Jose Bautista’s early struggles shouldn’t surprise anyone

04/30/2012 5:03 AM - Devo

Jose Bautista 7.jpgSeven home runs, 22 RBI, .310 BA, .360 OBP, .644 SLG 

These are all numbers you would expect from Jose Bautista after 22 games, except that’s the line for Edwin Encarnacion. The Toronto Blue Jays DH is carrying the Jays on his back while the rest of the team sorts out their struggles.

Last year Bautista batted over .360 with nine home runs and 15 RBI in the month of April. His slugging percentage nearly topped .800. Oh how things have changed. 

The heart and soul of this Blue Jays offense, is mired in a slump, the likes that fans in Toronto haven’t seen before out of their superstar; three home runs, 10 RBI, .190 BA, .333 OPS and .329 SLG. 

The numbers you see are very uncharacteristic for the two-time defending home run champion. While unusual, it shouldn’t be any surprise. 

This year’s crop of pitchers are definitely pitching Bautista differently than last year. Their game plan has changed and his patience and timing are being put to the test right before our eyes. 

Bautista is seeing more fastballs and variations; two-seamers and sinkers; are up by nearly five percent. And this is evident by watching any of his at-bats. Opposing pitchers are staying away at an alarming rate and it’s rare when you see them challenging him with fastball inside. It’s clear as day when you view his hit chart at the Rogers Centre; more outs to right than any other part of the field. 

Bautista’s O-swing percentage (percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone) is at an all-time high (27.1 percent) and his O-contact percentage (percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with outside the strike zone) sits at 75.4 percent, also a career high. Thanks again FanGraphs!

As the face of the franchise and now in year two of a monster contract, a slow start is not the most confidence inspiring way to begin the season. Unfortunately this slow start is a continuation of what began in the second-half of last season. 

After a stellar first-half in 2011, Bautista led the American League in nearly every offensive category. The second-half was a whole other story. 

After a significant drop in home runs (19), RBI (27) Bautista seemed human. Coupled with a drop in batting average of nearly 80 points, OBP of .049, and SLG of .225, his MVP candidacy took a major hit. 

A few bad months shouldn't slow down someone who worked tirelessly for six years to become a starter. Adjustments will be made and it’s just a matter of time before he rights the ship. And we all know that after a couple base hits and a string of home runs, all this worry and analysis will become an afterthought.


Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on Twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here.

**Devon is available for hire or freelance opportunities**

 

Interview with Ryan LaPensee: Undrafted to Arizona Diamondacks prospect

04/25/2012 4:21 AM - Devo

Ryan LaPensee.jpgIn December I went to the Baseball Winter Meetings and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. It’s all baseball all the time; what more could any baseball fan ask for? 

During my time at the meetings I met Nello Gamberdino a Lawyer from Chicago Illinois. He is also an aspiring sports agent who owns NPG Sports and represents over 17 professional minor league baseball players including LaSalle Ontario native Ryan LaPensee. 

LaPensee has quite an amazing story. 

He spent four years at Wayne State University and during that time became the University’s all-time leader in hits (279), runs scored (195), doubles (50), total bases (386), games played (200), and at bats (696). LaPensee’s career batting average of .401 comes in at a close second to Hall of Famer Ronald Teasley’s .415. 

Devon Teeple: What was your thought process when you found out that after all of your success at Wayne State, that you went undrafted in 2010? What was your back-up plan if baseball wasn’t in your future? 

Ryan LaPensee: When draft day came and went and I wasn’t selected I was definitely upset, but my family and friends really helped me stay positive and motivated to find another way to obtain my goal. My back up plan if pro ball wasn’t in the cards for me was to finish my degree and go to dental school. This past offseason I was able to accomplish one of those goals graduating from Wayne State with a B.A. in Chemistry, something that I am very proud of and hold dear to my heart. 

DT: When you went back home after school, was your main focus to perform well with the London Majors of the semi-pro Intercounty Baseball League with the hope that your performance could lead to something more or were you just continuing to play for the love of the game? 

RL: The London Majors was a good stepping stone for me to get from the College level to the professional level. That league taught me a lot about myself using the wood bat against older guys that had professional experience and the adjustments you have to make to be successful. It was one of the most enjoyable summers I have ever been a part of and I still keep in contact with that majority of those teammates. The Majors organization preaches hard work, dedication, and respect and all those intangibles were something that helped me as a player and a person off the field. 

DT: After a very successful summer with the Majors you had a tryout with the San Diego Padres. They did not sign you even after an impressive audition, but what were your thoughts about the whole process and what did you take away from that experience? 

RL: That tryout for me put the game into perspective and I was starting to realize that performance isn’t always the case because sometimes it just comes down to a numbers game and you just have to accept that you gave it all you had. 

DT: You obviously raised some eyebrows after your tryout with the Padres. What did the Arizona Diamondbacks representatives say when they contacted you about signing a contract with them in November of 2010? 

RL: They told me that they liked my style of play and offered me the opportunity to be a part of the Diamondbacks family. For me to hear my mom crying on the phone and tell me how proud she was of me, really made it all feel like it was worth it. 

Ryan LaPensee 2.jpg Photo by Ken Weisenberger

DT: After signing, you spent approximately half the season with the Visalia Rawhide, the Class-A advanced minor league affiliate of the D-Backs. What was the major difference in preparation when you compare it to your college experience? 

RL: With college you’re playing games mid-week and on the weekends, you have classes to go to, exams, community service, and other obligations. With pro ball you play every day but your main focus is baseball which for me personally is the best job a guy can ask for. I really respect all student athletes because it is not easy to juggle all those things and be successful. 

DT: Did you at any point have any doubt in your abilities during this process? 

RL: Doubt always creeps into your head when you’re struggling from time to time but it’s all a part of the game and failure is just so prevalent you can’t let it keep you down. 

DT: 2012 saw you start the season in Triple-A Reno, but that’s not after you made some very specific appearances this spring. 

You were invited to participate in seven spring training games. That’s an amazing accomplishment. What does that mean to you to know that the Diamondbacks have that much faith in you to give you a look considering the short amount of time you have spent with the organization? 

RL: I feel very fortunate to be given the opportunities the Diamondbacks have given me thus far. I play for a first class organization that treats us like we're part of one big family and to be a professional baseball player that is very reassuring that they have your best interest at heart. 

DT: As result of some roster shifting you were recently sent back down to Visalia. Do you see this as set back or just another piece in the puzzle to realizing a dream? 

RL: It is just another chapter to my ongoing story. 

DT: Ryan, this has obviously been a long journey, literally coming from obscurity to reaching a level of baseball that not many people attain. What words of advice can you give those that are struggling to reach their dream and believe their goals are unattainable? 

RL: Don’t let anyone tell you the words “you can’t”; for me personally I have had so many times where someone said I couldn’t and it motivated me to push that much harder. The mind is the strongest tool we possess and you can surprise yourself at what you are capable of. 

DT: Being a former professional, I never attained the same heights of experience that you have, but we both come from a country more known for hockey than baseball. Yet, Canada is really making a huge impact in the game and Toronto Blue Jays Brett Lawrie is really giving the Canadian fans something to talk about. What does your story mean for aspiring Canadian athletes looking to follow in your footsteps? 

RL: I just hope that I can be a positive influence to my fellow Canuck ball players. Hockey is a wonderful sport but for me baseball is as good as it gets. Stepping between the lines and leaving it all on the field is all I could ever ask for and I hope that many more Canadians get the opportunity to showcase their skills at the highest level. 

Here at the GM’s Perspective we greatly appreciate the time Mr. LaPensee has taken to talk to us. We wish him nothing but the best and look forward to seeing him in the MLB real soon. 

For those looking to follow Ryan’s journey to Arizona follow this link here. And those looking to contact Nello Gamberdino and NPG Sports please visit his website.

All photos by Ken Weisenberger

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on Twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here.

**Devon is available for hire or freelance opportunities**

Axford awarded Tuesday in Milwaukee & Votto awarded Thursday in Cincinnati

04/22/2012 8:27 PM - Devo
tip oneill trophy.jpgCeremonies slated prior to games

St. Marys - The Tip O'Neill Award will be awarded to the Milwaukee Brewers’ ace closer John Axford from Port Dover, Ontario and the Cincinnati Reds slugging first baseman Joey Votto from Etobicoke, Ontario during the week of April 23rd. The award will be presented to Axford and Votto in pre-game ceremonies in each of their home stadiums. Axford's award will be presented on Tuesday, April 24th in Milwaukee and Votto's award will be presented on Thursday, April 26th in Cincinnati.

The Tip O'Neill Award is presented annually by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame to the player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball’s highest ideals.

Axford led the Milwaukee Brewers to the playoffs with a National League leading 46 saves. He was awarded the 2011 National League Rolaids Relief Man Award. The 6’5”, 195-pounder’s single season save total ranks third in Canadian history, trailing only Eric Gagné, who saved 55 games in 2003 and 52 in 2002. The hard-throwing right-hander compiled a 1.95 ERA with 86 strikeouts, 25 walks, and 59 hits over 73 innings. He converted 46 of 48 save opportunities. In six playoff appearances, Axford had a win, three saves, struck out nine in seven innings, and landed a 1.29 ERA.

“This is sweet, really an honour!”, exclaimed Axford from his home in Ancaster, Ontario.

“Anytime you want to put my name in the company of Joey Votto, and the likes of Justin (Morneau) and Larry (Walker) [all past Tip O'Neill Award winners], you just go right ahead!”

Votto was a National League All-Star and Gold Glove winner who finished sixth in MVP voting. The 2010 National League MVP and Lou Marsh Award winner batted .309 and had 29 home runs, 72 extra base hits, and a Canadian record 110 bases on balls. The Cincinnati Reds marquee player led the National League in batting average on the road (.334) as well as batting average with runners in scoring position (.383), and led all MLB first basemen in games (160) and innings played, total chances, putouts, assists and was second in double plays. The left-handed slugger had 185 hits including a National League-leading 40 doubles, 103 RBI, scored 101 runs, and stole eight bases. He also amassed a slugging percentage of .531, an on-base percentage of .416, and a .947 OPS (9th best in the National League).

“It’s an honour to win a share of this award and be mentioned alongside such great Canadian baseball players as Larry Walker, Jason Bay, Justin Morneau, Eric Gagné, and John Axford,” said Votto from his Florida home.

“John and I are very proud to represent the Reds, Brewers and our country as Major League Baseball players, and we appreciate the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s recognition of our contributions to the game both individually and as part of a team.”

This is the third time in the award's history that it is being bestowed upon two recipients. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame's Director of Operations, Scott Crawford, states: "Based on the tremendous seasons both players had, it would have been unfair to choose one player over another. They both deserve the award for the excellence they displayed individually and for the significant contributions they both made to their respective teams. This is the correct result and I'm delighted to be presenting the award to two extremely deserving players."

The award is named after Woodstock, Ontario native James 'Tip' O'Neill, one of Major League baseball's first legitimate stars. With the St. Louis Browns in 1887, O'Neill amassed staggering statistics: .492 average, SLG-.691, Hits-225, Doubles-52, Triples-19, Homeruns-14, Total Bases-357, Runs-167 (4th all-time for a single season), RBI-123. The outfielder set major league records in hits, doubles, slugging percentage, and total bases that season while compiling his astounding .492 batting average. Bases on balls were included as hits in 1887, but if O'Neill's average was calculated by today's standard, it was .435, the second highest in major league history to Hugh Duffy (.438).

Past winners of the James "Tip" O'Neill Award:

1984-Terry Puhl

1985-Dave Shipanoff

1986-Rob Ducey

1987-Larry Walker

1988-Kevin Reimer

1989-Steve Wilson

1990-Larry Walker

1991-Daniel Brabant

1992-Larry Walker

1993-Rob Butler

1994-Larry Walker

1995-Larry Walker

1996-Jason Dickson

1997-Larry Walker

1998-Larry Walker

1999-Jeff Zimmerman

2000-Ryan Dempster

2001-Larry Walker (tie)

2001-Corey Koskie (tie)

2002-Larry Walker (tie)

2002-Eric Gagne (tie)

2003-Eric Gagne

2004-Jason Bay

2005-Jason Bay

2006-Justin Morneau

2007-Russell Martin

2008-Justin Morneau

2009-Jason Bay

2010-Joey Votto

2011-John Axford (tie)

2011-Joey Votto (tie)

Please Note: The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will induct Rusty Staub, Doug Melvin, Rheal Cormier and 2011 Team Canada National Senior Team on Saturday, June 23, 2012 on the Ceremonial Grounds in St. Marys, Ontario.

For more information please contact:

Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum
P.O. Box 1838, 140 Queen St. E.
St. Marys, ON, Canada, N4X 1C2
Tel: 519-284-1838, Toll Free: 1-877-250-BALL
Scott Crawford's email: scott@baseballhalloffame.ca
Web: www.baseballhalloffame.ca

MLB Draft on the horizon

04/20/2012 3:48 AM - Devo

2012 MLB Draft.pngMajor League Baseball has announced its 2012 Draft order, and along with that comes some well noted changes. 

With spending spiralling out of control at recent Drafts, and signing bonuses going through the roof, if has become evident that changes needed to be made to the system. 

Teams that were picking in the top five or ten, and who had very little cash to spare, were eliminated a lot of the time when it came to signing their pick. Unable to sign their guy, that prospect went undrafted or held out for more money at the suggestion of his agent. Compensation for failure to sign high picks usually meant that you could re-pick in the same slot the next year (plus one). 

This year MLB has literally put a halt to spending and wants to try and level the playing field by introducing “Signing Bonus Pools”. 

According to MLB.com, “the earlier a team picks, the larger the pool...the range of the Signing Bonus Pool for Draft picks is from $4.5 million to $11.5 million. The size of the pools will standardize more from club to club after next year's class of free agents. The size of the pools will depend on the number of picks a club has in a given year and where those picks fall each round. The club picking No. 1 overall -- in 2012, that's the Astros -- will have the largest pool to draw from.” 

Additional penalties are now involved if teams go over their slot bonus, such as forfeiting Draft picks the next year, depending on how far above the pool a team goes. The Astros are slotted with the first pick, they might not have any issues when it comes inking their “superstar”. 

And instead of the usual 50 rounds, this years Draft will consist of 40 rounds. Each team will have the ability to pass on their selection without having to forfeit their participation in the following rounds. 

What makes this years Draft special is the multiple first-round picks held by four teams. 

The Toronto Blue Jays will pick 17th and 22nd, followed by the St. Louis Cardinals at 19 and 23. Boston, who looks like they will need to replenish their minor league system after their disastrous start, picks at 24 and 31 and Milwaukee rounds it out with the 27th and 28th picks. 

In typical Oakland Athletic style, teams (St. Louis and Toronto) that already have what looks like an unlimited supply of minor league talent, have five of the first 60 picks. 

The Draft takes place June 4 through June 6 and all happenings can be seen on the MLB Network and MLB.com beginning at 7 p.m. 

For what it’s worth, you really should watch the first-round at least. This year, each team will be represented by one its former players or a member of the front office.  It’s doesn’t get the hype or is as flashy as it’s NFL or NBA counterparts, but it’s fascinating and I highly recommend tuning in.   

Courtesy of MLB.com, you can view the complete draft order here.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on Twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here.

**Devon is available for hire or freelance opportunities**