Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday Notebook



   We all got more than a little excited last week when it was announced that Daniel Norris would make his last start for Buffalo last week.  Norris is very close (as in 2 IP away) from his "year after effect" limit, a guideline which loosely recommends that young pitchers do not throw more than 30 innings above what they threw the year before.  Pitch counts, of course, are a more exact measure of when a pitcher reaches his fatigue point, the point at which their mechanics become undone and the risk of arm and/or shoulder injury increases significantly, but innings pitched helps monitor when a young (under 23) pitcher needs to be shut down for the season.
  Fans and media flocked to Norris' start for Buffalo last week, and didn't walk away disappointed.  Norris allowed only a home run and a walk through 5 innings, striking out 9, and missing striking out double digit batters for the third straight start.   And just as Blue Jays fans in the aftermath of Norris' start were rubbing their hands with the thought of seeing the young lefthander in the big league bullpen when major league rosters expand on September 1st, the pitcher/surfer/photographer/magic bus driver told Amy Moritz of the Buffalo News that he will make one last start tomorrow.  We scurried to the Bisons' website to buy tickets.
  Norris has been dominant at two of the three levels he has pitched at this year.  That he had only moderate success at AA may be due to some adjustments he had to make as he made the huge jump from A ball.
  Here are his totals for the year from milb.com:

Daniel Norris Stats Summary

TEAM
LG
LEVEL
W
L
ERA
G
GS
CG
SHO
SV
SVO
IP
H
R
ER
HR
HB
BB
IBB
SO
AVG
WHIP
Buffalo
AAA
3
0
1.08
3
3
0
0
0
0
16.2
6
2
2
1
0
4
0
32
.115
0.60
New Hampshire
AA
3
1
4.54
8
8
0
0
0
0
35.2
32
18
18
5
2
17
0
49
.235
1.37
Dunedin
A(Adv)
6
0
1.22
13
13
0
0
0
0
66.1
50
11
9
0
0
18
0
76
.209
1.03


   So, does the recent promotions of Norris, Mitch Nay, Miguel Castro, Rowdy Tellez, Richard Urena, and even Gustavo Pierre signal a change in philosophy for the organization?  The answer has to be yes.
   The club has been known to slowly move prospects, especially high school-drafted pitchers, letting them spend a season at each level before moving them up.  There were suggestions in the media during the off-season that there was some debate in the organization about the merits of that.  The case of Aaron Sanchez clearly shows the shift in thinking.  Brought along slowly and methodically since being drafted in the 1st round in 2010, there were some who said that his development stalled in High A last year.  Results were good, but still likely less than had been hoped for at AA this year, before Sanchez was suddenly promoted to Buffalo, and less than a few weeks later, he was pitching in relief in Yankee Stadium, picking up his first big league W.
   Now, we see that approach has been applied to Norris, Kendall Graveman, Dalton Pompey, and Castro.  They even skipped a level with Tellez's promotion.  The message, especially to pitchers, seems to be pitch well, and we'll move you up.
   At the same time, however, we can point out examples of aggressive promotions that didn't work:  Matt Boyd, Taylor Cole, and most of Lansing's pitching staff.
   Certainly, playoff implications figured into some of these moves.  Pompey's promotion was obviously meant to bolster Buffalo's outfield, while Urena's was meant to help shore up Vancouver's infield defense.  And sometimes these moves can work in the opposite direction:  Vancouver received closer Phil Kish from Lansing to help boost their sagging relief corps.  

   There's hot, and then there's Buffalo Bisons hot.
A month ago, the Bisons were at .500, and a playoff spot was rapidly vanishing. Since then, they have gone 24-9, and with a wild extra-inning, walk off grand slam by Brett Wallace (his third home run of the day) over the Pawtucket Red Sox, Buffalo leaped over Pawtucket and into the International League's wild card spot.
   In addition to the solid starting pitching the club has received from Norris, Graveman, and even call up (since returned to AA) Scott Copeland, the offence has been sparked by Kevin Pillar, who has hit .371/.394/.663.  Pillar's 39 doubles lead the International League.  Anchored by Pillar, Pompey, and their returning Anthony Gose, the Bisons have one of the best outfields in all of minor leauge ball.

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