July 2012

Reporter’s Notebook

by Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti)

If you ever have the chance to talk to minor league scouts, do it. They are some of the most knowledgeable people you will ever meet. They are, sort of, baseball historians, and can give you details about some of the current baseball superstars when they were in high school/college.

One of the scouts I talk to on an almost daily basis old me the story of the first time he saw Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. The scout said he expected to be able to pick out the high school as soon phenom as he walked off the bus, but A-Rod looked just like all of his other team mates (all of them were 6-feet tall and had a baseball player’s build). But as soon as the high school shortstop stepped onto the field it was clear who everyone, both scouts and general managers, was there to see.

Rodriguez took batting practice with a wooden bat, while the rest of his team mates chose aluminum. He showcased everything he had in the arsenal. He hit balls everywhere – opposite field, center field, down each line – with tremendous power before putting on his very own home run derby in his final round.

The scout told me that every tool A-Rod had was graded as an 8 (baseball players are graded on a 2-8 scale, with 8 being the highest) except for his speed, which only graded out as a measly 7.

In his final at-bat, A-Rod found himself in a battle with whoever was pitching. Rodriguez fouled off pitch after pitch, and after each pitch he would talk to some of the scouts and GM’s in the stands about what he was seeing. At some point A-Rod said he had seen enough and told the spectators that he was going to end it . . . which he did by blasting a homer.

When talking to some of the scouts here about some of the current ValleyCats, they had some pleasant things to say.

Tri-City’s strength is clearly its pitching staff. This is no longer a secret. They have the second best ERA in the New York-Penn League with a 2.62 (Batavia has the best team ERA with a 2.60). And some of the scouts here see this success translating to the higher levels and, possibly, the majors.

Aaron West has been, arguably, the ValleyCats best starting pitcher so far this season. The 2012 draft pick from the University of Washington is 2-0 in his first four starts with a 1.02 ERA. In 17.2 IP, West has only given up two runs, both of which came in the same start against Lowell on July 1, and 10 hits, while striking out 15 and only walking 2.

West pounds the strike zone early and often in the count with all of his pitches. He features a fastball that hovers in the low-90’s but can touch 94 as the game gets going, a decent change-up, and features a slider that gets a lot of hitters out here at this level. Two scouts I talked to said they love the make-up of the Snohomish, WA native. His aggressive mind-set bodes well, as both scouts said they could see him starting all-throughout his career.

Reliever Kenny Long has been unhittable early on if you are a left-handed batter. Literally. Long has faced 14 lefties so far and retired them all, including 9 by way-of-the-K. Houston drafted him because he had some of the best lefty splits of any college pitcher in the country, on any level.

But why is he so effective? He does not throw that hard – hovers in the mid-80’s when he’s dialing it up on the fastball. It’s because he varies his pitch speed and his arm slot on nearly every pitch, never mind keeping those hitters off balance with a an assortment of breaking balls. He has arguably been the ‘Cats most reliable pitcher out of the bullpen. One scout told me if you (meaning a pitcher) can get lefties out on a routine basis you’ll have a spot in the majors.

However, out all the pitchers on Tri-City’s roster the one most people seem to be excited about is Vincent Velasquez. Coming off Tommy John surgery in 2011, the second round pick from California has showcased a mid-90’s fastball that can touch 96, a change-up that needs some work, and a really nice slider that he is not afraid to throw inside to right-handed batters. He wasn’t as sharp his last time out against State College as his first start here at ‘The Joe’. He put himself in good position to get guys out, but was unable to put guys away with two strikes. Scouts that I have talked to seem to think he has the highest ceiling of anyone on the roster.

From “The Joe” to “The Show”

Joseph L. Bruno Stadium and the ValleyCats have served as the starting point for 25 major league players and counting. Curtis Lumber’s Joe to the Show Program: Great Endings Begin Here, highlights the ‘Cats Major League Alumni along with prospects climbing the ladder to the big leagues. Former ValleyCats in the big leagues include three all-stars: Ben Zobrist, Hunter Pence, and 2012 National League All-Star Jose Altuve.


  • Jose Altuve was 0-1 after coming off the bench for the NL in its 8-0 victory Tuesday night. Altuve played second and helped to turn a double play that preserved the NL’s shutout in the sixth inning. Altuve looks to continue his breakout season in the second half resuming Thursday.
  • Former ‘Cats standout George Springer continues to impress in Class A+ Lancaster. The talented outfielder is batting .419/.500/.698 in his last ten game in which he has 18 hits and ten RBI. Springer’s season line stands at .321/.401/.568 with 17 homers and 63 RBI. Suffice to say, it looks like the question is quickly becoming more a matter of when than if.
  • Hunter Pence finished his strong first half of the season with a .285 batting average, 16 homers and 50 RBI. The current Phillies right fielder seems poised for an equally strong second half, and could be on pace to slug 30 homers with 100 RBI.
  • After being promoted to the big club, Dallas Keuchel was sent back to Triple A Oklahoma City after pitching to a 1-1 record with a 2.45 ERA in 25.2 innings.

Houston Astros

Jose Altuve: .303 BA, .344 OBP, 20 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 15 SB

J.D. Martinez: .240 BA, .319 OBP 10 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 49 RBI

Chris Johnson: .275 BA, .321 OBP, 15 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 4 SB

Jason Castro: .254 BA, .330 OBP, 11 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 20 RBI

Brian Bogusevic: .217 BA, .300 OBP, 7 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 9 SB

Bud Norris: 5-6, 4.71 ERA, 86.0 IP, 88 H, 45 ER, 32 BB, 88 SO, 13 HR

Fernando Abad: 0-0, 2.95 ERA, 18.1 IP, 19 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 15 SO, 4 HR

Dallas Keuchel: 1-1, 2.45 ERA, 25.2 IP, 21 H, 7 ER, 13 BB, 10 SO, 2 HR

Jordan Lyles: 2-5, 5.08 ERA, 62.0 IP, 69 H, 35 ER, 21 BB, 39 SO, 10 HR

Other ‘Cats around the majors:

Hunter Pence (Phillies): .285 BA, .352 OBP, 15 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 50 RBI, 4 SB

Ben Zobrist (Rays): .249 BA, .371 OBP, 18 2B, 4 3B, 11 HR, 37 RBI, 9 SB

Matt Albers (Red Sox): 2-0, 2.38 ERA, 34.0 IP, 26 H, 9 ER, 11 BB, 20 SO, 5 HR

Troy Patton (Orioles): 1-0, 3.46 ERA, 39.0 IP, 31 H, 15 ER, 8 BB, 36 SO, 5 HR

Felipe Paulino (Royals): 3-1, 1.67 ERA, 37.2 IP, 31 H, 7 ER, 15 BB, 39 SO

Around the minors:

Drew Sutton (Gwinnett Braves, Triple-A Atlanta Braves): .270 BA, .374 OBP, 10 2B, 2 3B, 15 RBI, 2 SB

Jordan Parraz (Gwinnett Braves, Triple-A Braves): .305 BA, .377 OBP, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 4 SB

Chad Reineke (Louisville Bats, Triple-A Reds): 3-6, 4.36 ERA, 97.0 IP, 108 H, 47 ER, 31 BB, 70 SO, 9 HR

Houston Astros minor league affiliates:

Lexington Legends

Brandon Meredith: .243 BA, .349 OBP, 7 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 7 SB

John Hinson: .339 BA, .350 OBP, 4 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 4 SB

Jordan Scott: .238 BA, .339 OBP, 12 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR 32 RBI, 10 SB

Zach Johnson: .241 BA, .341 OBP, 23 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 69 RBI

Matt Duffy: .308 BA, .388 OBP, 24 2B, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 4 SB

Mike Kvasnicka: .208 BA, .256 OBP, 9 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB

Carlos Quevedo: 4-3, 3.88 ERA, 55.2 IP, 55 H, 24 ER, 6 BB, 59 SO, 6 HR

Jonas Dufek: 5-2, 5.67 ERA, 81.0 IP, 98 H, 51 ER, 22 BB, 63 SO, 11 HR

Murilo Gouvea: 2-5, 3.08 ERA, 52.2 IP, 40 H, 17 ER, 20 BB, 60 SO, 8 HR

Dayan Diaz: 4-3, 1.41 ERA, 38.1 IP, 23 H, 6 ER, 18 BB, 41 SO, 1 HR


Erik Castro: .298 BA, .388 OBP, 17 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 66 RBI,

Telvin Nash: .217 BA, .311 OBP, 14 2B, 21 HR, 46 RBI

Ben Orloff: .285 BA, .360 OBP, 7 2B, 28 RBI, 7 SB

Rafael Valenzuela: .266 BA, .342 OBP, 10 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 10 SB

George Springer: .321 BA, .401 OBP, 17 2B, 7 3B, 17 HR, 63 RBI, 20 SB

Ben Heath: .304 BA, .353 OBP, 9 2B, 4 HR, 25 RBI

Enrique Hernandez: .290 BA, .339 OBP, 22 2B, 6 3B, 4 HR, 38 RBI, 4 SB

Rene Garcia: .274 BA, .304 OBP, 12 2B, 21 RBI, 1 SB

Nick Tropeano: 1-0, 2.57 ERA, 14.0 IP, 12 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 12 SO, 2 HR

David Martinez: 2-4, 5.34 ERA, 97.2 IP, 112 H, 58 ER, 18 BB, 74 SO, 13 HR

Zachary Grimmett: 3-6, 7.96 ERA, 69.0 IP, 103 H, 61 ER, 18 BB, 51 SO, 17 HR

Andrew Robinson: 1-2, 4.89 ERA, 42.1 IP, 38 H, 23 ER, 17 BB, 51 SO, 2 HR

Brian Streilein: 2-3, 7.52 ERA, 40.2 IP, 49 H, 34 ER, 16 BB, 33 SO, 4 HR

Jorge De Leon: 2-7, 8.22 ERA, 61.1 IP, 85 H, 56 ER, 32 BB, 39 SO, 8 HR

Jason Chowning: 0-1, 14.54 ERA, 8.2 IP, 16 H, 14 ER, 11 BB, 13 SO, 1 HR

Corpus Christi:

Austin Wates: .288 BA, .349 OBP, 10 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 13 SB

T.J. Steele: .141 BA, .184 OBP, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 SB

Chris Wallace: .231 BA, .313 OBP, 11 2B, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 3 SB

Drew Muren: .351 BA, .419 OBP, 4 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 5 SB

Adam Bailey: .229 BA, .286 OBP, 8 2B, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 2 SB

Andrew Simunic: .311 BA, .358 OBP, 9 2B, 1 HR, 22 RBI, 12 SB

Bobby Doran: 3-1, 5.57 ERA, 21.0 IP, 27 H, 13 ER, 3 BB, 13 SO

Jake Buchanan: 4-5, 5.02 ERA, 98.2 IP, 125 H, 55 ER, 23 BB, 68 SO

Alex Sogard: 0-1 4.94 ERA, 31.0 IP, 43 H, 17 ER, 20 BB, 21 SO

Oklahoma City:

J.B. Shuck: .275 BA, .349 OBP, 6 2B, 3 3B, 19 RBI, 8 SB

Brandon Barnes: .316 BA, .375 OBP, 9 2B, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 10 SB

Jake Goebbert: .133 BA, .257 OBP, 1 2B, 1 RBI


7/11: ‘Cats All-Star Second Baseman Jose Altuve comes off the bench for the NL to help turn two and get knuckleballer R.A. Dickey out of trouble in the 6th.

7/6: Ben Zobrist crushes his 11th home run of the season:

And finally, an older video taking you inside the Lancaster JetHawks facility in California with top prospect, and former ‘Cats outfielder, George Springer”

All-Star Game Littered With Former NY-Penn Leaguers

As the NY-Penn League and the entire baseball world pauses to enjoy the Mid-Summer Classic in Kansas City this evening, let’s do some a little reflection of our own to recognize some of the NY-Penn League Alumni playing Tuesday night.

American League:

Robinson Cano (Staten Island Yankees, ’01)

The Yankees latest superstar and All-World Second Baseman graced the NY-Penn League at the tender age of 18 for a brief, brief (2 games to be exact) at the end of the 2001 season. In eight at-bats, Cano recorded two hits, both singles and had two RBI. Since then, Cano has emerged as the premiere second baseman in the game. At the age of just 29, Cano has eight big league seasons under his belt, with a career average of .308, 164 home runs and 672 RBI. It certainly appears to the baseball world that the best is yet to come for “Don’t ya know, Robbie Cano,” who has hit .313/.374/.578 with 20 homers and 51 RBI in 85 games for the Yankees in the first half.

Josh Hamilton (Hudson Valley, ’99; ’06)

Truly, “The Natural,” Josh Hamilton is arguably the best hitter in all of baseball. After a recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, the former number one overall pick and Hudson Valley Renegade will be appearing in his fifth consecutive All Star game tonight. Hamilton first played for the Renegades in 99, appearing in 19 games and batting .194 with 14 hits in 72 at bats. Hamilton made his debut late in the season after playing for the better part of the year in the Gulf Coast League. In 2006, Hamilton made his return to Hudson Valley on his way back to the big leagues. That year, Hamilton played 15 games and batted .260 with 13 hits. Since his comeback and major league debut in 2007, Hamilton has slugged 145 home runs with 500 RBI while batting .308/.368/.553. Hamilton won the AL MVP in 2010 and looks to be on pace for another career year in 2012.

Curtis Granderson (Oneonta, ’01)

The Yankees slugger and center fielder has developed quite a bit of power since he made his NY-Penn League debut back in 2001. For the then Oneonta Tigers, Granderson hit .344/.417/.495 in 52 games. He also had 34 RBI and nine stolen bases to lead the Tigers to a 47-27 record. Since then, the three-time All Star has hit 190 career home runs including 41 last season to go with 119 RBI for the New York Yankees.

Jose Butista (Williamsport, ’01)

Known to his fans as “Joey Bats,” the reigning AL home run king has exploded in recent years to bash 54 and 43 home runs to go with seasons of 124 and 103 RBI. This season the ‘Jays star has 27 homers to go with 65 RBI in yet another breathtaking season. Back in ’01 for the Williamsport CrossCutters, Bautista played in 62 games recording 63 hits including five home runs and 30 RBI with a line of .286/.364/.427 for the 48-26 McNamara Division champions.
Other American League All-Stars include pitcher, C.C. Sabathia (Mahoning Valley ’99), Miguel Cabrera (Utica ’00) and Asdrubal Cabrera from a brief rehab assignment (Mahoning Valley ’10). Let’s take a look at the NL.

Carlos Beltran (Brooklyn ’09)

The former Met and current Cardinal has been described by many as one of the purest talents in the game today. A switch hitter, 5-tool player, Beltran has had quite the career and is a 7-time All-Star. Beltran played for the Cyclones back in 2009 on a rehab assignment. In five games, Carlos batted .167 getting one three hits in 18 at-bats. Beltran is having another career year with St. Louis, batting .296/.382/.542 with 20 home runs and 65 RBI in 82 games.

Melky Cabera (Staten Island ’03)

A former Yankee, Melky is playing in his first All-Star game this year after posting a brilliant first half. In 83 games, “The Melke Man” has 119 hits and is batting a ridiculous .353/.391/.519. He has eight homers and 44 RBI to go along with ten stolen bases and 55 runs scored. In 2003, at the age of 18, a young Melky batted .283 with 79 hits for the SI Yanks in 67 games.

Andrew McCutchen (Williamsport ’05)

One of the games emerging young stars, McCutchen broke into the league just four seasons ago. Reaching his third All-Star game, the uber-talented center fielder has batted .362/.414/.625 with 18 home runs and 60 RBI this season for the 1st place (yes, you read that right) Pittsburgh Pirates. McCutchen will be a star to come for may years in the league, but he got his start in the NY-Penn League back in 2005 at just 18 years of age. In 13 games, McCutchen hit .346 with four steals. While only playing a brief time, it was clear that the talented McCutchen was on his way to great things.

Jose Altuve (Tri-City ’09) 

Our very own, Jose Altuve played for the ‘Cats back in 2009, just three short years ago. The lovable “little man” is making a name for himself reaching the All-Star game in this just his second season in the Bigs. Altuve played in just 21 games as a 19 year old back in ’09, batting .250 with seven RBI and five doubles along with current Astros teammate, J.D. Martinez.

The NL ALL-Star team also features other former NY-Penn League youngsters such as Lance Lynn (Batavia, ’08), Jonatha Papelbon (Lowell ’03), Ian Desmond (Vermont, ’04), and Giancarlo Stanton (Williamsport ’07).

With a number of former players in the All-Star game, the NY-Penn League has shown it’s truly the first step on the road to “The Show” for any aspiring players.

What current players will wind up as tomorrow’s stars? Only time will tell.

Be sure to catch all the NY-Penn League alumni action tonight at 8pm on FOX.

We Love New York Night

On Monday , July 9th, Governor Andrew Cuomo joined the likes of Hunter Pence, Steve Caporizzo, Liz Bishop, Henry Hudson, and Michelle Obama as a ValleyCats Bobblehead Giveaway. The first set of political bobbleheads for the ‘Cats was the Tri-City Mayors Series in 2008, which saw Mayors Jennings, Stratton, and Tutunjian immortalized as collectible bobbles. Governor Paterson joined the ranks in 2009, but the Governor Cuomo edition was one of the most popular to date.

Governor Cuomo ready for his close-up.
Three lucky fans walking away with bobbleheads.
Fans began lining up at 4:30 to ensure that they were one of the first 1,500 fans through the gate and the buzz outside the stadium was palpable by the time gates opened around 6:00 PM. The limited number of giveaway items distributed through the gate went quickly, but there were additional opportunities for those who arrived late. As a Social Media Monday, there were several dolls given away during the game through Facebook and Twitter. Other fans were chosen as winners via marked balls during the t-shirt toss and a few more will be given away later in the week for those fans who signed up at the Fan Services Center behind homeplate.
Right fielder Jarrod McKinney leads off of second base. McKinney went 2-3 with a RBI (3) and a stolen base (1).
Third baseman Ryan Dineen batting from the left side ready for the pitch. Dineen went 0-3, but scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh thanks, in most part, to a three-base error committed by the right fielder Roderick Bernardina.
The ValleyCats defeated the Ironbird 5-2 on “We Love New York Night” to earn a series victory as they head into their first off-day of the season. Juri Perez was outstanding, once again, going 6.2 innings while limiting Aberdeen to just two runs. Jesse Wierzbicki’s 7th inning homer broke a 2-2 tie and gave the ‘Cats the lead for good. The team will take their 15-7 record to Williamsport as they kick-off a six game road trip on Wednesday.
Be sure to get your tickets now to welcome the ‘Cats back home on Tuesday, July 17th. The Ernie Williams Band will play a tribute concert at 5:00 PM in honor of the late bluesman. The late Williams had performed annually for the Tunes for Tuesday: “Blues, BBQ, and Baseball” promotion at “The Joe.”
Brown’s Brewing Company will be on hand to host a special Beer Supper at the Top of the Hill. Limited tickets are still available for this event. Click here to purchase: Beer Supper
Tuesday is also Subway Night as Sub Dude and the Subway staff will be on hand with giveaways and prizes provided throughout the evening.

Sunday Funday/SouthPaw’s Birthday at “The Joe”

Sunday Funday at “The Joe” kicked off early with the ‘Cats Crew V.I.P. Kids Club Lunch. Members had a chance to mingle with the players with a special lunch in the Time Warner Cable Picnic Pavilion. Jacob Malinowski was selected to throw out a Ceremonial First Pitch representing the ‘Cats Crew and a number of other members participated in Baseball Buddies on the field.


Today was also SouthPaw’s birthday as fans were able to sign a card on their way into the ballpark. The big guy was honored with a Ceremonial First Pitch and  presented with his card following the game. The Eddy Day Break was tonight’s game sponsor with frisbee and t-shirt giveaways throughout the night.
Gates opened at 4:00 PM for our first pre-game catch of the season and kids were invited back onto the field after the final out to run the bases. Fans also enjoyed the World’s Biggest Sundae promotion courtesy of Stewart’s Shops following the game . . . the perfect way to cap off a Sunday Funday at “The Joe.”
Aberdeen got out to an early lead and the ‘Cats dropped a 10-5 decision in the second game of the series. The rubber match is scheduled for Monday night at 7:00 PM. Monday is We Love New York Night with a Governor Cuomo Bobblehead Giveaway for the first 1,500 fans through the gate. Tonight’s game is also your last chance to catch some baseball at “The Joe” before the team goes on the road for six games.

Photo Day/Team Poster Giveaway Night at “The Joe”

Saturday night was the ValleyCats’ annual Photo Day at “The Joe.” Fans received posters of their 2012 Tri-City ValleyCats as they entered the stadium. The ValleyCats mascot family was also available for photos in the Field of Dreams from 5:00 – 6:00 PM and fans were able to customize their own souvenir baseball card.

The team took part in a special pre-game autograph session on the field . Fans enjoyed getting to see their favorite players up close and getting their posters signed by all the ‘Cats players.
Rensselaer County District Attorney, Rich McNally, was on hand to present the Hoosic Valley Varsity Baseball Team with a Night of Champions award in recognition of their perfect 20-0 season.
It was also Rensselaer County Relay for Life Night which included a pre-game lap around the warning track for cancer survivors and relay volunteers. Alex Holcomb and Chrissy Connery were honored as cancer survivors on the field with ceremonial first pitches and Larry Heath was also recognized for his fundraising efforts.
The ValleyCats wore special Relay for Life jerseys tonight in honor of the cause. The jerseys were auctioned off throughout the game with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. The auction winners received their jerseys from the players as part of a post-game ceremony.
On the field, Tri-City  rebounded from a three game by downing the Aberdeen Ironbirds by the score of 8-2. Aaron West turned in another strong start, working five scoreless innings to lower his ERA to a very respectable 1.02. Andrew Aplin, Jesse Wierzbicki, and Tyler Heineman led the attack with two hits apiece.
The ‘Cats are home again on Sunday at 5pm to continue their three game series with Aberdeen. It will also be the first Sunday Funday of the season as fans will have the opportunity to participate in a pre-game catch at 4:00 PM on the field. Kids will be invited back onto the field after the final out for a chance to run the bases.
Join us as we wish SouthPaw a happy birthday and also enjoy the World’s Biggest Sundae, courtesy of Stewart’s Shops.

Hall of Fame Night at “The Joe”

The National Baseball Hall of Fame visited “The Joe” on Friday night with a display that included a 1928 Johnny Evers model glove, a Babe Ruth model batNolan Ryan’s Astros cap worn during his 4,000 strikeout and Craig Biggio’s batting gloves from his 3,000th hit. 

The 2012 Class of Frank & Peggy Steele Hall of Fame Interns made the trip from Cooperstown and enjoyed a pre-game presentation in the Picnic Pavilion. ValleyCats President, Bill Gladstone, spoke about his experiences in the game and then introduced team Vice President/GM, Rick Murphy, who discussed the day to day operations of the organization. ‘Cats Manager, Stubby Clapp, provided an on-field perspective to round out the panel.

The Hall of Fame Interns experienced minor league baseball first hand as several of them competed in the Pony Hops promotion on the field.
 The Ronald McDonald House Charities were also on-hand tonight with Kyle Porter tossing out one of the evening’s Ceremonial First Pitches.
State College outlasted the ValleyCats on the field again as the team could only muster one run. Aberdeen comes to town on Saturday as gates open at 5:00 PM for Photo Day. There will be a team poster giveaway and fans will be invited onto the field for an opportunity to get autographs from their favorite ValleyCats. The special Family Four Pack Offer is still available for Saturday’s game as part of the All-American Homestand.

Stubby Session

‘Cats play-by-play man, Evan Valenti sits down with ‘Cats manager, Stubby Clapp. If you have a question you’d like to ask Stubby, tweet @ValleyCats with the  hashtag #askstubby.

Veterans Night at “The Joe”

On Thursday, July 5th, the ValleyCats honored the men and women who have served and continue to serve our great nation in the armed forces.

Veterans Night was presented by CSEA and the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center hosted a number of veterans for tonight’s celebration.

The team showed their appreciation with a special tribute video that aired prior to the game.
Korean War veteran, Tom McVeigh, and Operation Enduring Freedom veteran, Specialist Nicholas Mustico were recognized with ceremonial first pitches.
Associate Director for the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center and Vietnam era veteran, Donald Stuart welcomed the crowd and led ‘Cats fans in a special round of applause to honor all of the veterans in attendance.
The New York Army National Guard presented the colors, while Shawn Morgan, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, sang the national anthem. A patriotic fireworks display, courtesy of Price Chopper, capped off the evening.
The ‘Cats dropped a tough 2-1 decision on the field, unable to break through against State College pitching. Brady Rogers was took the tough luck loser despite allowing just one earned run and fanning six.

Game 3 of the homestand gets underway Friday night at 7:00 PM. Our friends from the National Baseball Hall of Fame will be on hand with some special artifacts displayed behind home plate. Don’t forget to take advantage of our extended Family Four Pack offer tomorrow night for your chance to see baseball history . . . new and old . . . at “The Joe” on Friday night.

Dissecting the Streak

by: Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti)

The ValleyCats’ record 11-game winning streak came to a close Wednesday night as the State College Spikes, the Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate, thrashed the ‘Cats 7-2 on the back of three home runs. Tri-City did not really get anything going offensively (six hits), reverted to its old ways defensively (three errors), and put together its worst pitching performance of the year to date (seven runs on 15 hits). It was only the second lost fans at ‘The Joe’ have seen all year, the first since June 20, which was the home opener against Vermont. 

It was not a ValleyCat-esq effort last night to say the least, with the exception of Catfish Elkins’s solo shot to lead off the bottom of the first. We have become accustomed to the ‘Cats striking early, which they did, always retaliating quickly, and pitching effectively. 

But there was more to the streak than just pitching (we’ll get more in-depth later). It was an all-around effort that contributed to Tri-City’s 13-3 start.

‘Cats at the Dish

Coming into last night Tri-City was second in the New York-Penn League, batting .265 as a team. They led the league in runs scored (92), ranked second in on-base percentage (.353), tied for third in OPS (.718), and first in stolen bases (28).

Andrew Aplin and Jobduan Morales have set the pace for the ‘Cats offensively. Aplin is an on-base machine (.516) and when he gets he usually advances one base thanks to his speed (league-leading 11 stolen bases). Morales leads the team in home runs (3), RBI (13, tied for first in NYPL), and in slugging  (.600, third in the NYPL) 

But it was an all-around team effort. During the streak Tri-City hit .268 (91-340) and scored an average of 6.2 runs per game (14 coming in one game against Connecticut) . They got great production from the top of the lineup (Elkins, Aplin), which set the table for everyone else. Outfielder Dan Gulbransen and Morales, the clean-up hitters, had 9 RBI a piece in the last nine games of the streak. The only complaint comes from the bottom-third of lineup, which actually helped spark two eighth-inning rallies during that six-game home stand. 

Speaking of clutch, the team was great with runners in scoring position. In those 11 games the ‘Cats hit .330 with RISP (35-106), including a 7-13 effort in the last home game against the Tigers. Fellow broadcaster on tcvalleycats.com (shameless plug) Matt Appel and I have been astounded how well the team has done with runners on base and it seems like Manager Stubby Clapp’s aggressive strategy is paying off. He knows this team does not have a “true” power bat on it, but it doesn’t mean that they cannot score. They are currently the best team with RISP (.322 – no one else is even over .300), which bodes well for this team down the road.

On the Mound

Pitching is clearly the strength of this team. They currently sport the best team ERA in the NYPL (2.44 ERA), but league the lead in home runs allowed (11). Fly balls, when the wind is right, take off here at ‘The Joe’ so that stat is not surprising. Carlos Quevedo in 2010 was the most dominate pitcher on the team, but was susceptible to the long ball (7 homers allowed). 

The starting staff was on fire during the streak. They seemingly could not do anything wrong. Vincent Velasquez would hand the ball to Aaron West, who handed it to Brian Holmes, etc., opposing hitters really had no chance. The starters logged 56 innings to a tune of a 1.45 ERA (nine earned runs allowed, 15 total).

The relievers were slightly worse (and let’s be honest, teams around the league would kill for performances out of their respective bullpens).They allowed eight earned runs in 32 innings, which totals out to a 2.25 ERA.

So for those of you keeping score at home, in 11 games the ‘Cats pitched 97 innings, allowed 22 earned runs, 30 runs total, which comes out to a ridiculous 2.05 ERA. Opposing batters hit .236 (87-369), including a .205 clip with RISP (17-83). This team simply did not let batters get on base, and when they did they rarely scored.

The ‘Cats simply dominated the competition in nearly all facets of the game during this historic run. Each starter performed on the highest level in the NYPL, and when they handed it over to the ‘pen the relievers got the job done. The offense has really come around and is near the top of the league in some important categories.

Simply put, if this kind of effort keeps up this team could easily be playoff bound. It’s a young season right now (only 17 games in) and things can change. But the effort the ‘Cats have put forth over the past two weeks has been special and I, for one, cannot wait to see what else is in store. 

July 4th at “The Joe”

The Fourth of July at “The Joe” has become an annual tradition for many families in the Capital Region. This year was no different as 6,744 fans came out to enjoy the national pastime and Price Chopper’s post-game fireworks.

The ballpark had a festive atmosphere as a juggling Sammy Baseball welcomed fans through the gates. Sunmark Federal Credit Union was on hand with a cowbell giveaway as the game sponsor.

Prior to the game, Lt. Fred Mulholland of North Greenbush honored us by throwing out a ceremonial first pitch. Lt. Mulholland is a World War II Veteran and one of the few remaining P-47 Thunderbolt pilots. A member of the famous “Orangetails” squadron, Fred was a recipient of the Purple Heart as well as France’s highest Medal of Honor, Le Croix de Guerre avec Paume. True to form, Fred fired a strike to start the game.

Kelli Trippany, the ValleyCats and Crossgate’s Mall National Anthem tryouts winner, performed prior to the game with the American flag waving in shallow left field.

On the field, the ‘Cats fell 7-2 to State College, snapping their franchise-record winning streak at 11 games. Congratulations to the team on an amazing run that has them firmly planted atop the Stedler Divsion.

Following the game, the fans were treated to a third T-Shirt Toss, a Sweet Caroline performance by Zoggy, an impromptu dance party in center field and the Ball Launch. Price Chopper Fireworks blasted off at 9:15 pm to conclude a great evening at the ballpark.

The ‘Cats will look to start another streak on Thursday, as the team honors those who have served our country in the armed forces. Veterans Night is presented by CSEA, and the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center will be hosting a number of veterans for the game. There will once again be post-game fireworks as we extend the Independence Day celebration through the rest of the homestand. Don’t forget to take advantage of the special Family Four Pack offer; available Friday – Monday!

ValleyCats Street Team in the Community

Let’s take a look at where the Street Team and SouthPaw have been lately:

New Visions:

On Tuesday, June 26th, SouthPaw and Amy visited New Visions to attend their ice cream social. They handed out ValleyCats drawstring bags with Playbills and Schedule Magnets. There was a live band that SouthPaw and his new friends danced to. Everyone seemed really excited to find out that they would be attending a game in the near future.

East Greenbush Library Visit:

On Tuesday, June 26th, the Street Team along with ValleyCats pitcher, Brian Holmes, and catcher, Mike “M.P.” Cokinos visited the East Greenbush Public Library where Brian and M.P. each read a book to over 40 children in attendance. They also answered questions, signed autographs, and posed for pictures. Pappy made a guest appearance and listened intently to Brian and M.P.

North Greenbush Library Visit:

Also on Tuesday, the Street Team and ValleyCats pitchers Travis Ballew and Kenny Long visited the North Greenbush Library. Kenny and Travis read a book to over 35 children in attendance. They answered questions, posed for pictures, and signed autographs. The children were also happy to see SouthPaw.

Frozen Ropes:

On Friday, June 29th, pitchers Brad Propst and Jeremiah Meiners, along with the Street Team, visited Frozen Ropes Summer Camp where they helped run drills on pitching and fielding. The campers were in age from 6-12 and each got to spend time with the ‘Cats. After the drills, Brad and Jeremiah signed autographs and took some pictures with all of the campers.

Classie Lassies Softball Tournament:

On Saturday, June 30th, the Street Team visited the Classie lassies Softball Facility for the State Championship Tournament. They set up the skee-ball inflatable and handed out ValleyCats drawstring bags to any person who “hit a home run.” The inflatable was so well received, none of the children, even those who had games, wanted to put it down.

Stubby Session

Want to ask ValleyCats Manager Stubby Clapp a question?? Leave us a question in the comments section or tweet @ValleyCats using the #AskStubby! We’ll pick our favorites and ask him during out sit-down with him! Keep the questions coming!

A Perfect Ten

by: Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti)

I’ve talked to numerous people that have seen a lot of baseball played here at “The Joe” and each of them claim that they have never seen the ValleyCats play as good as they are right now. For those that have not been paying attention, Tri-City is off to its best start in team history (12-3) and is currently on a team-record ten-game winning streak.

They have had all types of performances during the first 15 games of the season. They have dominated on the mound with starting pitching (COMBINED 1.98 ERA), offensive domination (season-high 14-run output against Connecticut on Saturday June, 30), much improved defense, and havoc on the base paths (league-leading 24 stolen bases). They are essentially doing it all. But the most important part of this streak is that all ten wins have come against division rivals (Lowell, Vermont, and Connecticut). But the biggest explanation for this team’s great performance is clearly the strength of the pitching staff.

ValleyCats starters have performed insanely well so far this season. In 60.1 IP, the six starters have given up only eight earned runs, which totals out to a 1.98 ERA. Joe Bircher has the highest ERA amongst the starters with a whopping 2.70 ERA in 6.2 IP. FIreballer Vincent Velasquez has given up the most runs of the group with three in 15.1 IP. Blake Ford leads the New York-Penn League in saves with six, while Kenny Long remains absurdly effective against lefties (10 outs recorded no hits allowed with 7 K’s).

Oh yeah, they also sport the best team ERA in the NYPL with a 2.37. But are these numbers deceiving?

The ValleyCats have had some shaky defense at points (eight errors in the first three games), so let’s take fielding out of the equation and look how the ‘Cats stack up against the rest of the league.

FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is a stat used to calculate how effective a pitcher is by eliminating runs against ERA due to sub-par fielding. To calculate this stat, you have to use this formula:

FIP = (13*HR + 3*(BB+HBP-IBB) – 2*K)/IP + constant

The constant has it’s own formula, but I honestly do not have the time, or the mental capacity, to actually figure that out. So we’ll use the 3.20 average calculated by FanGraphs.

With these new numbers, the league leaders in pitching (using FIP) are:

Brooklyn – 2.61
State College – 2.74
Batavia – 3.02
Tri-City – 3.02

Here’s what the ratings mean:

Excellent – 2.90
Great – 3.25 

Above Average – 3.75
Average – 4.00
Below Average – 4.20
Poor – 4.50
Awful – 5.00  

So clearly Brooklyn’s staff is elite and the team’s ERA supports that (2.47 ERA, second in the NYPL). They do not give up the long ball (only three home runs allowed), they have the most K’s, are middle of the pack in BB’s, have given up the least hits (93). and have the best WHIP of anyone (1.02).

Tri-City matches up favorably. Both staffs are considered elite under both the ERA and FIP models. Brooklyn seems to have a power pitching staff, while the ValleyCats are not afraid to pitch to contact. The ‘Cats do a great job in messy situations when the opposing team has runners in scoring position. Tri-City’s pitchers typically get out of every jam they face, which is highlighted by their league-leading 12 holds, meaning when the ‘Cats get the lead they do not give it up.

Will this trend keep up? Who knows. But the ValleyCats pitching staff so far has been the most valuable asset in the NYPL. Each pitcher knows how to get ahead in counts and stay aggressive to put hitters away. And they also are the best in one of my favorite stats: walks (league-low 32). They simply do not beat themselves, which cannot be said about their other division opponents.

Farm & Agriculture Night/Scout Sleepover

The ValleyCats ripped off a franchise record 8th consecutive win on Saturday night as they reached the end zone twice in a 14-5 win over the Tigers.

Dan Gulbransen and Jobduan Morales combined for two homers and nine RBI’s. The homer was Gulbransen’s first as a professional. That was more than enough offense for Vincent Velasquez who struck out seven in six dominant innings. The ‘Cats will take to the road on Sunday as they look to continue their historic streak in Lowell.
Saturday night was also Farm & Agriculture Night with a Scout Sleepover taking place on the field after the game. 4,452 fans packed “The Joe” with some 150 scouts camping in the outfield.
Head Groundskeeper, John Hudson, showed off his tractor in the 8th inning T-Shirt Toss . . . but it was the drag team that proved to be the real country boys.
Summer @ Rensselaer was the game sponsor providing information on the various summer camps and programs that R.P.I. has to offer.
Tonight’s game was also the annual Teen Worker Safety Promotion which included the Personal Protective Equipment Challenge, an onfield contest to highlight the importance of safe practices in the workplace.
Prior to the game, our neighbors,the Spring Renegades were recognized on the field for their accomplishments this season. Nice work fellas!
Elsewhere in the stadium, the U.S.D.A. was on hand to educate the public on how to detect and prevent a number of invasive species from impacting our region.
The team returns from a short road trip on July 4th to kick off another six-game homestand. Join us for an entire week of fun that will include fireworks, a bobblehead giveaway, the world’s biggest sundae, and a visit from the Hall of Fame. CLICK HERE for more information on upcoming promotions and to buy tickets.