Saturday, August 26, 2006

Jim Miller

This week I am posting an interview and report on Tulsa Drillers closer, Jim Miller.

Jim was an 8th round draft pick in 2004 out of Louisiana-Monroe University. That year he won the Northwest League’s Rolaids Relief Man of the Year award.

In 2005 he was awarded the Doug Millon award, which is given out to the Colorado farm system’s best performer. He was also named the California league’s best reliever by Baseball America in 2005 and was also ranked in the league’s top 20 prospects and in the top 30 for the Rockies. He made 2 appearances for Team USA in the Regional Olympic Qualifying Tournament in 2005. Also, he did not allow a run in his 1st 11 Texas League appearances.

Jim began his minor league career in 2004 with a 1-1 record and 0.97 ERA and 17 saves in 37 innings for class-A Tri-City. In 2005, he was mainly in Class-A Modesto, where he went 1-3 with a 3.78 ERA and 25 saves in 47.2 innings. Later in 2005, he moved to double-A Tulsa, where he went 1-1 with a 0.60 ERA and 9 saves in 15 innings. So far in 2006, he is 0-3 with a 3.92 ERA in 41.1 innings despite him missing the first two months of the season with an injury. He has 11 saves in 2006.

I spoke with Jim briefly in the bullpen at a recent RoughRiders game in Frisco. He was very friendly and was willing to answer my questions until it was time for him to warm up.

The interview is below.

1. What is the toughest team to pitch against?

2. Who are the toughest hitters you’ve faced?
Alex Gordon, Mitch Maier, and Billy Butler (all on Wichita).

3. What is the nicest Texas League park?
Corpus Christi

4. What is the nicest park in the Rockies’ minor league system?
Modesto is the best pitchers’ park and Drillers Stadium is the best hitters’ park.

5. How fast do you pitch?
Jim said that he pitches 93-94 mph and the fastest he has ever pitched is 98 mph.

6. At what age should a pitcher begin learning different pitches?
Jim said that a changeup can be learned at a young age, a curveball and slider at 14-15, and a forkball in the 20’s.

Come back next week for my August awards.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Will Carroll Interview

This week I interviewed Will Carroll (Baseball Prospectus writer). Will does a column called ‘Under the Knife’ for Baseball Prospectus ( where he describes and analyzes different baseball injuries. For the last few Newberg Days at the Ballpark, Will has flown to Dallas to do Q&A sessions and is always very interesting and friendly.

The interview is below.

1. How serious is Kip Wells’ injury?

Will said that this is a tough question right now because there’s not much information on his injury. Injuries below the waist are always a concern for pitchers because that’s where a pitcher’s drive comes from. He said that the Rangers weren’t expecting much from Wells so anything they get from him is a plus. He’s not too worried about the Wells injury because the Rangers have some starting pitching depth in the minor leagues to call up. When talking about their pitching depth, he mentioned Diamond, Danks, and Hurley, but I don’t think he was saying they were all ready to be called up.

2. How serious is Brad Wilkerson’s injury?

He called it “pretty bad.” There are rotator cuff and labrum issues but they won’t know exactly what’s going on until they open him up. He’s had MRI’s but doctors don’t always agree on interpreting MRI’s. Will said that he’s not too worried because position players tend to come back from shoulder injuries. He mentioned how well Richie Sexson has come back. Also, Wilkerson will be in his contract year next year so Scott Boras will make sure he gets in the right rehab programs.

3. How close is Frank Francisco to recovering?

“I wish I had a good answer to that.” There have been a number of pitchers with Tommy John setbacks this year. Even a one-day setback can result in a two-month delay as they prove themselves and get physically ready again. “You just don’t know with these guys. I don’t have a good answer.”

4. Will Kameron Loe’s injury affect the rest of his career?

“You certainly hope not.” He said that it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on because there aren’t many pitchers as tall as Loe to compare with. Loe has overcome this sort of thing before. Will thinks that Loe will probably be a reliever because he hasn’t been able to stay healthy as a starter. I asked if Kameron Loe would be a good closer. Will thinks that he has the stuff to do it but might not have the temperament. He mentioned Thomas Diamond as someone who does have the right temperament.

5. Do you think Adam Eaton has fully recovered from his injury?

“It certainly looks that way.” Will has seen no indication that he’s had any problems whatsoever since returning.

6. What is the worst possible injury a player can have?

His first reaction was to say taking a pitch off the head but then he mentioned that lots of people have come back from that. So, he changed his answer to back injuries. They’re tough to diagnose and treat and are very painful. They take away a player’s power and can take a long time to heal.

7. Who do you think will win the World Series and against who?

Will thinks the Yankees will be tough to beat and are clearly the favorite. He doesn’t like how the A’s look, especially with Huston Street going down. He thinks that really opens up opportunities for the Rangers and Angels. In the NL, no one looks good. He has no confidence in the Dodgers and thinks Glavine’s injury will really hurt the Mets.

8. How do you get all your information about player injuries?

“A lot of phone calls.” He talks to doctors and team sources and reads beat reports. He said it’s a 24 hour/day job and is getting more complex.

9. How did you get your Baseball Prospectus job?

“Luck and hard work.” He was doing ‘Under the Knife’ and got noticed. He had a unique product available when Baseball Prospectus went to their Premium Content model and they thought he could help them. He hopes he has.

10. According to you might be moving to ESPN. Is this true?

Will said, “I am not allowed to comment at this stage.”

11. What I’ve read is that you’ve been seen coming out of ESPN offices and have started resigning from your current jobs, so it sounds like the rumor is true. Can you please comment on the story?

Will hesitated at this point and said that he could tell me that he’s not resigning from Baseball Prospectus and that nothing is changing there. He also commented that working at ESPN would be great. He said that he couldn’t comment beyond that.

12. Come on, the stories make it sound like it’s true. What can you tell me about it?

Will said that the opportunity to move to ESPN would be welcome and also mentioned that he’s covered football in the past.

13. I’m just a kid – can you give me a break and let me know if the rumors are true?

Will said, “I won’t say that you’re wrong. I hope to be able to announce something later this week.”

14. If you begin work with ESPN, will you still be covering injuries? If so, for which sport?

Will said that he will still be covering injuries because that’s his niche. He says he’ll do whatever his employer(s) ask of him in that area.

15. Which show will you be on and how often will you be on?

Will said, “I can confirm I’m talking about TV possibilities.” He also said that he thinks he would fit into lots of ESPN’s shows. He especially mentioned that ESPN has made a big commitment to doing shows about fantasy sports. He said that he thought he could fit into a fantasy sports show at ESPN.

He also mentioned that he would like to work on Baseball Tonight but that there was nothing planned near term.

16. How did this change come about?

He said that he couldn’t comment on this.

17. What made you decide to add this job?

Will said that it was just an additional opportunity and that he really can’t comment.

18. What is the biggest difference between covering football and baseball?

Will said that the biggest difference is the timing. Baseball is played every day so a one-week injury can cost a player 6 games, while in football it would only cost him one game. He also said that in football there are different sorts of injuries than in baseball (for example, there are more collision injuries in football). Also, in football, there are more contextual issues related to injuries. An injury to an offensive lineman not only impacts that player, but also how the other members of the offense play as they compensate for the lineman’s injury. For example, the running back may have more blocking responsibilities and the quarterback may have to release the ball quicker, giving the wide receiver less chances to catch the ball.

19. When are you going to make the move to ESPN?

“Hopefully, I’ll be able to announce something later this week.”

Based on the information he gave me, I think Will Carroll will begin working for ESPN and will work on some of the fantasy football shows that they’re in the process of developing. I think his role on these shows will be to analyze injuries that occur to players and how those injuries will affect not only the injured player’s fantasy performance but also the performance of other players on their team. I think that he will begin his work at ESPN before the football season starts. It is also clear that he will continue his current Baseball Prospectus work.

I would like to thank Will for doing this interview. It was really really nice of him. Be sure to check out his work at Baseball Prospectus and, soon, at ESPN.

Come back next week when hopefully I’ll finally post a story on and brief interview with Tulsa Drillers closer Jim Miller.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Josh Lewin Interview

This week I interviewed Texas Rangers broadcaster Josh Lewin. The results of the interview are below.

1. What do the Rangers need to do to win the division?

Josh said that the number one thing they need to do is stay healthy. Whoever is healthiest and pitching the best in the last two weeks of the season will probably win the division. That’s when all of the AL West teams will be playing each other, so if a team can go 10-4 in the last two weeks, they’ll probably win the division.

2. How did the move from the Tigers to Rangers broadcast booth come about?

After the 2001 season, the Rangers were looking for a new direction. Josh said that he was contacted by the Rangers and asked what his contract situation was with the Tigers. He was a free agent so he went to Arlington to check it out. He loved what he heard from the team and thought the area would be a good place to raise a family. He flew back to Detroit to talk to his family. His wife is from Houston and liked the idea of moving back, so they did.

3. What was your favorite team growing up and why?

Josh said that he grew up back East and was an Orioles fan. He was also a Cubs fan during his college years because he was in Chicago. The Tigers were also in the mix because his dad had a job in Detroit. Those were his three favorites growing up. Interestingly, Josh’s first major league job was broadcasting for the Orioles, his second was for the Cubs, and his third was for the Tigers, so he ended up working for all three of his favorite teams. He said that the Rangers are his favorite team now.

4. What are the three biggest differences between broadcasting for the Tigers vs. Rangers?

The Rangers have more of a family feel and he feels more a part of what’s going on. He also mentioned that he was lucky to leave Detroit right before their 119 loss season. The heat in Texas was another difference that Josh mentioned.

5. Did you play baseball growing up? If so, for how long and at what position?

Josh was a middle infielder and played second base and shortstop. He said that he wasn’t very good and he realized pretty quickly that he wouldn’t be a player. The highlight of his playing was when he made the All-Star team at 11 and tripled in the All-Star game.

6. How did you prepare yourself to be a broadcaster? What education did you have?

Josh’s college degree is in journalism. He did that instead of broadcasting because he figured if he can express himself on paper, he can do it when talking. He said that it taught him how to organize his thoughts. Another key was doing broadcasting for minor league baseball because he learned his way around the clubhouse and learned the politics of baseball. He said the best thing is to just get out there and broadcast for some baseball team somewhere.

7. Can you please describe the differences between broadcasting baseball, hockey and football?

Baseball is all about the story you can tell. There’s very little action. Football is very regimented. You describe the down and distance and the play and then let the color analyst talk for a while. Hockey is very fast. You have to be able to recognize the players and describe the action quickly.

8. What are the three most fun things about your job?

- The travel is great even though it can be a grind.
- The people you meet and not just the famous ones. He said you meet a lot of really nice people, like Brian Shouse and John Wasdin.
- Having a free pass to watch ballgames.

9. What are the three toughest things about your job?

- The travel – you miss your family and also get sick a lot from traveling on airplanes.
- Staying fresh and upbeat for 162 games, even during 12-2 games.
- Not getting to be there for what your kids do, like missing his 8-year-old’s birthday parties. He said he thought he had only been to two so far.

10. What is the most fun season you’ve announced and why?

Josh said that so far, his first year of announcing AAA ball full-time in Rochester, NY is his favorite. He was only 21 and was the number 1 guy for the first time. The team was in first place wire to wire. There were lots of future Yankees on the team, like Bernie Williams.

11. What is the most fun game you’ve announced and why?

Josh mentioned a few games:
- The David Dellucci game-winning hit in 2004.
- Cal Ripken’s last game.
- The game where Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record.
- Barry Bonds’ 70th home run.
- Barry Bonds’ 714th home run.

12. What is the best play you’ve announced and why?

Josh said it might be Gary Matthews Jr’s catch earlier this year, even though the audio on the Fox broadcast was messed up so no one heard his call.

13. How did you end up being the radio broadcaster for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings at age 16?

Josh said that the team had a GM who was like Bill Veeck. He knew Josh had been hanging around the team and hired him to do one inning of every home game. It started as a PR move but grew into a serious job. He started doing the middle three innings of home games, then the middle three innings of all games, and then became the main broadcaster.

14. Who have been the funnest players to interview and why?

Josh said that Cal Ripken was very interesting to interview. He was always thoughtful and Josh usually learned something from him.

15. What is a typical day like in your job?

- Does a lot of research either in the hotel or his home office.
- Spends some quality time with his family.
- Works out.
- Thinks about the stories of the game.
- Gets to the ballpark between 3:30-4 and talks to the players to get information.
- Broadcasts the game from 7 until 10 or 10:30.
- Gets back home or to the hotel at around 11:30.
- Watches highlights.
- Gets to bed about 1am.

16. What recommendations do you have for someone trying to get into sports broadcasting and journalism?

Josh said that the main thing is to work at it. He said that he practiced in front of his TV with the sound turned down a lot growing up and that practice is the most important thing.

I would like to thank Josh for doing this interview. It was really nice of him to take time from his day during the Rangers’ last road trip to talk to me.

Come back next week for an article and short interview with Tulsa Drillers closer Jim Miller, which has been delayed a few times.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Five Rangers Trades

This week I will describe and analyze all 5 of the trades the Rangers made over the past week.

Trade 1: The Rangers traded minor league pitcher Joselo Diaz to the Royals for Matt Stairs.

Matt Stairs:
Stairs’ stats this year are:
8 HR
33 RBI
.258 AVG.
This year his fielding percentage is 1.000 and is 2-10 as a Ranger.
Over his career, Stairs has a .266 average with 215 home runs over 15 seasons.

Grade of Matt Stairs: 8.2

Joselo Diaz:
Joselo has posted these numbers with the Redhawks:
0-0 W-L
3.28 ERA
35.2 IP
46 SO
Joselo has allowed 2 ER in 2 IP for the Omaha Royals so far.

Grade: 7.1

Trade Evaluation:
Matt Stairs is a good player while Joselo is just another relief pitcher and probably wouldn’t have had much impact with the Rangers.
Grade of trade: A+

Trade 2: The Rangers traded minor league pitcher Jesse Chavez to the Pirates for Kip Wells.

Kip Wells:
Kip has been injured for a lot of this year, but so far his stats are:
2-5 W-L
6.10 ERA
41.1 IP
18 SO.
Kip allowed one earned run in five innings in his Ranger debut.
During his career, Wells is 57-74 with a 4.43 ERA with 176 starts.

Grade: 7.9

Jesse Chavez:
Jesse has been in AA almost all of this year and his stats are:
2-5 W-L
4.42 ERA
59 IP
70 SO.
Jesse is not a major prospect but has a great ability to get strike-outs.

Grade: 5.2

Trade Evaluation:
This was a great trade. Chavez wasn’t that much of a prospect and we got a decent major league pitcher that has taken a spot in our starting rotation.
Grade of trade: A+

Trade 3: The Rangers traded relief pitcher Bryan Corey to the Red Sox for minor league pitcher Luis Mendoza.

Luis Mendoza:
Luis was sent to AA, and his stats for the Portland Sea Dogs this year were:
1-5 W-L
6.38 ERA
48 IP
29 SO.
He went 5 innings giving up 2 ER in his Roughrider debut and is only 23 years old.

Grade: 5.9

Bryan Corey:
Bryan started in AA, then moved to AAA and then to the MLB where his stats were:
1-1 W-L
2.95 ERA
18.1 IP
13 SO.
Bryan started out great and then fell apart at the end. He has already been Designated for Assignment (DFA’d) by Boston after only one appearance.

Grade: 6.1

Trade Evaluation:
We traded about the same talent that we got back. I’m glad to get anything for Corey since he was DFA’d by the Rangers.
Grade of trade: B

Trade 4: The Rangers obtained catcher Miguel Ojeda from Colorado for cash.

Miguel Ojeda:
Miguel had 74 AB with the Rockies this year and posted these numbers:
2 HR
11 RBI
.230 AVG.
Miguel has played in parts of 4 seasons in the majors including part of one with the Mariners and 2+ seasons with the Padres. He has a career .222. average with 15 home runs over 207 games.

Grade: 6.6


Grade: 0.1

Trade Evaluation:
We traded pretty much nothing for our probable back-up catcher for next year.
Grade of Trade: A+

Trade 5: The Rangers traded minor league catcher Nick Trzesniak to Florida for future considerations.

Nick Trzesniak:
Nick has spent most of the year with Oklahoma posting these numbers:
1 HR
12 RBI
.255 AVG.
Nick wasn’t a real big prospect and we got Miguel Ojeda to replace him. He has recently been injured, playing in the Arizona Rookie League on a rehab assignment.

Grade: 4.8

Future Considerations:

Grade: 0.9

Trade Evaluation:
We traded Nick Trzesniak for what could be nothing depending on how long he stays there.
Grade of Trade: D+

Come back next week for a short interview with Tulsa Drillers closer Jim Miller unless the Rangers make another trade.