New baseball season scouting reports

Now that baseball season has started, what I need from you are scouting reports.  What are the developments, prospects, promising new players, and issues for your favorite team?

It looks like Philadelphia is playing a hand with four aces (maybe five aces, but then the card game metaphor breaks down).   The Brewers seem poised to make a run, what with acquiring pitchers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, two serious pitchers.  Washington is positioning itself to be good NEXT year, when the two first-round draft pick prodigies Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper might be ready.

So, all of you Cranach sports correspondents, please report.

You may also include predictions.

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Sporting News

The weekend’s big loser in sports was conventional expectations. My Oklahoma Sooners, BCS #1 for one week, were beaten by Missouri. This makes three successive weeks that the #1 team has bitten the dust (Oklahoma meeting the fate of Alabama and Ohio State). I’m sure the Sooner defeat is my fault, through a mechanism I don’t fully understand, due to my puffing them up on my blog.

Of greater significance, The San Francisco Giants upset the seemingly sure-thing Philadelphia Phillies to make it to the World Series.

And in the one upset that gave me great pleasure, the Texas Rangers beat the Yankees to go to their first World Series ever. And you’ve got to like the Rangers on a personal level. When they won the pennant, they celebrated with ginger ale instead of champagne out of consideration for an alcoholic teammate, series MVP Josh Hamilton, whose Christian faith turned his life around.

No-hitter in the playoffs

Baseball’s playoffs–generally the best games of the year–got off to an amazing start as the Phillies’ Roy Halladay pitched the second no-hitter in the history of postseason play. (The first was in 1956.):

In the last 54 years of baseball history prior to Wednesday night, there had been 952 postseason games played, all of which shared two common traits of omission: None had ever included a no-hit game, and none had ever been graced by Harry Leroy Halladay.

But on a chilly, drizzly night at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, first one historic hole was filled, and then the other. At 5:08 p.m., Roy Halladay, the Phillies’ brilliant right-hander, threw the first postseason pitch of his career, and at 7:42 p.m. baseball’s first postseason no-hitter since 1956 was complete.

Halladay, 33, turned his postseason debut into the most impressive pitching performance in half a century of baseball history – holding the Cincinnati Reds hitless in a 4-0 Phillies victory in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

via Roy Halladay no-hitter lifts Phillies past Reds in Game 1.

I can’t see anyone in Philadelphia’s league pitching-wise, but anything can happen.  I was hoping Cincinnatti (the victim of Halladay’s achievement) and Texas do well.  (And the Rangers did defeat the Rays for their first game.)  But I predict Philadelphia will win it all again.  What is your baseball analysis and prognostication?

Interesting jobs

To celebrate the doctrine of vocation and as a build up to Labor Day, let us consider Interesting Jobs.   Here is one:  Major league baseball interpreter.

An interpreter’s job can be consuming, from taking phone calls from a confused player in a grocery store aisle to helping a player’s wife get a driver’s license.

“It’s one thing to be bilingual,” says [Kenji] Nimura, who is unique in the major leagues and especially valuable because he’s fluent in English, Japanese and Spanish. “It’s another to be bicultural.”

That’s why the role has grown as quickly as the Asian influence in the majors, where this year’s 12 Japanese players, three Taiwanese and two South Koreans usually are accompanied by an interpreter.

And note that the correct word is interpreter, not translator. Word-for-word substitutions seldom work between English and the Asian languages.

“If I give a direct translation, it will sound vague,” says Nimura, born in Japan but raised in Los Angeles. “I cheat a little. It’s like a scene in Lost in Translation. As long as I get the meaning right.”

Ever wonder why the translated answer often seems much shorter than the original answer?

“American players follow the formula,” Nimura says. “Say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you said. In Japan, they don’t give you an answer until the end.” . . .

Nowhere do the cultural differences show up more than in trying to interpret what goes on in the clubhouse.

The hazing Kuroda received is unheard of in Japan. So are the moments like the day in spring 2009 that Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones wanted to pass a message to new pitcher Kenshin Kawakami.

“Tell him, I said, (expletive)’ ” a grinning Jones said to interpreter Daichi Takasue, then a 21-year-old fresh out of the University of California-Santa Barbara, where he had been trained specifically for moments like this.

Al Ferrer, the former longtime coach at UCSB who now trains and supplies interpreters armed with the knowledge to deal with coaches and game situations, laughs when he remembers Takasue relating the incident.

“He told me, ‘I bowed my head and said Mr. Jones told me to say (expletive)’ ” Ferrer says. “Ragging is not a part of their culture.”

Nor is swearing, something Guillen discovered during one of his colorful clubhouse speeches when Japanese pitcher Shingo Takatsu was on the roster.

“I saw the translator was quiet,” Guillen says. “I’m screaming to him, ‘Make sure you tell him what I say.’ The (interpreter) says, ‘We don’t have those kinds of words in Japan.’ “

via Baseball interpreters bridge gap between players, new culture –

What are some other Interesting Jobs?  Do any of you have one?

More on Strasburg

From via Scout’s report: How Stephen Strasburg aced first test in majors – Daily Pitch: MLB News, Standings, Schedules & More –

Numbers in the Inside Edge report:

* Strasburg's fastball was between 95 mph and 100 mph on every pitch, averaging 98 mph.

* He threw his changeup at 89 mph to 92 mph.

* Against right-handed hitters, Strasburg threw 27 fastballs, 15 curves and 4 changeups.

* Against left-handed hitters, he threw 31 fastballs, 10 curves, 7 changeups.

* Of his first pitches, 10 of 13 were fastballs to right-handed hitters, 8 of 11 fastballs to lefties.

Other critical observations:

* When Strasburg missed the strike zone, he generally missed low. Only four pitches to right-handed hitters were high and all four were chased (two for outs).

* Every 1-1 count against a Pittsburgh hitter became a 1-2 count.

* Strasburg got an out all but once (94%) once the count reached two strikes.

* Even after falling behind in the count 2-0, 2-1 or with three balls, Strasburg recorded outs 80% of the time.

Strasburg lives up to the hype

The Washington National’s pitching phenom, Stephen Strasburg made his big-league debut.  The results were jaw-dropping.  In the 7 innings he pitched, he struck out 14!  He walked 0.   He gave up four hits, including a two-run homer, but he took the win, 5-2.   The kid struck out each of the Pittsburg Pirates starters.  He struck out the final 7 batters he faced.  No Nationals pitcher has ever struck out so many.  Few rookies have put on such a dominating performance in his first game.

Stephen Strasburg sets team strikeout record in debut as Nationals beat Pirates.