Wednesday, June 8, 2011

They have balls

I have been going to Major League Baseball games since I was a kid. However, I only started going to Minor League games when I moved back to Texas. I bring THIS fact up to explain this post and my current interest in the pitching aspect of baseball. Of course the long ball puts butts in seats, or mainly in the outfield bleacher section, where fans can attempt to catch a baseball as it hurtles at them. I love the long ball too. But in my search to find the seats I liked best at Nelson Wolff Stadium, I began sitting in Section 113; located along the San Antonio Missions dugout. It is in those seats I have sat the last 4 games. It is in those seats that the nuances of what a pitcher is doing on the mound were brought to my attention.

Pitchers throw the ball fast. FAST. That might seem obvious, and maybe I have been paying too much attention to where the peanut vendor was heading in the past. But that was truly a revelation to me. I have seen the light and the light is whizzing by at ridiculous speeds.

The San Antonio Missions continue to sit at the top of the Texas League South, with a record of 38-18 and six games ahead of the Texas Rangers double-A affiliate, Frisco Roughriders. The Missions pitching staff leads the league in strike outs with 465 and have an impressive team ERA of 3.81.

I am by no means a stats queen. Math was never my favorite subject in school and having to revisit Mr. Dewey’s decimal system just to cover and enjoy my favorite sport is not high on my list of things to do. But I do pay attention to pitching speeds and I take notes on that.

The recent series with the Arkansas Travelers was filled with good pitching and good hitting. Having never seen the Travelers play this season, I'll admit I was impressed. From the lay fan's point of view the Travelers were definitely the toughest teams I have seen the Missions face at The Wolff.

Jorge Reyes the switch hitting RHP faced the Travelers on the 3rd. Despite having a less than stellar performance the right hander worked himself into and thankfully out of a few jams, during his five innings. You can look at Reyes line from that night and think, not great. But what I took away from that game was the fact that Reyes did not allow himself to be rolled by the Travelers, he battled, yes. But with run support and yes another walk off performance by the Missions. The team got the job done.

Monday June 6th, was the last home game for the Missions till they return on the 12th.  Monday night Simon Castro delivered an impressive performance for the Missions. Five solid innings with a fast ball that was maxing out at 96 on a few pitches but sat comfortably at 94 mph most of the night. Castro’s off speed had the Springfield Cardinals confused, by dropping it down to 86mph at times. At one point he faced three batters, threw twelve pitches, and caught a ball hit back at him, fumbled it, recovered it, fed it to the first baseman and STILL got the out. Not quite a bang bang play more like a bang, bang, drum roll, bang play; but an out none the less.

The pitcher that I have watched most closely since my first games this year has been Josh Spence. The 6'1 lefty from down under has pitched 34.1 innings and sits with an ERA of 1.83. I first took notice of Spence during a game earlier in the year when he threw four pitches and recorded three outs. Josh Spence has a deceptive delivery with a leg kick similar to current Cincinnati Red Bronson Arroyo. Thankfully Spence does not seem to be simultaneously auditioning for the Radio City Rockettes’ each time he comes to the plate. Spence has done his job in each of his relief outings for the Missions, getting outs and not allowing runs to score.

The current leader in saves in the Texas League happens to be Mr. Brad Brach. The San Antonio Missions closer. Watching him warm up the last few games, has been crazy. The 6'6" right hander has a smooth delivery, which then explodes out of his glove. If you are trying to catch a glimpse of the ball as it leaves  his glove before it hits the catcher’s glove you better not blink. As an opposing player facing Brach, I would pat myself on the back on my walk back to my dugout thinking, "well at least I attempted a swing...”
As with my last Missions related post, I’m clearly showing my support for my home town team. My response to that is, it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want.