Wooden's World of Baseball

Sunday, July 27, 2008

An all-time Indy great, Vic Davilla

It's been nearly a year since I last wrote about anything related to the North Shore Spirit, but it's nice to see that some of the old-time Spirit (guys I saw day-to-day from 2003 to 2005) are continuing to play ball.

Today, I'd like to write about one of the all-time greats, Vic Davilla. If there ever is an Independent Baseball Hall of Fame, Vic would have to be in the first class, along with Eddie Lantigua and Joel Bennett. He is the very reason why anybody should fall in love with independent baseball, as he plays because that's what he is: A ballplayer.

Vic's story is a lot like most independent guys. He grew up in the Bronx and went to Westchester Community college. The Toronto Blue Jays took a chance on him in as a 20-year-old in 1993 and assigned him to the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .302 with 2 HRs and 20 RBI in 50 games - good enough to earn him a promotion to low-A Hagerstown the following year.

That turned out to be Vic's worst season as a pro, hitting a career-low .244 in 77 games with an OBP of just .298 also a career-low. Vic would spend the next two seasons in the high-A Florida State League, and while his numbers improved they just weren't good enough for a 24-year-old utility guy and he was released following the 1996 season.

Vic began his independent career in 1997 with the Adirondack Lumberjacks. The average began to steadily rise, and the power began to come on. His break out year came in 2000 while with the Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs of the Northeast League (the predecessor to the Can-Am league).

The thing to keep in mind with independent baseball is that most teams play about 90 games. So if you're looking to translate them to a long-season format, the quickest way to do it is to multiply by a factor of 1.6 - which makes Vic's 2000 campaign look like this:

.334 BA, 35 doubles, 8 triples, 16HR, 96RBI and 93 runs scored.

Over the next seven seasons, Vic would "average" (by the math above) .320BA, 98 runs scored, 157 hits, 32 doubles, 2 triples, 26HR and 105RBI for a 140-game season. He was an all-star nearly every year during this span and was the Can-Am League player of the year in 2006, which ostensibly earned him the promotion to the manager of the North Shore Spirit for the 2007 campaign.

Vic says 2008 will be it for him. It may very well be, considering that he's been released twice due to the roster restrictions that make it tough for a team to carry a veteran player if he's not in a given "slot," though Vic has been able to play his usual corner IF and LF positions.

His production is still as good as ever: In 15 games with the New Jersey Jackals, he hit .279 with a HR and 15RBI. In 5 games with the Brockton Rox, he hit .364 with 4 doubles and 6 RBI. And since the Wichita Wingnuts picked him a little less than two weeks ago, he's hit .324 with 2 HR and 6RBI in just 9 games.

Unfortunately, Wichita trails in the standing by 5 games with less than three weeks to go. Vic's chances of winning a championship, which seemed so certain from 2004 to 2007, may be fading fast. But if there's anyone who will run it out and not throw in the towel, it's Vic.

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A little side note. It appears I've been banned by the folks at Nationals Farm Authority after a private exchange by e-mail over a public chastising by administrator John P. Yuda. It's not the first time I've been banned from a forum and it probably won't be the last, but if you're reading this and would like to campaign on my behalf, I'd like to invite you to e-mail him at the following e-mail addresses:




Sunday, July 20, 2008

Credit Where Credit Is Due, Redux

The continuing saga of Ross Detwiler...

Since my last post, Ross has actually pitched even better than that night two-plus weeks ago, throwing 6 innings of shutout ball against Wilmington on the 9th with just a walk and 5 strikeouts. The next start was a little more prototypical, except that he faced 29 batters -- three more than his previous career high -- but did allow five runs on nine hits while walking four.

Last night, I girded myself for either outcome. Instead, I kind of got both. Ross struggled with his control, giving up four bases by walk or hit batsmen (two of each). Much like on the 3rd, Ross seemed to have difficulty locating anything except his curveball.

But twice last night, Ross bore down went it mattered most and minimized the damage, allowing single runs in the 2nd and 4th innings. A month ago, I think it would probably would have been 5-0, with Ross hitting the showers after no more than four innings. And that's progress.

Unfortunately for Mr. Detwiler, the opposing moundsman, Anthony Watson, was "on" last night. He no-hit the Nationals for all of seven innings of his work, walking two and striking out eight. In what would make most old-timers furious, he was presumably lifted due to the pitch count, though I was unable to find any mention of what it was in any writeup or boxscore.

I'm still not sold on Ross Detwiler, and continue to wince at the (numerous) apologists but on and offline, but I'm no longer dreading the nights he pitches. And maybe, just maybe, I'll get to see the kind of night that everybody claims he's capable of.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Credit Where Credit Is Due

My disappointment—some might say disdain—with Ross Detwiler may have taken a turn last night.

Now the line last night was pretty mediocre:

6+IP, 8H, 4R, 4ER, 1HR, 1BB, 4K, 27BF, 6GO, 8FO

But, take away the first two innings...

4IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 0HR, 1BB, 1K, 14BF, 4GO, 7FO

There's a common misconception that lots of strikeouts means that a pitcher was "dominant." But this is why seeing things first hand is invaluable. And this was the first time I saw Ross do the mature thing and go with what was working when the time came. So instead of trying to overpower guys, he pitched to bad contact, though a lot of the outs throughout the night were hard and "at 'em."

The talk of the alteration of Detwiler's mechanics is now apparent to me. I was watching for it and when Ross missed it was usually up and/or away. His windup also seemed a little slower and more deliberate than usual. It appeared to my semi-trained eye that he was trying to feel for the "correct" release point, resulting in some "rainbow" curveballs and lower velocity.

But it did get better as the night progressed, and despite his wildness, there were no batters hit or diving to get out of the way. In fact, Detwiler seemed to be able to command inside quite well, enough to keep batters honest. And he was able to snap off a couple of nice 12-6 curves (side note: if the Pelicans' Scott Diamond manages to harness his breaking pitches, he'll be a name to remember).

And as I've posted previously here and elsewhere, while he pitched to just one batter in the 7th, it was the first time that he had pitched more than six innings in his professional career and the most batters he had faced in any game. This is the progress that I've been waiting to see.