September 2013

The Eye in the Sky

DPB in evening glow

Have you ever thought about coming to a RoughRiders game but have a hard time getting off the fence because of the weather?  We all know that Texas weather can be a little unpredictable and sometimes it can be reassuring to just see whether it’s raining at the park, if the tarp is on the field or just how hot it is at Dr Pepper Ballpark.  Well fear not, loyal ‘Riders fans, because just in time for the off-season (yeah, maybe not the savviest timing…) we have been selected as an official weather-reporting station for WeatherBug.  As a result, we can now give fans access to the up-to-the-minute weather details, from the temperature, wind and even the time for sunset.

You can access the webpage for the new “Online Weather Center” right here.

As you can see on this page, there is even a live camera that regularly snaps a photo of the diamond below (unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s a suitable replacement for MiLB.tv, for those of you looking for a workaround to watch games over the internet).  Save the page in your bookmarks and you’ll always be able to know the weather when you’re looking to visit us for a game.  You can also find the link on www.ridersbaseball.com as one of the “‘Riders Links” below the video highlights and also as a link in the “News” section of the site.

Now, maybe if we all spend enough time staring at that webpage it will start to feel a little less like mid-July here in the Metroplex.

As always, thanks for reading!

- Alex

Putting a bow on the 2013 Season

The 2013 season ended eight days ago and before we start thinking about Opening Day 2014 (currently 205 days away, but who’s counting?), let’s wrap up this year with some of the notable notes & factoids. The following tidbits are stolen taken from the RoughRiders’ end-of-season notes, which you can see in their entirety here.

SEASON NOTES

Report Card: The RoughRiders finished their 11th season with an overall record of 70-70, good enough for third place in the Texas League South Division and fourth-best in the eight-team circuit.  Frisco was 39-31 in the first half, claiming second place in the division, and 31-39 in the second half (third place).  The RoughRiders missed out on the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and just the fourth time in team history.  For the first time since becoming a minor league manager in 2009 (Bakersfield), Steve Buechele oversaw a team that did not make the postseason.  Two RoughRiders were named to the postseason All-Star Team: DH Brett Nicholas and RHP Neil Ramirez.

Playing not to lose: For the eighth straight season, the RoughRiders finished with a non-losing record.  The last time Frisco finished below .500 was the only time in team history, back in 2005 when the team finished 58-82.  The streak of non-losing seasons is by far the longest in the Texas League; every other team in the circuit has had at least one losing season in the last three years.  The streak is the longest in Double-A and the third-longest among all 120 full-season minor league clubs, exceeded only by the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats (11 straight non-losing seasons) and the Advanced-A San Jose Giants (ten).  Including teams that play in short-season leagues, Frisco’s streak is the sixth longest; the Elizabethton Twins (25), Brooklyn Cyclones (13) and AZL Giants (13) have the longest such streaks in stateside Minor League Baseball.

Home Field Advantage: A crowd of 10,712 watched the RoughRiders beat Corpus Christi in the home finale on August 30, marking the second-biggest attendance at Dr Pepper Ballpark this season.  It was exceeded only by the July 4 game against Arkansas, when 10,801 saw the Travelers edge the ’Riders 3-2.  Frisco welcomed 479,873 fans to the ballpark this year (an average of 7,057), the highest total in Double-A for the ninth straight year.  The total and average attendance figures are higher than 17 Triple-A ballclubs this season.

Pitching in: Pitching coach Jeff Andrews can be proud to point out that this year’s Frisco staff statistically rates as the best in franchise history.  Of the 11 seasons in RoughRiders history, the 2013 team finished with the best ERA (3.58, placing in the top two of the league for just the second time ever), strikeouts (1,111), WHIP (1.265), and hits/9 IP (8.0, the lowest figure in the TL since 2003).  The team’s strikeouts/9 IP (8.0) was tied for the second-best in team history.  Making these feats even more impressive is that the RoughRiders utilized 37 different pitchers (by far the most in the league, five more than Springfield, which had used the second-most), including 19 starters.

Saint Nicholas: Frisco first baseman Brett Nicholas has had a great year in his first Double-A season.  Before to this year, Nicholas had 17 career home runs in three combined pro seasons but hit 21 in 2013.  In addition to the long balls, the Arizona native established career-bests in games (136), plate appearances (575), at bats (506), hits (146), batting average (.289), slugging percentage (.474), OPS (.831), RBI (91), runs (71), triples (3) and total bases (240).  Nicholas finished among the Texas League leaders in average (fourth), games (first), at bats (third), home runs (seventh), RBI (first), hits (first), extra-base hits (tied for fifth, 49) and total bases (first, 240).  He was the only player in the TL in the top seven in all three of the Triple Crown categories.  Nicholas was named a mid-season and postseason All-Star (at DH) and will be one of the Rangers’ representatives in the Arizona Fall League.

Teo Time: Teodoro Martinez had a breakout season in many respects in 2013.  The diminutive outfielder was second on the team with 15 home runs and was also among the team leaders in hits (second, 110), runs scored (third, 51), RBI (fourth, 47), total bases (third, 168), and steals (second, 21).  Martinez entered the season with ten career home runs and single-season high of six, but more than doubled his career output in longballs with a year that landed him on the mid-season All-Star Team.  He had a career game on the penultimate day of the regular season in Midland, going 4 for 5 with a double, two home runs, eight runs batted in and three runs scored.  The eight RBI matched his total from July (three) and August (five) combined and represented what is believed to be a RoughRiders single-game record.  It was only fitting that Martinez had his huge game against Midland; in 27 games against the RockHounds, he hit .336/.351/.600 (.951 OPS) with two doubles, nine home runs, 28 RBI, 16 runs scored and seven steals.

New Kids on the Block: The makeup of Frisco’s roster changed dramatically in early August, when nine new players joined the team and seven players were sent elsewhere.  Of the new RoughRiders, second baseman Rougned Odor and pitchers Luke Jackson and Nick Martinez—all promoted from Advanced-A Myrtle Beach—shined the brightest.  From August 1 through the end of the season, Odor led the Texas League in hits (41) and was tied for second in extra-base hits (16).  At 19, he was the youngest player in Double-A and over 30 games hit .306/.354/.530 with six homers, eight doubles, two triples, 19 RBI, 20 runs scored and five steals.  Jackson did not allow a run until his fifth ’Riders outing and went 2-0 over six games (four starts) with a 0.67 ERA (2 ER/27 IP), 30 strikeouts and a .144 opposing batting average.  Dating back to his time with the Pelicans, he ended the season having gone 15 games (13 starts) since last suffering a defeat (May 27 at Lynchburg).  Martinez did not work the strikeouts like Jackson, but he was stellar in five games (four starts), going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA (4 ER/32 IP), 11 hits allowed, a 0.56 WHIP and a .107 opposing batting average.  While pitching in relief of rehabber Nick Tepesch on August 27 against Corpus Christi, he threw seven no-hit innings and retired the last 19 batters of the ballgame.

Don’t walk this way: A constant theme over the course of the season was the inability of the ’Riders to draw walks while on offense.  Frisco not only finished last among all Texas League teams with 303 walks this season, but also last among all full-season minor league teams (Advanced-A Brevard County was closest with 343).  In fact, the ’Riders had fewer walks than 13 rookie-level teams whose seasons began well after Frisco’s.  The 303 walks set a new Texas League record for fewest walks ever received by a team, “besting” the 1992 San Antonio Missions (310).  The RoughRiders’ on-base percentage of .300 was the seventh-lowest of all 229 MiLB teams and the second-lowest of all full-season squads.

Guilded Age: The 2013 season was a banner one for longtime RoughRiders utility player Guilder Rodriguez.  This past season was Rodriguez’s 13th in professional baseball and his fifth with Frisco.  Thanks to a terrific first half of the season, the Venezuelan was named to his first All-Star Game and came in off the bench to play in the South Division’s 6-0 win over the North.  Rodriguez set several career Frisco records over the course of the year; he has played in more games as a RoughRider (407) than any other player in team history.  On August 4, he passed Renny Osuna as the franchise’s all-time hits leader; he has 352 career hits as a RoughRider.  On August 25, playing in his 1000th professional stateside game, Rodriguez stole his 66th base in a Frisco uniform, snapping a tie with Rangers outfielder Craig Gentry for the most career steals.  G-Rod is now 66 for 92 stealing bases as a ’Rider; Gentry was 65 for 79 in 207 Frisco games.

This ’pen is mightier: Despite a constantly rotating cast, the RoughRiders’ bullpen was the strength of the pitching staff this season.  Frisco’s relievers won almost as many games (34) as the team’s starters (36) while posting an impressive 2.55 ERA (166 ER/586.2 IP).  The bullpen was heavy on strikeouts (9.1/9 IP) and stingy on allowing hits (6.9/9 IP).  Ben Rowen (0.53 ERA) and Wilmer Font (1.41 ERA) led the group with ten saves apiece while nine total players had at least one save.  The strong back end of the bullpen was a major reason why the RoughRiders went 51-0 when taking a lead into the ninth inning, not blowing a ninth inning save all season.  Frisco was the only Texas League team that did not lose a game when leading after eight innings (all other teams had at least two such losses).  The ’Riders were one of eight full-season minor league teams that did not blow a ninth inning lead and one of three (New Orleans, 72-72; West Michigan, 69-70) that did it while failing to post a winning overall record.

- Alex

‘Riders on the Record: Final Words

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‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pre-game interviews record by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Nathan Barnett with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.

An extra long edition this week with a double-dose of the skipper and a season finale chat with Jeff Andrews is here! It’s been a pleasure posting these each week. Thank you for your support of the Insider Blog and ‘Riders on the Record this season. We hope you enjoyed getting to hear from everyone this season. Highlights for the final edition include Phil Klein on his position on a football field, Nick Tepesch on being named the Rangers’ fifth starter and Randy Henry on how he can improve upon his stellar season.

Happy Monday and enjoy!

Sunday, August 25, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele


After a tumultuous weekend in which the bullpen has been severely taxed, the manager Steve Buechele assesses the state of the ‘pen and who could have been on the mound among the position players. He discusses why Luke Jackson was removed in the midst of a no-hitter and explains the quick success of Nick Martinez in Double-A. (w/ Alex Vispoli)

Monday, August 26, 2013 – Catcher Zach Zaneksi


The RoughRiders catcher Zach Zaneski comes on to talk about his offseason plans and the end of the RoughRiders season. With Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez in town, Zach tells us what kind of wisdom the future Hall-of-Famer has shared with the ‘Riders backstops. (w/ Nathan Barnett)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 – RHP Phil Klein


For the first time in his pro career, Phil Klein was the starting pitcher. He talks about keeping his routine consistent and how excited he was to get the nod. In preparation for our fantasy football post on the RoughRiders Insider Blog, I also asked Klein where he would play on a football team. (w/ Nathan)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 – 1B/C Brett Nicholas


Brett Nicholas put together a career year in 2013. He was named to the Texas League Post-season All-Star Team and a member of the Arizona Fall League the previous day, and he talks about the significance of both in the larger picture of his career. Hovering around a .300 batting average, Brett weighs in on the importance of that number to him as well. (w/ Nathan)

Thursday, August 29, 2013 – 3B Ryan Rua


Fresh off his walk-off grand slam, Ryan Rua reflects on the best moments of his career. He looks back at his breakout season and assess the progress that he has made this year as well as his adjustment to Double-A pitching. (w/ Nathan)

Friday, August 30, 2013 – Rangers Rehabber Nick Tepesch


Rangers rehabber Nick Tepesch talks about his first ever rehab. He shares his story from Spring Training that ended in the nod as the Rangers #5 starter and the development of his slider that has helped him make the leap. He also explains how quick teams and players are to adjust at the big league level. (w/ Nathan)

Saturday, August 31, 2013 – RHP Randy Henry


RoughRiders reliever Randy Henry is putting the finishing touches on a spectacular season in his year at Double-A. Battling an elbow injury, Henry was one of the more dominant pitchers in the Texas League this season. He evaluates his year and pinpoints places for future improvement. (w/ Alex)

Sunday, September 1, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele


For the final time, the ‘Riders skipper joins our own Alex Vispoli on the pregame show to discuss the end of the season. He gives his take on the significance of a .500 record and shares his plans for the offseason. (w/ Alex)

Monday, September 2, 2013 – Pitching Coach Jeff Andrews


On the final day of the season, Pitching Coach Jeff Andrews sits down to assess his pitching staff at season’s end. He talks about the development of Luke Jackson and Nick Martinez, including the significance of his Jackson’s unconventional mechanics and Martinez’s baseball smarts. A big league coach in 2008 with the Pirates, he explains the value of coaching in the majors and what he learned in his season in Pittsburgh.

- Nathan

Baseball term of the day: sky piece – baseball cap

(term from The Baseball Thesaurus)

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