A VogelBomb, a VogelTrip, and Two VogelSongs Rx for Cub Victory at HoHoKam
Dan Vogelbach homered, tripled, and singled twice, drove-in three runs, and scored two more, leading the AZL Cubs to a come-from-behind 9-7 victory over the AZL Athletics in Arizona League action this evening at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, AZ.
After hitting just 189/306/379 in 26 Extended Spring Training games (111 PA), Vogelbach has been on fire in AZL play, ripping a league-leading seven doubles and hitting a robust 471/514/824 through his first eight AZL games.
Although he has been an AZL "double machine"so far, Vogelbach had not hit a HR going into tonight's game. But he made up for it by blasting a 420+ foot HR to the right of the light-standard in right-centerfield in the bottom of the 5th.
And watching Vogelbach tear around the bases on his opposite-field RBI triple smoked into the left-centerfield gap in the bottom of the 6th reminded me of a man carrying a briefcase and an umbrella trying to catch a bus that's pulling away from the stop.
Vogelbach was really messed-up for most of Extended Spring Training (both at the plate and in the field--he committed a whopping ten errors at 1st base), and that's why he was left behind in Mesa, (Extended Spring Training is approximately equivalent to Boise, while the AZL is considered to be the next click below). And Vogelbach's frustration was clearly evident as EXST was coming to a close, too, as he was slamming his bat into the ground harder & harder with each out (and doing a fairly decent impression of somebody with Tourette's Syndrome) as he probably realized he wasn't going to Boise.
But he finally began to show some life in the intrasquad games played at Fitch Park between the close of Extended Spring Training and the start of the AZL, and it has carried over into league play. He is playing with a lot of confidence right now, and opposing teams are pitching him very carefully (albeit to no avail). This is the Dan Vogelbach I saw at Fitch Park last year.
INF Tim Saunders (Cubs 2012 32nd round draft pick out of NCAA D-III champion Marietta College) pumped out two more hits in tonight's game, and is now hitting a league-leading .483. (Vogelbach is 2nd in the AZL in BA, and Trey Martin-moved up to Boise last week--is 5th).
Both Vogelbach and Saunders will probably get moved up to Boise sooner rather than later (Saunders might even score a ticket to Peoria), with Vogelbach and Rock Shoulders likely alternating between DH and 1B in Boise once Vogelbach gets there.
Although the Cub offense produced nine runs on 13 hits and six walks, none of the AZL Cubs pitchers who threw in the game tonight showed much.
RHP Ethan Elias got the start and allowed two runs on five hits and a walk in three innings of work, RHP Ryan Hartman had trouble throwing strikes (again), and when he did get the ball over the plate he got hammered (including back-to-back-to-back doubles at one point), and LHP Nathan Dorris (Cubs 2012 17th round draft pick out of Southern Illinois) had command issues (26 pitches - only 11 strikes) and was pulled after throwing just one inning.
2012 21st round pick RHP Steve "Percolator" Perakslis (U. of Maine) also struggled with his control in the 7th and 8th innings, walking two batters before getting himself together just in time to strike out the last two men he faced on six pitches.
And while closer Alvido Jimenez did get the save, it was only after he hit the first batter he faced (on an 0-2 pitch), followed by a 1st degree brain fart.
Up by three runs in the top of the 9th, Jimenez decided to try and pick the A's runner off 1st base, except 1st baseman Dan Vogelbach was playing well behind the runner and about eight steps off the bag, resulting in a two-base error as the ball sailed past the baserunner and 1st base coach and into the 1st base box seats. What makes the play especially stupid is that after Jimenez hit the batter, the Cubs bench, catcher Carlos Escobar, and 1st baseman Vogelbach all yelled at Jimenez (with Vogelbach crossing his arms for emphasis) to let him know that Vogelbach would not be holding the runner. But Jimenez threw to 1st anyway.
Recently-signed 20-year old Cuban mega-defector Jorge Soler ($30M nine-year contract) is taking BP with the AZL Cubs, but he isn't quite ready for game action yet.
Crunch got his wish - Ajax not hitting 1-2 in the lineup ...
Lineup: Fowler, Soler, KB, Rizzo, AJackson, Castro, Montero, Hendricks, Russell
I know he's struggles against lefties but Schwarber seems zoned in - hope he starts tonight.
Awesome stuff, Phil.
listening on ESPN 1000, caller says Bill Welke will be the home plate ump today. Supposedly his reputation is for having an even bigger strike zone than last night's Phil Cuzzi. Some of the issues with bad umpiring come from an inconsistent strike zone. Hoping at least for consistency. Last night's called strike on David Ross was outright embarrassing for Cuzzi.
That might work out in favor of Kyle Hendricks, who benefits much from a large strike zone.
it's kind of mesmerizing to watch
should Theo add some Ted Abernathy videos for minor league pitching coordinator's use?
sadly, Ted passed away in 2004 from complications of Alzheimers. I always loved the Cub bullpen trio of Phil Regan, Ted Abernathy and Hank Aguirre. As a kid, I even worked on both Phil Regan (very quirky delivery) and Ted Abernathy (extreme submarine) imitations when throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It wasn't a good imitation unless I could scrape my knuckles off the ground. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for submariners.
HAGSAG: Chris Pieters was sent to instructs to develop his hitting, bunting, and outfield play (he is already a decent first-baseman).
Pieters is tall and rangy , a "long-strider" in the same mold as Trey Martin and Rashad Crawford. He is a very patient hitter (unusual for a hitter with his lack of experience) and has an outstanding (almost uncanny) eye at the plate, and he is a fast runner with unusually good baserunning instincts, and he is a good basestealer, too.
I doubt we will see Pedro in any more "high leverage" situations this series. With Hendricks and the pen today, we need Bryant-Rizzo-Castro to get going ASAP.
One funny thing to see before the game was the two submariner pitchers (David Berg and Corbin Hoffner) playing catch with each other. Both pitchers throw "submarine" even when they play catch, and it's kind of mesmerizing to watch, even for the other players.
CUBSTER: One of the points of emphasis at "basic" Instructs this year was teaching the position players the art of baserunning and base-stealing, like getting a good primary and seconday lead, reading the pitcher, cutting bases sharply, and different ways to slide to maximize the baserunner's chance to arrive safely.
Brooksbaseball.net has some interesting stats/graphs on pitch and strike zones and you can dial up individual games/pitchers. I'd love to see some comments from readers who can interpret this better than I can. I thought the Ump was really inconsistent with a very wide zone. Does this info seem to match up with my eyeball perception? Also, looking at the graphs, Lackey was not throwing as many pitches below the K-zone (certainly more above) while Lester was clearly getting his pitches down and not many above.
As I was fearing in my post yesterday, Maddon keeps trotting Strop out against the Redbirds and he constantly fails. I understand the psychology behind this, but in a series where there is a finite lock on who moves on, why does he keep riding the wrong horse?
AZ Phil: Agree, this must have been a really fun game to watch. There was a lot of base stealing going on. Are the pitchers not holding runners or is the catching still a work in progress?
Cuzzi has long been known as having the biggest strike zone among all umpires.
AZ Phil, give me a scouting report on Chris Pieters since he has become a 1B/OF.
I think it's probably hard to adjust to an ump's zone mid-game, as least for hitters. Pitchers can locate to an ump's zone, but hitters have minimal time to react.
But, whatever. Umps are going to miss calls. Let's beat up on the non-Lackey starters.