Gorkys’ Broken Finger

AA outfield prospect Gorkys Hernandez broke his right ring finger on Wednesday. Word from farm director Kyle Stark (via Rob Biertempfel):  “Dislocation. Surgery. (Out) 8-12 weeks.” Having recently broken this same finger myself I can empathize greatly with Gorkys and hope he fully recovers. Gorkys’ injury is clearly more severe than my own but for comparison, this has been my path to recovery:

Night of the injury. It would turn a lot darker purple over the next day.

My break was non-dislocated and I required no surgery. But the healing has been slow. My fracture was close to the very tip of my finger, under the nail. It was caused by the ball slamming into the end of the finger while attempting to catch it instead of smashing it against a bat. I thought it was just badly jammed. After about a week the swelling went down, which is when I noticed that it no longer pointed the same direction as it had. That was when I decided to see a doctor. The hand specialist I was referred to didn’t have an open appointment for a week, so it was two weeks after the initial injury before I got x-rays and was properly diagnosed. I spent the next two weeks in a splint to cushion against any incidental contact. Fortunately I’m not a touch typist. Yesterday was nine weeks since the break. The bone is healed now but the joint is still off-kilter and has some pain when I leverage too much weight against it. The range of motion hasn’t returned yet as I am not able to close that finger completely. On my last checkup the doctor said I’ll always know that I broke that finger, with some random pain cropping up from time to time. I played some tennis last week which went pretty well, except for one shot that I hit weakly with a loose grip. That shot gave me a spike of pain and I was done. I can’t imagine going to a batting cage right now for even some slow pitch. Physical Therapy for the joint starts on Monday and I have another checkup in three weeks.

Today. Swelling and color are normal. Finger bends left at the first joint.

That’s my experience with this. I hope it gave you some insight to what Gorkys will be dealing with over the next two-three months. I’m sure he’s receiving better and more directed care. As a professional athlete his only job right now is to heal so he can get back on the field. He’s also younger and will probably heal relatively faster though the severity of the injury will mitigate that to some degree.

Saturday at Bradenton

A beautiful afternoon

Sorry for the lack of posts. I went to Florida for a little beach time and managed to squeeze in a baseball game. Hard to beat that combination, even if it was raining and drizzling for much of the game.

This was my first time at McKechnie Field for something other than a spring training game. We arrived at the scheduled 6pm start time and easily bought two general admission seats for $6 each. As luck would have it there was a rainout the night before so they were playing a doubleheader. Consequently the game had started early and

Lineups from Game 1

was already in the third inning with the Marauders down 6-0. So much for seeing Tim Alderson pitch. I was looking forward to showing off what is usually a beautiful ballpark to the wonderful girlfriend, so I was surprised to see the field was not in its usual pristine condition. The outfield appeared to have been cut too low and scorched by the sun. The box seats in right field were also sun bleached and peeling. If that is the norm then they must replace those seats every year.The guys in the nearby bullpen were watching the game, but sprang into action right after the wonderful girlfriend wondered aloud, “Why aren’t they doing anything?” Probably a coincidence.

Robbie Grossman at bat

After the quick tour we settled into seats above the home dugout. I use the term settled loosely because it wasn’t long before rain chased us to the covered seats beneath the press box. I was able to get this shot of Robbie Grossman taking a pitch before we moved. He would end up walking.

The rest of that game I was distracted by lots of kids around me and one guy in front who couldn’t figure out which part of his poncho to stick his head through.  Bradenton lost 10-5.

Next best thing to free

There was no proper 7th-inning stretch because minor league double headers are only seven innings long and they had an on-field presentation for AAU teams that were competing in a tournament at Pirate City. Special Bonus: From the end of game one until the first pitch of game two, small beers were only $1. A 75% savings for those of you scoring at home.

Despite the rain, neither game was ever delayed.

When game two started the Marauders came out in their regular home uniforms instead of the batting practice jerseys they wore for the first game. I think the look is pretty sharp, especially the yellow caps. As you can tell we had upgraded our seats to directly behind home at this point.

A few notes I made on twitter during game 2:

Calvin Anderson is friggin’ huge. (He is. Just towers over people.)

Quincy Latimore with the RBI double. Stole 3rd on the next pitch & scored when the throw went into LF. Tied 2-2 in the 3rd.

That was the first positive thing I’d seen [Latimore] do. In the first game he had a bad play on a ball up the middle & overthrew a cutoff man.

Dunedin’s got a good defensive shortstop. Seen 3 strong plays. (Looked him up later: 2009 4th round pick Ryan Goins)

Not knowing about the double header we had made plans for later on and decided to leave early. Bradenton was down 3-2 when we left and would go on to lose 4-3. Still, a night spent hanging out at the ballpark is one of the most fun things you can do.

Homerun Cycle

Last night’s Pirates game had a wild start as the Bucs plated nine runs in the first inning including Pedro Alvarez‘s first grand slam. Pedro led off the second with a solo shot to make it 10-3. When he came up for the third time and had a runner on first, I noted on twitter that Pedro [was] looking for the 2 run shot, which led to this speculation from fellow Bucco fan Tim Seibel:

“Wonder if anyone has homered for the cycle — slam + 3-run + 2-run + solo?”

Never one to turn down a good writing idea, and knowing it would be easy research, I decided to check it out. There have only been 15 four homerun games in major league history; first in 1894 by Bobby Lowe and most recently by Carlos Delgado in 2003. Only one of those fifteen has the minimum 10 RBIs needed for a homerun cycle: Mark “Hard-Hittin’” Whiten.

Whiten CF 5 4 4 12

BATTING -
HR: Whiten 4 (22,1st inning off Luebbers 3 on 2 out,6th inning off
Anderson 2 on 0 out,7th inning off Anderson 2 on 2 out,9th inning
off Dibble 1 on 1 out);

As you can see he hit a slam, 2 three-run homers and a two-run homer. No major league player has ever hit a homerun cycle. Some interesting notes about those four HR games:

Ed Delahanty is the only one to have at least one inside-the-park homer among his four. Records from 1896 are sketchy but indicate that he hit either two or four ITPers.

Mike Cameron hit four solo homeruns, the only confirmed four-of-a-kind occurrance.

Whiten is the only one to hit a grand slam among their four. He and Gil Hodges are the only ones not to have at least one solo shot. (Gil had three 2-run HRs and a 3-run.)

Shawn Green is the only one I can confirm had an RBI other than the ones knocked in by his home runs.

There has been one recorded HR cycle in the minors. In 1998 Tyrone Horne hit taters of every variety while playing for AA Arkansas. The next night he won the league’s Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game.

At the college level, homer cycles have happened at least twice that I could find. Once in the MIAC and once in the ACC. In 1999 Florida State’s Marshall McDougall went 7 for 7 with 6 homeruns against Maryland. He totaled 16 RBIs and 25 total bases. Yes, he was an All-American that year.

So keep your eyes open. It hasn’t happened in the big leagues yet, but every time you watch a game you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.

Update 5/9/12: Last night Josh Hamilton hit four 2 run homeruns, becoming the 16th person to make the 4 HR list and only the second to have four-of-a-kind. Interestingly, Elvis Andrus was the man on base for each homerun. Hamilton also added a double to go 5 for 5 with 18 total bases, setting the AL record.

“Beleagueredness”

A friend (@ryanstats) asked me last night who I cheer for when the Pirates get knocked out of contention each year. At the time I told him that I don’t cheer for anyone else, but today I was toying around one of my spreadsheets and realized that I do cheer for another team. I cheer for whichever contending team has gone the longest without winning. Maybe it’s a kindred spirit I feel with that team’s fans, maybe it’s because I like to fill in empty slots on the page.

What you see below doesn’t take into account number of titles won. It’s just a simple average of the number of years since a franchise has won the World Series, made the postseason, etc. I’ve named that average “Beleagueredness.”

There are no real shockers on this list. The Cubs are the most beleaguered and the Yankees are the least, but I think the order has some surprises here and there.

Looks like I’ll be rooting for Texas and San Diego this postseason. Good luck to my fellow beleaguered fans!

Team last title year started years since last WS app.
last LCS app.
last postseason

“Beleagueredness”
Chi Cubs 1908 1903 102 1945 2003 2008 44.00
Tex (WAS) 1961 49 1999 39.50
Was(MON) 1969 41 1981 38.00
KansasCity 1985 1969 25 1985 1985 1985 25.00
Mil (SEA) 1969 41 1982 1982 2008 24.75
Pittsburgh 1979 1903 31 1979 1992 1992 24.50
Seattle 1977 33 2001 2001 21.00
Cleveland 1948 1903 62 1997 2007 2007 20.25
Baltimore 1983 1903 27 1983 1997 1997 20.00
SF (NY) 1954 1903 56 2002 2002 2003 19.75
Cincinnati 1990 1903 20 1990 1995 1995 17.50
San Diego 1969 41 1998 1998 2006 17.25
Toronto 1993 1977 17 1993 1993 1993 17.00
Houston 1962 48 2005 2005 2005 15.75
Oakland 1989 1903 21 1990 2006 2006 12.25
Minnesota 1991 1903 19 1991 2002 2009 11.75
LA Dodgers 1988 1903 22 1988 2009 2009 11.50
NY Mets 1986 1963 24 2000 2006 2006 10.50
Atlanta 1995 1903 15 1999 2001 2005 10.00
Detroit 1984 1903 26 2006 2006 2006 9.50
Florida 2003 1993 7 2003 2003 2003 7.00
Colorado 1993 17 2007 2007 2009 6.00
Arizona 2001 1998 9 2001 2007 2007 6.00
TampaBay 1998 12 2008 2008 2008 4.50
LA Angels 2002 1961 8 2002 2009 2009 4.50
Chi WSox 2005 1903 5 2005 2005 2008 4.25
St. Louis 2006 1903 4 2006 2006 2009 3.25
Boston 2007 1903 3 2007 2008 2009 2.25
Phila. 2008 1903 2 2009 2009 2009 1.25
NY Yankees 2009 1903 1 2009 2009 2009 1.00

A Must Read

After first lauding them, I have become disenchanted with UZR and other defensive rating systems. There is too much guesswork and too many assumptions made that go into the calculations. My biggest issue is that the numbers are based off of a zero average and fluctuate wildly from year to year. (Quick example. Omar Vizquel‘s UZRs from 2003 to 2009: 3.7, -0.7, 7.0, 9.3, 23.1, 3.0, 5.6) I don’t think his actual skill changed that much from year to year. I see it as the general quality of defensive skill of the league revolving around him.

With that background I found Colin Wyer’s article to be very refreshing. I hope more people like him keep striving to remove the biases from batted ball data.

Wanted: Major League SS

Garrett Jones at 1B. Neil Walker at 2B. Pedro Alvarez at 3B. Jose Tabata in LF. Andrew McCutchen in CF. Lastings Milledge in RF. Ryan Doumit at C (We can discuss his lack of defense another time). That’s a pretty good lineup, or at least has the potential to be one if the young players mature as expected. What? I left something out? Oh yeah, a shortstop.

Shortstop is a big problem for the Pirates. Ronny Cedeno and Bobby Crosby have been inconsistent and below average. The front office knew this was a problem and tried to trade for J.J. Hardy in the off season, offering Matt Capps. Milwaukee opted for Carlos Gomez from the Twins instead. The closest options in the minors are not much better:

AAA: Argenis Diaz. Acquired from Boston in the Adam LaRoche trade. Stereotypical good glove/no bat type. Currently has an OPS of .600 after posting a .583 combined at Portland and Indianapolis last year.

Brian Bixler. Was called up in 2008 and 2009 with disastrous results. Was traded to Cleveland in the offseason for a low minors catcher. Recently reacquired for a PTBNL.

Brian Friday. Third round draft pick on 2007. 24 years old, decent prospect, hit well at Rice. Needs more seasoning though.

AA: Chase d’Arnaud. Fourth round pick in 2008. Currently OPSing .682 after going for an .852 clip last year at A and high-A combined. Best shortstop prospect in the system (#5 overall according to Buccofans.com) but obviously still needs some time.

With the internal options limited or unappealing, it time to look to other organizations for players who might be plundered. MLBTradeRumors.com recently posted a list of shortstops who could be available at the trade deadline. Alex Gonzalez and Yunel Escobar were traded for each other yesterday. Escobar projects as the kind of buy-low the Pirates should be in the market for, but I think the last thing they need is another head case player. (Jonah Keri just wrote a good article on perceived lazy players/head cases/etc. and their value.)

Here are the top outside options I see:

Stephen Drew – Hitting about league average this year which is good for a shortstop. Arizona is known to be in dealing mode but the Pirates probably don’t want to give up the prospects it would take to get him. Detroit is said to be interested.

Ryan Theriot – Having a down year and the Cubs are looking to rebuild. The Riot doesn’t have any power to speak of but can play second or short and will steal 20 bags while getting on base at a .350 rate.

Erick Aybar/Maicer Izturis – Not known to be available (Izturis is currently on the DL) but they seem like redundant pieces to me. The contending Angels are unlike to trade either of them now but I think one of them could be pried away in the offseason.

Getting one of these four players (and a cather who can , you know, catch) would greatly improve the Pirates fortunes for 2011. Did I leave anyone out? Know any other shortstops that would be a fit? Am I an idiot? Tell me in the comments below or on twitter.

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