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30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 14

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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More Nationals’ moves! That’s what’s on tap today, as Washington cut its major-league camp to 44 players. Here’s a look at the moves and how they’ll impact Syracuse…

OF Eury Perez – Well, Perez was officially optioned to Syracuse, so there’s your easy answer there. And it’s no surprise – Perez had a fine season for the Chiefs last year, hitting .300 with a career-high seven homers and 30 extra-base hits, to go along with 23 steals (in 31 attempts). There’s no room in the Nationals’ outfield right now for Perez, who’s only 23 years old, though it seems like he’s been around for a while. Expect him to be a Chiefs mainstay in 2014.

Eury Perez (by Glenn Gaston)

OF Steven Souza, Jr. – A Washington Post piece from Adam Kilgore yesterday speculated that Souza could be a stealth candidate to make the Nationals’ roster at some point this year. Well, it won’t be to start the season – he, like Perez, was officially optioned to Syracuse. Souza, who was added to the Nationals’ 40-man roster in the offseason, will be playing in his first game above Double-A when he debuts with Syracuse. The promotion’s a well-deserved one – Souza sported a whopping .300/.396/.557 slash line in 77 games with Harrisburg last season. (That’s a .957 OPS, a number higher than any major-league player had last year – just for a comparison of how well Souza hit in his particular league.)

LHP Sammy Solis – Solis was optioned to Harrisburg, where the left-hander will start the season – but a move to Syracuse shouldn’t be too far off. At 25 years old, Solis was named as a possibility to make the Nationals’ bullpen, thanks in part to a strong spring. He’ll likely be on an accelerated track toward the majors should he start well for the Senators.

INF Mike Fontenot – Fontenot spent the entirety of 2013 in the International League. It wouldn’t be surprising to see that again with Syracuse this season. The veteran of seven major-league seasons played in 120 games with Durham last year, hitting .264 with 32 doubles. Fontenot can play just about any position in a pinch. He could be a tremendous asset to the Chiefs in that respect.

C Koyie Hill – Hill, a Chief for 31 games in 2012, is back with the Nationals’ organization after a season split between Triple-A New Orleans (60 games) and Miami (18 games). His defensive skills and staff-handling are valued by the Nationals – but as we previously noted with a few other catchers, it’s all about a numbers game in Washington’s system. If Chris Snyder stays with the team (he opted out last year), Hill might be squeezed out of a spot with the Chiefs. If not, he could very well be Jhonatan Solano’s backup in Syracuse.

Koyie Hill

OF Brian Goodwin – A first-round pick in 2011, Goodwin stands as one of the crown jewels of the Nationals’ system. At just 23 years old, he may be Washington’s highest-regarded position player, and the Nats’ center fielder of the future. With Harrisburg last year, Goodwin posted a .252/.355/.407 slash line, walking 66 times and putting up double-digit numbers in doubles (19), triples (11) and home runs (10). Is he ready for Syracuse? Could the Chiefs have a ludicrous-speed outfield of Goodwin, Perez and Souza? I’m not sure there’s room, but I think Goodwin will be in Syracuse sooner rather than later. Call it a hunch.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 11

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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For Day 11 of our countdown – here’s 11 reasons to get excited for the 2014 Chiefs. Simple enough, right? Here you go:

  1. The Chiefs will be participating with a float in tomorrow’s Syracuse St. Patrick’s Parade, starting at noon – the second time the Chiefs have ever participated in the event. Chiefs employees and team mascots Scooch and Pops will be on hand to distribute 2014 pocket schedules, Chiefs St. Patrick’s Day-themed can koozies, beads and candy.
  2. Opening Day is right around the corner on Thursday, April 3rd, when the Chiefs face the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at 2:00pm. Opening Day, presented by Syracuse.com & the Syracuse-Post Standard, is a $1.00 Thursday presented by 95X. Fans can purchase $1 Hofmann Hot Dogs, $1 Coca-Cola products, $1 beer (Saranac, Budweiser & Labatt brands), $1 programs and $3 general admission tickets on Opening Day and all Thursdays throughout the year, as every Thursday in 2014 is a $1.00 Thursday. The first 5,000 fans through the gates on Opening Day will also receive a 2014 Chiefs magnet schedule courtesy of Ra-Lin. In addition, Opening Day is a guaranteed win night. If the Chiefs don’t win, fans can redeem their ticket stub for any game in April or May.
  3. World-famous mascot Reggy the Purple Party Dude will bring his popular brand of wacky entertainment to NBT Bank Stadium for the Chiefs’ opening four-game series against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Reggy is a rare talking mascot who has served as the official spokescharacter of the Mascot Hall of Fame.
  4. Friday night’s game on April 4th has been moved to 5:00pm, because every Friday home game this year is a Fireworks Friday presented by Coca-Cola. April 4th will be the first of 11 Fireworks Fridays in Syracuse this year.
  5. On Saturday, April 5th, the Chiefs plan to combat the cold weather with a Fleece Blanket Giveaway presented by Coca-Cola. The first 500 fans through the gates at NBT Bank Stadium will receive a Coca-Cola Fleece Blanket as part of our first Giveaway Saturday of the year. The Chiefs will give away a great promotion for every Saturday home game this season, with future promotions such as Scooch and Pops dolls, Saranac pint glasses, Coca-Cola rally towels and more to be announced.
  6. The finale of Syracuse’s opening homestand is a Family Sunday on April 6th. Kids 12 and under are free for all Sunday home games this year and get to run the bases after the game. Sunday will also be the final day of Reggy the Purple Party Dude’s stay in Syracuse.
  7. Every night’s a theme night this season at NBT Bank Stadium. On Social Media Mondays, fans have the chance to win great ticket and merchandise promotions and prizes through their Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare accounts. Two-for-Tuesdays allow fans to buy one regular-price ticket and get a second free. And on Winning Wednesdays, fans have the chance to win great prizes throughout the night for each of Syracuse’s six Wednesday-night home games. Scheduled prizes include a kayak, courtesy of Herb Phillipsons, and even a free funeral package on Celebration of Life Night.
  8. You never know what you’ll see at NBT Bank Stadium with some of the Chiefs’ more off-the-wall promotions in 2014. Syracuse’s schedule includes Deport Justin Bieber Night (Friday, April 4th), Star Wars Day (Sunday, May 4th), Carmelo’s Ink City Tattoo Night (Tuesday, July 1st) and Salute to Facial Hair Night (Tuesday, August 5th) as just some of the Chiefs’ creative ventures.
  9. 2014 marks the 100th year of Syracuse Chiefs baseball. Syracuse players and coaches will wear a 100th anniversary patch on this year’s uniforms throughout the season. The Chiefs will also celebrate their storied history on a 100th Anniversary Night to be announced.
  10. The Chiefs return to the radio airwaves this year with all 144 games to be broadcast on The Score 1260 AM. Fans can also listen to every game live through a link to The Score on the team’s website at syracusechiefs.com.
  11. Yours truly, Kevin Brown, and Jason Benetti will be returning for the this year’s radio broadcasts. Prepare yourselves.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day: Day 10

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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Since yesterday’s post – our most-viewed of the blog series so far – the Nationals have made six additional cuts from big-league camp. Might as well play another round of “where will this guy end up”, then, right?

LHP Danny Rosenbaum – “Rosey” spent every day of the 2013 season with Syracuse, never going up or down. He sported a 3.87 ERA in a league-high 28 games started. Rosenbaum will be part of Syracuse‘s rotation to start 2014, and he may very well be a Chief for a long stretch once more.

Danny Rosenbaum

Danny Rosenbaum

RHP Clay Hensley – Six months ago, Hensley – a veteran of 271 major-league games – couldn’t top 81 mph on a radar gun. But after undergoing Tom House’s throwing program, he’s upped his velocity back to its usual high-80s/low-90s mark. Hensley’s contract contains opt-out dates after spring training and June, meaning the right-hander could leave if he thinks he’ll latch on with a major-league team. The Nationals, however, are hoping he’ll end up in Syracuse – and it’s up to Hensley to decide.

RHP Josh Roenicke – Roenicke hasn’t pitched in the minor leagues since 2011 with Colorado Springs, with ERAs of 3.78, 3.25 and 4.35 over the last three years (Colorado 2011-12, Minnesota 2013). He allowed eight hits and four runs in three-and-one-third spring innings, though, leading to his reassignment to minor-league camp. It’s Syracuse or bust for Roenicke at this point – he’s not pitched in Double-A since 2008, and he’s clearly far too good for that – and might depend on whether or not his contract has an opt-out clause.

RHP Daniel Stange – Stange has thrown in 101 Triple-A games over the past four years, with a 5.61 ERA – however, that’s a 5.61 ERA entirely in PCL play, where the ballparks may as well be on the moon. Stange did throw in 46 games in Double-A in 2012 with the Padres, so Harrisburg isn’t out of the question, if only for the crazy numbers games in the Nationals’ bullpen. His status may depend on the opt-out status of others.

LHP Matt Purke – Purke was officially assigned to Double-A Harrisburg, where he’s slated to be a first-time Senator. The third-year professional out of TCU was regarded as one of the Nationals’ top prospects upon being drafted, but multiple shoulder issues over the last few years have hampered his progress. Coming off of a 4.43 ERA in 12 Potomac starts, and at just 22 years old, it might take a little while before Purke makes a next-level jump.

Matt Purke (CSN Washington)

Matt Purke (CSN Washington)

OF Michael Taylor – Speaking of 22-year-olds who’ve never played above Potomac that were officially assigned to Harrisburg…meet Taylor, considered the best defensive outfielder in Washington’s minor leagues. The good with Taylor: he’s an A-plus defender who stole 51 bases last year in just 58 tries. The not-as-good: his career slash line of .249/.319/.399 – though his .263 average and .340 OBP last year were career highs. In Taylor’s fifth professional season, the Nationals will look for him to continually up his offense – but his speed and defense may already be Syracuse-ready. (Heck, they may already be Washington-ready.)

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 9

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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The Nationals began spring training with a whopping 63 players in camp. They’ve whittled that number down to 55 in the past few days, sending eight players to minor-league camp – moves that may foreshadow the Chiefs’ Opening Day roster. Today, we’ll examine whether or not we’ll see those players in Syracuse this season…

INF Matt Skole – At 24 years old and in his fourth professional season, Skole’s already drawn raves from Nationals coaches and comparisons to Jim Thome. But he’s coming off a season in which he played just two games due to injury. Expect Skole to return to Harrisburg to start the season – that’s where he began last year – with the chance to move up midseason should his performance be anything like his career minor-league numbers (.290/.410/.510 slash line).

C Jeff Howell – 2014 would be Howell’s third straight year as a Chiefs if he spends time in Syracuse, after 30 games in 2012 and 13 games last year. However, the Nationals still have three catchers in camp (Jhonatan Solano, Chris Snyder, Sandy Leon) outside of the Wilson Ramos/Jose Lobaton combination that’ll start in Washington. With Solano all but ticketed for Syracuse, that probably leaves just one backup spot, and the guess is Howell returns to Harrisburg, where he spent the majority of last season.

Howell, in action with the Chiefs last year.

Howell, in action with the Chiefs last year.

RHP Gabriel Alfaro – Alfaro’s an interesting story. He pitched two years in Auburn from 2005 to 2006 and didn’t throw again until 2010 with independent-league Camden. He next resurfaced in 2012 in the Mexican League, leading the league in saves in each of the past two seasons while posting a 2.60 ERA and 11.2 strikeouts/nine innings. Despite that success, I’d hypothesize Alfaro starts in Harrisburg, just so the Nationals treat him somewhat cautiously after not having thrown in minor league baseball since 2006 – but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Syracuse with a strong minor-league camp.

LHP Tyler Robertson – Robertson pitched in 26 games with the Chiefs last year to the tune of a 3.04 ERA. After that success, you can expect to see him back here in Syracuse.

INF Josh Johnson – After a solid 53-game start to his season with Harrisburg last year, Johnson absolutely tore up the International League in 35 games with the Chiefs, posting a .341/.458/.466 slash line and stealing six bases in six tries. It’d be surprising not to see him return to Syracuse after such wild success.

Johnson, last season - likely before he got on base somehow.

Johnson, last season – likely before he got on base somehow.

C Brian Jeroloman – With one of the best batting eyes on the team, Jeroloman picked up 13 walks in 30 games for Syracuse last season, but played his remaining 21 games in Double-A with Harrisburg. His status goes back to the numbers game as pointed out in Howell’s section. The guess here is Harrisburg with a trip to Syracuse at some point in the season.

RHP A.J. Cole – Cole threw 6.2 scoreless innings, striking out seven and walking none in his first major-league spring training. He posted a 2.18 ERA in seven late-season starts with Harrisburg last year. And he’s the Nationals’ highest-ranked pitching prospect outside of Lucas Giolito. It seems he’ll start with Harrisburg again – he is only 22, and the Nats may want to take it slow with no immediate rotation vacancies to spring him into – but look forward to seeing him in Syracuse at some point this year.

LHP Felipe Rivero – Unlike the other members of this post, Rivero was officially assigned to Double-A Harrisburg – the other seven were assigned to Minor League camp. So we know where Rivero will start the year. But where will he finish it? At 22 years old, Rivero hasn’t yet pitched in a game above High-A, but the Nationals were bullish on him in spring training. Livan Hernandez, helping out the Nationals as a coach, even said “he’s going to be a superstar” just a few weeks ago. The guess here is Rivero may stay in Harrisburg year-round for seasoning, but don’t discount a rise up to Triple-A.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 8

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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For some players, the tensest moment of a gameday might not come during the game itself. It might come at around 3:30 in the afternoon in the middle of the clubhouse hallway, when a simple piece of paper is pinned up to the bulletin board…

The lineup card.

Nats lineup

The sacred, unbreakable lineup. Nine individuals listed in order from one to nine – an order that means everything. In a game where so many outcomes and variables depend on randomness, this is as un-random as baseball gets. There are certain general outlines that a typical lineup follows: fast guy in the leadoff spot, contact hitter second, best hitter third, power hitters four through six, speedy “second-leadoff” type in the nine position. This is the way baseball has more or less worked for decades and decades and decades.

But is it the right way? Statistically, well…no.

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Yesterday, Nationals manager Matt Williams talked about his 2014 lineup, saying he likes Denard Span at the top of the card. That makes some sense: Span’s career on-base percentage of .351 is a well-above-average mark – however, his OBP over the last four seasons sits at just .332. So why not Jayson Werth, who hit leadoff toward the end of 2012? Werth sported a massive .398 OBP last year – a number that’s a combined .373 mark over the last four seasons.

The argument against Werth hitting leadoff? He’s a “run-producer” who’s expected to hit in the middle of the lineup, so he can have more opportunities to drive players in. But it sounds like Werth’s more likely to hit somewhere from the third to fifth spots. Now, consider this: per Baseball Between the Numbers, there’s a difference of about 18 plate appearances per season between each spot in the lineup. Let’s say you bat Werth fourth and Span first. Now, Span’s coming to bat about 54 times more than Werth during the season. Or, in mathematical terms, this guy:

.279/.327/.380, 28 2B, 11 3B, 4 HR in 153 games

…is batting 54 more times than this guy:

.318/.398/.532, 24 2B, 25 HR in 129 games

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What does this mean for the Chiefs this year? Well, in the past two seasons, speedy outfielder Eury Perez has largely taken a stranglehold on the leadoff spot, with Jeff Kobernus typically occupying the #2 position last year. But maybe it’s worth considering a flip? Kobernus posted a stellar .366 OBP last year, ahead of Perez’s .336 mark – and Kobernus proved to a better base-stealer. With that combination of speed and discipline, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kobernus get the lion’s share of plate appearances at the top of the order this year – should both players return to Syracuse.

Kobernus (Gaston)

Jeff Kobernus doing what he does – getting on base.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 7

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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Let’s stop ignoring the big white elephant in the room – there’s snow all over the ground in Syracuse. The NBT Bank Stadium field is no exception.

Live look-in.

Live look-in.

And, in case you were hoping things were on an upswing…there’s now a storm warning in effect from Wednesday morning until Thursday morning. Insert whatever sound effect you feel is appropriate here. I choose to insert “blergh”.

But will that stop us from playing here in Syracuse? No! Baseball in snow’s been played before, and it will happen. How about the Brewers and Reds from Cincinnati in 2011?

Brewers in snow

Or Jay Gibbons, searching for an Ellis Burks single in 2003?

He didn't find it at first, if you can believe that.

He didn’t find it at first, if you can believe that.

We can even go all the way back to a Braves/Pirates game in 1954 – where a crowd of 12,000 showed up despite snow and freezing temperature!

Braves Pirates snow

And if all else fails – at least the Chiefs won’t need to worry about running out of baseballs…

Parnell snowball

Nice choice of footwear. Maybe the Chiefs have some of those lying around if the snow swallows their cleats.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 5

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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A shorter blog for the weekend leads us to a quick update from Nationals’ spring training…

  • Possible Washington 5th starter/Syracuse 1st starter Taylor Jordan continued a strong spring this afternoon, striking out six in three innings of three-hit ball. Per The Washington Post‘s James Wagner, Jordan feels he’s improved his changeup and slider. Terrifying news for opposing hitters: Jordan is 25 and, until last year, hadn’t pitched above Low-A Hagerstown. The Chiefs may only have him because of a numbers game with Washington’s rotation – and what a get that would be.
  • Former Chief Yunesky Maya, currently with the Braves, tossed against Washington in spring training today. The results? Home runs from Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche. Yikes.
  • More from James Wagner: Danny Espinosa, who spent most of last year with the Chiefs, is trying to relax at the plate.
  • Another 2013 Chief, starting pitcher Tanner Roark, chatted with Federal Baseball about his solid spring to date…

The big questions right now for Washington: who gets the rotation’s fifth spot? (Likely Ross Detwiler, with Roark, Jordan and Ross Ohlendorf in contention.) And who fills out the bullpen? Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, Craig Stammen and Jerry Blevins are the likely first five. After that? Roark, Jordan, Ohlendorf, Ryan Mattheus, Christian Garcia, Luis Ayala, Josh Roenicke, Mike Gonzalez, Xavier Cedeno, Clay Hensley and Manny Delcarmen may all have a shot…which means the Chiefs are likely to send one heck of a bullpen out on Opening Day.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 4

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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I had a brief conversation with Chiefs President Bill Dutch yesterday about Tommy John. The conversation started, bizarrely enough, because Bill was curious if the line of Tommy John underwear he saw in a store the other day was from the same Tommy John. It wasn’t, we discovered. (Though how great would that be?) But the conversation then turned to how strange it was that Tommy John’s not typically remembered for his 288 career wins – the seventh-highest total among left-handers in major-league history – but for the surgery bearing his name.

That surgery, however wasn’t performed by John – just on him. Today, sadly, we remember the man who did perform the revolutionary operation – Dr. Frank Jobe – who passed away just yesterday morning at the age of 88.

That's Jobe on the right, being honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame last summer, with John on the left.

That’s Jobe on the right, being honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame last summer, with John on the left.

We take Tommy John surgery for granted now, but Jobe’s technique was unheard of at the time. He transplanted a tendon from John’s right wrist into his left elbow, and John pitched another 14 seasons, winning 164 more games after surgery. The torn elbow ligament that John suffered might have otherwise ended his career. And the list of players that have undergone and successfully recovered from Tommy John surgery could fill up an All-Star staff: Jamie Moyer, John Lackey, Chris Carpenter, A.J. Burnett, Adam Wainwright, Brian Wilson and Kerry Wood, among others.

Several Nationals and former Chiefs have also been connected to Tommy John surgery. Nats ace Jordan Zimmermann underwent Tommy John late in the 2009 season after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament in his rookie season. Zimmermann’s rehab took him through Syracuse in 2010, where he allowed just one run in 17 innings over four starts.

The following year, another hard-throwing Nationals right-hander by the name of Stephen Strasburg (you may have heard of him) made a return trip to the Chiefs on his return from Tommy John. Strasburg turned in a dominant performance against Rochester, retiring the game’s first 15 batters in order on seven strikeouts, seven groundouts and one fly out on an August 27th night in Syracuse, before exiting in the sixth. Since the surgery, Strasburg’s pitched largely without injury, compiling a 2.97 ERA in 63 major-league starts.

And another both former and potential future Chief – reliever Christian Garcia – has done those two one better. Garcia’s undergone not one but two Tommy John surgeries – one of a select few pitchers to do so – and made his big-league debut in 2012 as a hard-throwing, sinking reliever. That season with the Chiefs, Garcia sported a microscopic 0.56 ERA in 27 games, allowing just 18 hits and 11 walks in 32.1 innings of 38-strikeout ball. I’ve not seen a more dominant reliever in my three years of covering Triple-A baseball to date.

Garcia tossing in a rehab assignment last year. (Credit: Gary Walts/Syracuse.com)

Garcia tossing in a rehab assignment last year. (Credit: Gary Walts/Syracuse.com)

You don’t need to swing a bat or throw a ball to make an impact on major-league baseball. Dr. Frank Jobe didn’t come close to doing either – and yet, his impact on the game may dwarf the impact of any player or coach we see today. Rest in Peace, Dr. Frank – generations upon generations of arms will always owe you a debt of gratitude.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 3

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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Three. Is there a better number in baseball than three? I think not. It’s the number of strikes in an out. It’s the number of outs in a half-inning. It’s the number of games in most major league series – often leading to the all-important “rubber match” in game three. It’s the number of divisions in the American League, the National League and the International League. It’s the jersey number of the greatest player in the history of baseball – one George Herman “Babe” Ruth.

The once and future king.

The once and future king.

And it’s the number of bases needed in baseball’s most exciting play. Did I say baseball? Scratch that – in sports’ most exciting play…

The triple.

A wonderful 2003 Sports Illustrated article by Roy Blount, Jr. illustrates why the triple makes up the most exciting 12 seconds in all of sports. His first of 12 reasons begins with an ode to its rarity:

It is like…service at a service station, a soda fountain in a drugstore, a free-range neighborhood dog. In on-base percentage a triple counts the same as a walk, although only an idiot would love a walk more than Angela Whittling Trust. In slugging percentage a triple counts 25% less than a home run, although it is 560% rarer. That’s like valuing all minerals solely by weight. In the early days of baseball, when the game was played almost exclusively on the field as opposed to over the fences, a home run was appropriately the rarest hit, the triple next rarest, and so on. Today triples represent only 2.1% of hits, home runs 11.8%.

Last year, the Chiefs tripled a bit more frequently than the usual Syracuse squad, picking up 33 three-baggers – the most Syracuse triples in 12 years, since the 2001 SkyChiefs hit a staggering 51 (fifty-one!). Four Chiefs got in on the team-leading fun, with Zach Walters, Will Rhymes, Eury Perez and Chris Rahl smashing five triples apiece.

And yet, all the same, the most Syracuse occurrences of “the most exciting 12 seconds” in a full 12 years barely amount to a scratch on the surface that was the Chiefs’ offensive outburst in 2013. Those 33 triples – good for fifth place in the 14-team International League, by the way – came together over the course of 5,371 plate appearances. That’s one triple every 162.8 plate appearances. What else, on average, happened in those 162.8 plate appearances?

  • 7.3 doubles
  • 3.5 home runs
  • 1.3 sacrifice flies
  • 1.5 batters hit by pitch
  • 1.8 sacrifice bunts

Sacrifice bunts! In what universe should perhaps the least exciting play in baseball occur nearly twice as frequently as the most exciting play in baseball? It’s absolute baseball sacrilege.

Is there hope for us triple traditionalists? Well, in short – no. Per Fangraphs‘ Jeff Sullivan, triples declined by an 18% rate from 2012 to 2013 – the largest decline since a 20% drop from 1901 to 1902. With more analysis geared toward defensive positioning, fewer balls put in play and more conservative coaches, triples are getting rarer and rarer by the day. They’ve become an unfortunately endangered species. But the next time we see a player rounding second on a smash to the gap, with the cutoff man gearing up for the throw to third – perhaps we’ll appreciate the feat a little bit more.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 2

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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It’s Day 2 of our countdown, and I’m thinking about that number today – the number 2, not the letter 2 (see the 6:07 mark) – and how it pertains to baseball. The first thing that comes to mind? Retiring Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, whose pinstriped #2 will soon hang in Monument Park for baseball eternity. He, however, didn’t play for the Chiefs, so I’m not sure there’s value here.

He did, however, suit up for a Syracuse opponent last year - and left for the Bronx the same day the Chiefs arrived at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

He did, however, suit up for a Syracuse opponent last year – and left for the Bronx the same day the Chiefs arrived at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

My second thought – perhaps more appropriate, considering the number – is what “2″ signifies on a baseball field – the catcher. And in 2013, catcher was perhaps the Chiefs’ most fluctuating position. Here are last year’s Syracuse leaders in games per position:

  • First Base: Chris Marrero, 97
  • Second Base: Will Rhymes, 82
  • Shortstop: Zach Walters, 104
  • Third Base: Carlos Rivero, 42
  • Outfield: Corey Brown, 99 + Chris Rahl, 95 + Eury Perez, 92
  • Catcher: Kris Watts, 40

Outside of third base, there wasn’t a position that had nearly the inconsistency of catcher last year. The other problem? The Chiefs didn’t get much offense out of their backstops…

  • Kris Watts (40 games): .211 average/.342 OBP/.328 slugging
  • Jhonatan Solano (38): .214/.245/.279
  • Brian Jeroloman (30): .221/.318/.263
  • Carlos Maldonado (14): .098/.159/.098
  • Jeff Howell (13): .217/.234/.348
  • Kelly Shoppach (10): .219/.359/.219
  • Sam Palace (1): .000/.000/.000

Last year’s pitching staff frequently raved about the team’s catchers as game-callers and defenders. It’s tricky to measure that with the data we have available for the minor leagues, but there’s no reason to doubt that. However, there’s no question Syracuse’s catchers have room to improve offensively in 2014.

So what can we expect? With the trade of Jose Lobaton to the Nationals, Solano likely slides in as the unquestioned starter in Syracuse. After two years full of injuries and trips back and forth between Syracuse and Washington, you could reasonably expect a performance closer to 2011′s .275/.325/.388 line for the Chiefs, given consistent playing time. Chris Snyder – a career .484 slugger in 76 Triple-A games and veteran of 715 major-league games – is also in camp with the Nationals, along with Jeroloman (career .368 minor-league OBP) and Howell.

The big question mark, of course, is Wilson Ramos. Can the Nationals’ unquestioned leader behind the plate stay healthy this year? If so, the Chiefs won’t need to be robbed of their catchers – which could lead to an A-1 performance from the “2″s.

——

Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

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