Dissecting a Box Score
Yesterday was probably not an important day to many of you unless it’s your birthday in which case, oh gosh, I’m sorry. Or it may be if you’re a history buff, considering we have the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the Treaty of Versailles, and the beginning of the Irish Civil War all happening on the same day in various years. Man, that is some history. But for me, today marks the four-year anniversary of one of the most bizarre minor league box scores I’ve ever had to talk about, which was the defeat of the High Desert Mavericks at home against the Lake Elsinore Storm by a final score of 33-18 in a game that lasted four hours and ten minutes.
Every few months, I go back and look this one up and each time I seem to uncover something new. Its depths likely aren’t endless, but that such a box score would have certain eccentricities goes without saying. This time around, I’ve decided to report on my findings on this particular trip down the rabbit hole. What follows is going to be a lot of fragments pertaining to what happened and, to a lesser extent, how it came about and what happened next for the players involved. I’m not going to try to re-construct a narrative from it because, for one thing, you can just follow the game log, and for another I would imagine that to be even more tedious. I’m also not trying to write “well” about this box score so much as relish in its oddities.
June 28th 2009 was a Sunday. A crowd of 1,054 was enduring a gametime temperature of one hundred degrees and the wind was blowing out to left at seven miles an hour. We certainly never expected what happened next.
Setting the Stage:
The human mind is inclined to scale its expectations in response to perception in that moment. When you look at a 5-0 deficit versus a 10-5 deficit, it feels different. Part of that is our learned baseball knowledge of higher scores meaning depleted bullpens and thus more scoring opportunities, but I would also argue that it’s because our expectations align to the ideas of momentum and run-scoring begetting more run-scoring while being stifled will continue (unless you subscribe to that part of The Gambler’s Fallacy that claims you’re due). You’re now looking at a box score that reads 33-18. It doesn’t feel like a box score that reads 15-0. You feel like the game is closer than that. You might think that the game is within reach. Your brain is weird like that. Or maybe you’ve been tricked into thinking you’re looking at a football score.
* This was a game that had fifty-one runs of offense. There were no stolen bases, due to baseball’s unwritten rules and the fact that the Storm was ahead by eight runs after the top of the first and that’s usually enough to win a game by. They would go on to win the game by almost double that.
* All but one of the runs in the game were earned. Fifty-one runs, fifty-earned runs. The unearned run was charged to the Mavericks, specifically, Natividad Dilone. All told, six errors were made, five by the Mavs.
* There were no sac flies. I will repeat that. Fifty-one runs of offense, no sacrifice flies. There were eleven doubles, two triples, and five home runs by the Storm, along with thirteen walks. There were seven doubles, a triple, five dingers, and a walk by the Mavericks. There were no sacrifice flies.
* No one was plunked either. One would think that a game with this much offense might get someone retaliating, but nooooope.
* There was also no run scoring for either team in the sixth or seventh inning, meaning all fifty-one runs came in the other seven frames. Within those seven innings, between the two teams, an average of seven runs scored, in part because there was a mode of nine runs scored, happening in the first, fifth, eighth, and ninth. The lowest scoring innings that still had scoring were five runs apiece in the second, third, and fourth. This is all to say that in any inning of this game, nine runs scored, five runs scored, or no runs scored.
The Context of the Season:
* The Cal League doesn’t experience rain outs generally, so all ten teams played 140 games in 2009. The Storm’s thirty-three runs represented 4.56% of their total offense for the season in 0.7% of the games. With the outburst, they averaged 5.16 runs a game. Without it, 4.96.
As for the Mavericks, this game represented only 2.1% of their total offense and they were scoring 6.14 runs in a game on average, the best in the league. If they had scored as many runs as the Storm, that would have only increased to 6.25 runs per game, on average, and accounted for 3.8% of their seasonal offense.
*The bottom of the league in pitching runs per game and ERA is usually the Mavericks and the Lancaster Jethawks in whichever order. The Mavericks allowed 5.76 runs per game and had a 5.02 ERA with this game. Without it, 5.65 runs per game and 4.82 ERA, which would not have been enough to move them ahead on the leaderboard.
The Storm had less of a hit here, obviously. They had 4.8 runs score against them on average and had a 4.26 team ERA. Without this game, 4.78 runs per game and a 4.16 ERA.
Dramatis Personae (Pitching):
* The Mavericks used six actual pitchers and two position players to get through the nine innings. Some of them didn’t last beyond the season as Mariners prospects. The game’s starter, Nathan Adcock, was traded to the Pirates a month later as part of the deal for Ian Snell and Jack Wilson. He was the only one of the bunch to reach the major leagues, as a Rule 5 Draft pick of the Royals. The next two pitchers, Juan Zapata and Natividad Dilone, were released after the season. Travis Mortimore, the only southpaw of the bunch and one of two pitchers to avoid giving up runs of his own (all the relievers at least scored a few inherited runs), lasted through the next season, but never escaped Adelanto. Marwin Vega and Stephen Richard, who both gave up three runs on nearly identical lines in an inning of work, not only survived the year, but each saw some time in double-A. Vega was an old favorite of mine, with a fastball in the low-90s and a change-up that wouldn’t crack the speed limit on some highways.
* The two position players seen on the mound deserve mention of their own. Jose Yepez, who had come over from the Blue Jays organization as a minor league free agent, began the night as the catcher. He had gone 3-for-4 with a walk, hitting a home run, scoring two runs, and driving in four. In a third of an inning, he more than undid his own work. Yepez gave up back-to-back-to-back home runs before recording a groundball, then he gave up another home run followed by a double that finally got him the hook. Yepez, being a catcher, is still kicking around, playing for the Braves’ triple-A affiliate this season (you may also remember him from a stint with the M’s in which he did not play). His first minor league pitching appearance was also his last to date. Deybis Benitez, who took over for him (and batted in the ninth, collecting a single), recorded the last two outs and scored Yepez’ leftover runner. It was also the only pitching appearance for Benitez, who has not yet turned up anywhere this season after playing twenty-three total games in the Indy Leagues from 2011 to 2012.
* Being that they were the team that was ahead, the Storm were obviously less concerned with trying to protect the lead by switching pitchers around and whatnot. The starter was right-hander Jeremy McBryde, and he managed to get through four and two-thirds innings. He also gave up eleven runs in those innings, with thirteen hits (three dingers), a walk, and six Ks overall. While his team was ahead 22-11 when he left, he did not get the decision. That went to Matthew Teague, a left-hander who allowed eight hits to turn into three runs over three and a third innings. Southpaw Allen Harrington let four runs score on five hits (two dingers) in the ninth. Notice some missing things in that report? McBryde was the only pitcher to strike out or walk any of the Mavericks hitters, so there was nothing of those two outcomes in the final four and a third innings. There were also no wild pitches. The hit batters, we’ve covered.
Harington washed out after the season, as did Teague. McBryde is now pitching for double-A San Antonio and, while slotted in a relief role and older now, is not bad.
Dramatis Personae (Hitters):
* One spot in the lineup, third in the order for High Desert, went hitless for the duration of the game. The Mavericks used eleven different players in their lineup, averaging close to five plate appearances apiece. Joe Dunigan, in his five plate appearances, struck out, flew out to left, flew out to right, grounded to first, and grounded to second. Travis Scott, who replaced him in the lineup, grounded to first in the ninth. Dunigan is still in the org, on the DL for the Rainiers. Scott is in the Atlantic League, playing indy ball.
* On that subject: only two other players from this game are still in the organization and both have made the major leagues: Alex Liddi (2-for-6, 2 R, 2B, 2 K), who started at third, and Carlos Peguero (4-for-6, 2 R, 3B, HR, 4 RBI, K), who started in right. Both made errors. CF James McOwen ended the year with a .887 OPS, then missed all of 2010, stumbled through 2011 and was released. 2B Edilio Colina , who finished that year with a .679 OPS, got one more year in High Desert where his average improved by twenty points, then he too was released. 1B Ian Bladergroen, once a highly regarded Mets/Red Sox prospect, was released after the season with an .818 OPS and was last sighted three years ago in the indy leagues. LF Kuo-hui Lo (2009 OPS: .813) has not played since 2011 due to injuries and was released last year. SS Jeff Dominguez (2009 OPS: .710) is with Sugar Land in the Atlantic League, along with Scott and former Mariners Roy Corcoran, Bobby Livingston, and Jared Wells. And one of Roger Clemens’ kids.
* Let us now consider the Storm’s lineup. Following the season, 3B James Darnell was named the third best prospect in the Padres’ organization and 1B Matt Clark ranked twenty-ninth, both rankings via BA. Various other prospects made appearances on the organization’s depth chart, but the lineup was not looked on as a world-beating one and Storm held second in the South Division throughout the year, behind the Mavs. Darnell did make the big leagues, but hasn’t really stuck yet. Andy Parrino, the game’s second baseman, has also made it to the big leagues as a utility guy, now with the A’s.
* The rest, as is often the case on a lot of minor league box scores, comprises a lot of guys that never-would-be. Brad Chalk, the left fielder, ended up in the Pirates org and washed out in 2011 after putting up a .619 OPS in a return tour of double-A. Beamer Weems, shortstop, because of course he’s a shortstop, has not played this year but lives on in discussions of best minor league names. The right fielder, Sawyer Carroll, played in a few triple-A games this year before being released. He’s now playing for Laredo. Felix Carrasco, who was at first, never got beyond the Cal League though he did make a brief appearance in the NPB two years ago. The centerfielder, Danny Payne, former supplemental first-round pick back when the first round could go to sixty-four selections, washed out two years ago having played only ten games in the high minors. Catcher Logan Gelbrich was released following the season because of course he was.
Odds and Ends:
* No Storm batter recorded fewer than two hits. In fact, six recorded four or more. No Storm batter reached safely FEWER than four times, which we can chalk up partially to them making no substitutions other than pitching ones. The three-spot in the Mavs lineup, as mentioned, was cursed, but Peguero and Lo both had four hits and Yepez has three plus a walk.
* Mavericks relievers entered action with a combined nine inherited runners. Of those nine, one was stranded. That was by Zapata, who still scored two others. The Storm didn’t have any inherited runners because McBryde’s last act as starter was to give up a three-run dinger.
* The ninth inning was the first inning in which the Mavericks did not walk one of the Storm’s batters. By contrast, they failed to strike out a batter in the third, the sixth, and the ninth.
* The sixth and seventh inning were barren for both sides in scoring, but the Mavs also failed to score in the bottom of the third.
* The Storm only hit one dinger outside of the ninth inning and Yepez’s ill-fated pitching debut. They went 16-for-33 with runners in scoring position overall. The Mavericks went 11-for-18.