also have done their share.

I asked Pitching Coach Paul Menhart about the difference after the four stellar outings in Delmarva.  I believe my exact question was “what’s the magic elixir?”  Paul’s joking answer came with arms swept wide: “Love.”  For some reason I had a hunch it would be something slightly more scientific. A change in mechanics.  A difference in approach.  An emphasis on establishing the fastball.  Evidently, I was incorrect.

All-Star Game Festivities

June 20, 2008

This was my first year going to a professional All-Star game. In 2006 I went to the Cape Cod League All-Star game, and though it was a fun exhibition, it lacked the build-up and the pageantry that goes along with a pro event. The people of Greensboro put on a pretty good show as well, and the central location of their ball park definitely helped a lot as well, as did the presence of most of the full-time front office staffers for the Suns. Even though the All-Star break is the only multi-day break I get during the season, I didn’t really have any official responsibilities in Greensboro, so it still felt like a vacation.

The first day of the break was Monday, and after quite a long drive, the players and I got into town a little after mid-day. The only events of the evening (we missed out on the bowling tournament that morning, unfortunately) were the Boss Moss Classic and what was referred to as a “Shindig” at the ballpark to follow. The Boss Moss is an annual game between the front offices of the North and South divisions. Historically, that game was softball, but this year Greensboro decided to make it a baseball game with their pitching coach pitching for both teams. I played in the game, and even though I went 0-2 with an RBI sac fly* and at least one error and a ball I misplayed into a triple and the North coughed up a big lead in the final inning and I made the last out of the game for our team at the plate, it was fun and I played pretty well. Actually, that last sentence makes it seem as if perhaps I didn’t play all that well in hindsight. But at least it was fun. All except for the ball I dove for in left field in the top of the seventh that I missed (reports vary on how much I missed it by, two of the Suns front office members who encouraged me to dive on the play along with Lake Counties radio guy, all of whom were standing right above me on the play, say I missed it by multiple feet…personally, I think it may have grazed my glove) that is. And even there, at least I was wearing sliding shorts under my regular shorts, otherwise it could have been significantly worse.

The rest of the evening there was fun as well, just socializing with other front office members as the players from the various teams also got to know each other.

And while on Tuesday the game was officially the main event, and the Suns acquitted themselves well, it was the Home Run Derby that had everyone talking. Michael Burgess put on a display for the ages. Each bomb he hit seemed longer than the last and had the crowd roaring in disbelief. Most notably during the second round in which Burgess hit nine homers in six outs everyone in the VIP party deck (where all of us Front Office Types were sitting) was asking anyone from the Suns about his age, just trying to confirm that he is, indeed, just 19 years old. It was a pretty cool display, and hopefully he can keep it up for the rest of the season.

Bill Rhinehart was also excellent, picking up three hits and three RBI including a two-run homer in the bottom of the first, and was awarded the MVP of the game. Sean Rooney went 1-1 as a reserve catcher, and most impressively, threw out Everth Cabrera trying to steal second base. Cabrera stole 45 bases in the first half of the season, the most in baseball.

Now that the early week festivities are over, it’s back on the road to Delmarva (update: the Suns won game one 7-1 thanks to homers by Burgess and Boomer Whiting and Colton Willems’ most impressive outing to date: 8 2/3, no earned runs).

Welcome to the Blog

June 20, 2008

Hi Suns fans, my name is Ryan Mock, I’m currently the voice of the Suns and welcome to the Blog. The goal of this site is to give readers a little glimpse into the lives of those of us around the team. I’ll be posting regularly about what it’s like as the broadcaster for the team, and hopefully we will have a couple of regular contributors among the players as well. Though I’ve turned comments off on this post, they will be available on future posts.

Thanks for joining us, and check back regularly!