Colorado Rockies v San Diego Padres

Every Friday, the Getting Blanked crew makes a prop bet of sorts with one another having something to do with baseball games over the weekend. Of the four competitors, whoever wins the prop bet is able to dole out a punishment on the colleague of their choice. This week’s punishment was watching and recapping Wednesday night’s Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres game. We call this #PropHate.

The Narrative

Three of the five teams that comprise the National League West division are notable. The defending champion San Francisco Giants are staggering through their schedule, losing to teams like the Mets while fielding a roster of Quad-A players filling in for injuries and watching their previously dominant starting rotation crumble before their eyes. The Los Angeles Dodgers have bought every free agent and acquired every regretful contract that ever existed over the last ten months, and they still struggled mightily in the early going before the promotion of Yasiel Puig and resurrection of Hanley Ramirez brought them back to life. The Arizona Diamondbacks lead the division, thanks to the holy triumvirate of above average pitching, great team defense and America’s First Baseman, Paul Goldschmidt.

Then there are the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres.

Here are the best things you can say about these two teams:

Padres: Their stadium sure looks nice, and I hear that the climate in San Diego is wonderful.
Rockies: They haven’t lost as many games as I would’ve thought they’d have lost.

For the purposes of deciding postseason baseball and eventually a champion of the 2013 season, Colorado and San Diego might as well not play baseball against each other. It’s a meaningless tilt. But the system of baseball’s regular season schedule is built in such a manner that even the least important games of the summer, which will have no real bearing when things matter in September and October, must be played out.

… and so, last night, out it was played.

The Rockies picked away at the Padres, scoring a single run in five of nine innings, while Colorado starter Jorge de la Rosa allowed only two runs – both off of a sixth inning home run from Carlos Quentin that scored Chase Headley – over five innings. The Rockies bullpen provided enough relief to squeeze out a 5-4 victory, and further cement their status as the best of the also-rans in the NL West.

The Win Expectancy Graph (Courtesy Of Fangraphs)


Source: FanGraphs

Of all the win expectancy graphs that I’ve ever seen, this is certainly one of them.

The Most Important Play Of The Game

After the Padres got within a single run of the Rockies in the bottom of the seventh, their aspirations for tying the game were quickly denied in the top of the eighth when Corey Dickerson‘s pinch-hit single was followed by a triple off the bat of Charlie Blackmon. The center fielder’s RBI increased his team ahead 5-3, and increased their WPA by 14.3%.

The second most important play of the game was the final out, when Rafael Betancourt induced a pop-up from Carlos Quentin with a runner in scoring position and San Diego down a single run.

The Strange Substance Of The Night

MLB.com__Media_Player

The shine on Andrew Cashner‘s left forearm was noticeable throughout the first few innings of the game, but it was most evident during the top of the third when the right-hander threw 27 pitches that inning. It was a humid night, so maybe the shiny substance is explained that way, but it’s rather discouraging that his left arm was significantly greasier than his right. Also, no such shine was noticeable on Jorge de la Rose, who worked just as hard during the bottom half of the innings.

It’s also interesting to note that after the third, the shine wasn’t nearly as prominent in the top of the fourth or fifth.

The Shamsky Award

Named after Art Shamsky, who single-handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning.

San Diego Padres catcher Nick Hundley‘s two walks were timely enough to give him a higher WPA than any other player on his team. However, what WPA doesn’t record is that Hundley was fooled into throwing to second base on a faux double steal that ended up leading to runners on first and third with one out in the fourth inning. Fortunately for the catcher, it didn’t come to anything because … COLORADO ROCKIES.

The Andrew Cashner Thing

I don’t care much for the way that Andrew Cashner pitches. A large portion of the pleasure I derive from watching baseball is found in the pitcher’s performance. As a neutral observer, it’s not about the results for me. I want to live vicariously through the pitcher of either team, imagining the thought process that he undergoes and attempting to come to the same decisions that he does.

I don’t believe Andrew Cashner has a thought process when he pitches, or at the very least, the decisions that makes rarely manifest themselves with the outcomes he desires. Despite being able to throw a fastball at a velocity that approaches 100 miles per hour, his command of the strike zone is incredibly limited due to little control of that fastball and an incredibly limited arsenal.

Last night, Cashner actually seemed to have more control with his changeup than any other pitch. It looked as though he tried to establish authority low and inside to batters with the first pitch of an at-bat, almost always with his wild fast-ball. When it was obvious he had no control over it, he’d reduce his velocity a little bit, and batters would then take advantage by putting the ball in play. Not helping matters was that Cashner is incapable of throwing his slider for a strike.

Presently, he’s a two-pitch pony masquerading as a starter in the highest level of baseball. His only saving grace has been the fact that he does the majority of his pitching in the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park where his ERA is 2.50 this season, compared to 5.14 on the road.

He threw 91 pitches over five innings last night, not so much nibbling, as showing absolute ignorance as to where the majority of his pitches were going to end up. A lot ended up in the strike zone, and a lot ended up in play.

Typically, any pitcher capable of starting games is more valuable as a starter than a reliever. However, given Cashner’s ability to hit those high velocity numbers – his fastball ranged between 93 miles per hour and 98 miles per hour last night – and his lack of success with a breaking pitch, I wonder if he wouldn’t find more success in the bullpen.

A Game To Forget

San Diego Padres first baseman Jesus Guzman had four plate appearances. He struck out every single time, and added an error in the field to make his night the epitome of awful. He cost his team 14% according to WPA, not including his botched catch at first base. SHOULD OF KEPT RIZZO.

The Awful Thing The Manager Did: Only In Hindsight Edition

After pitching five scoreless innings with 90 pitches, Jorge de la Rosa was sent to bat in the top of the sixth, at which point he sacrificed himself to put a runner in scoring position with two away. That runner ended up scoring thanks to a Charlie Blackmon single in the next at-bat, so job well done, right?

Well, not quite.

After the break, de la Rosa came out to pitch the sixth, walked Chase Headley and gave up a home run to Carlos Quentin before being pulled from the game.

The results in this case were positive for a bad process (sacrifice bunting), but negative for a good process (leaving a pitcher in after 90 pitches and five scoreless innings) because baseball is the weirdest.

The Anatomy Of A Career In Broadcasting

It’s likely overstated, but San Diego has a reputation as the destination of choice for veteran free agent pitchers looking to either get their careers back on track or wind down their playing days. In addition to hosting a ballpark that provides a positive pitching environment, San Diego is also a gorgeous and comfortable city that’s just the right distance away from Los Angeles.

The same just might hold true for broadcasters. Dick Enberg is currently enjoying his fourth season as the Padres play-by-play man. After a storied career that has spanned more than 50 years, Enberg has seemingly retired from national broadcasts to call games in the nicest climate in the country. It’s a fitting final act for a man whose voice is most recognizable for being unparticular yet accommodating, like sitting beside a friendly fellow passenger on a three hour flight.

Enberg’s broadcasting career began in 1957 when he started calling men’s basketball and football games at Indiana University. In 1961, he called his first NCAA basketball championship. After that, he left Indiana to become an assistant professor and baseball coach at California State, where he stayed for five years. He returned to the broadcast booth in 1966 to call UCLA basketball games, which eventually led to opportunities with KMPC radio doing play-by-play for both the Los Angeles Rams and California Angles.

His diversity and love for all sports led to opportunities announcing boxing matches at the Olympic Auditorium, and eventually, a contract with NBC Sports as a national broadcaster covering the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the U.S. Open golf championship, college football, college basketball, the Wimbledon and French Open tennis tournaments, more heavyweight boxing, the Breeders’ Cup horse races, and even the Olympic Games.

After 25 years with the network, Enberg was hired by CBS Sports in 2000, serving as a play-by-play announcer for the network’s NFL, college basketball, golf events (including The Masters) and U.S. Open tennis coverage. He spent the first decade of the 21st Century cementing himself as the sports purveyor of folksy intelligence providing his patented reflective essays at the end of major events.

During this time, he was often loaned out to ESPN to provide tennis commentary for the network at all four of the Majors. Even asking the network, at the age of 69, if he could go to Melbourne for the 2005 Australian Open just to be able to say that he worked a full Grand Slam. Enberg stayed on with ESPN after his contract with CBS wasn’t renewed for 2010, spending the next two years calling Wimbledon and the Australian Open while balancing his commitment to the Padres. After the 2011 Wimbledon, his contract with ESPN ended, and the legendary broadcaster devoted himself fully to the Padres, and a new contract with the regional FOX Sports network that broadcasts their games.

He’s now 78-years-old, and while his information retention has diminished and he may not be as quick as he once was, his familiar role as the friendly and unimposing stranger on a plane has continued. In my mind, his professionalism gives him a leg up on the likes of the very celebrated Vin Scully, whom, if we parse our praise for him, seems to inevitably receive a condescending credit from admirers who find him amusing for being inadvertently funny. Scully doesn’t seem to be in on the joke. While Enberg may not be the super computer he once was, he’s still overtly aware of not only what’s happening on the field, but also his own place in relaying that information.

For the amount of joy and pleasure that he’s brought listeners and viewers over the years, I’m glad that he can see out the remainder of his career in what’s arguably North American’s most pleasant city.

Stray Observations

Everth Cabrera is quickly becoming the very best shortstop in the league. He’s having a great season, and while that’s partly explained away by a higher than typical BABIP and line drive rate, we shouldn’t dismiss his success this season as completely luck-based. He’s become a more patient and selective batter, slightly increasing his walk rate, but more impressively, dropping his strikeout rate significantly. We saw last night that pitchers are responding, throwing him fewer fastballs and constantly pitching away. Thankfully, Cabrera’s patience and increased understanding of the strike zone has served him well with this new approach from the opposition. He takes pitches, forces the pitcher to fall behind in the count, then takes advantage when the opportunity arises.

It remains impossible not to be patronizing when discussing the Colorado Rockies.

There was a moment in the broadcast last night when they cut to Dante Bichette on the bench and credited him with creating an offensively potent lineup, and the thought crossed my mind that he deserves about as much credit for the Rockies offensive numbers as Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley deserves for his team’s pitching numbers.

Todd Helton has had a slugging percentage over .400 once in the last four years. He is a first baseman.

Every time I see Chase Headly play, I’m reminded of what Dirk Hayhurst wrote about him in the Bullpen Gospels, how you could just tell that he was a superior baseball player. He must have been the easiest player in the world to scout. Findings: Very good.

Comments (1)

  1. I think the Vin Scully comment is way, way off base. In fact, I believe the converse of your assertion is the case. As a rare Dodger and Padre fan, I hear a lot of Enberg and a lot of Scully, and Scully is much more adroit and I think keenly aware of his popular perception. I respect Enberg’s professionalism and his history, but he routinely botches calls and sometimes completely misses plays. I suppose it’s nice to have him, but he clearly cares nothing for the Padres. He’s very much someone who just likes to punch the clock, which at his age is totally fine (also considering the problems in his personal life). Vin Scully, on the other hand, is much more invested in the contemporary culture of baseball and does a beautiful job of threading the game’s present with the game’s past.

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