This week in September marks the one year anniversary of Billy Beane’s visit to Nashville to sign a 4-year player development contract with the Nashville Sounds. On the same day, the Athletics’ GM stopped by the construction site of First Tennessee Park.
In a recent conversation with the Wall Street Journal’s Brian Costa, Beane was joined by sabermetrics pioneer Bill James to discuss the general acceptance of, and thirst for, big data analytics in baseball and beyond.
The biggest new discovery Beane hopes to glean from analytics is data on player health and injury risks, saying “It’s a challenge because if you’re using a lot of data, there are certain restrictions on how much you can collect data [on players’ medical history], so you’re sort of straddling that line a little bit. But ultimately, I think we will make progress at some point, and the foundation of that will be analytics.”
Beane goes on to say that healthcare industries are even getting in on the analytics game, striving for some of the same answers in regards to topics of health.
Since the publication of Money Ball by Michael Lewis in 2003, the baseball community has really come to embrace analytics and it’s commonplace to for baseball broadcasts to reference OBP, SLG, OPS and WHIP. Even stats like WAR and BABIP are starting to becoming more mainstream.
Flash back to the contract signing last September, the prospect of analytics driving the Sounds was an exciting pursuit and one that Beane told The Tennessean to expect: “We consider winning at [Triple-A] as a major part of the relationship (with the Sounds), a major part of development. It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing to do it.”
And while Oakland and Nashville both struggled in 2015, the organization’s lower levels flourished. See two-time Texas League Champions Double-A Midland and Single-A Stockton, who also had a deep postseason run, as a precursor to witnessing ‘money ball’ click in Nashville.
Related Links: Oakland Athletics Top 30 Prospects
Take a good, long look at the faces pictured above because you may recognize a few in April.
These smiling winners are the 2015 Midland RockHounds of the Double-A Texas League, who successfully defended their Texas League title from 2014 by completing the sweep of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals on Friday night.
For those unfamiliar with the Sounds hierarchy in Minor League Baseball, Nashville rests at the Triple-A level (one step below the majors), and receives the majority of its talent from Double-A. When the Sounds changed affiliations to the Athletics in the offseason of 2014, the RockHounds (who have been an A’s partner since 1999) started flying their promoted players to Nashville.
All that said: the future talent of the Sounds looks promising.
In their last 54 games, the RockHounds went 40-14 for a winning percentage of .741. Just in their 6-1 postseason run, Midland hit .301 as a team with a 3.34 ERA. Frequent 2015 Sounds utilityman Anthony Aliotti was among the RockHounds’ top postseason hitters, posting a .407 average (11-for-27) with 5 runs, 3 doubles and 4 RBI.
Other RockHounds highlights include pitcher Parker Frazier’s complete game three-hit shutout in Game 3 of the Championship Series, and outfielder Jaycob Brugman’s four-game HR-streak. More Midland postseason notes here.
Up one level, the Triple-A postseason will come to an end on Tuesday night in El Paso, as the PCL’s Fresno Grizzlies take on the IL’s Columbus Clippers in the GILDAN Triple-A National Championship Game at 7:05 (CT).
Though the Sounds inaugural season at First Tennessee Park officially ended on September 7, the team’s parent club — the Oakland Athletics — continues to make multiple call ups to test their farm talent in the big leagues. But no call up has been more anticipated than that of the 2002 Cy Young award winner Barry Zito, who was selected by Oakland today to fill the spot left by the DL-bound Jesse Chavez.
Zito, who will have to put his Music City song-writing on hold, last pitched at the major league level for the San Francisco Giants nearly two years ago on September 29, 2013. With today’s transaction, he becomes the 24th non-rehab Sounds player to receive a call-up this season.
After posting an 8-7 record with a 3.46 ERA (53er/138ip) in 24 games with Nashville, the opportunity to pitch with Oakland again is well deserved for the veteran who spent his first eight seasons in the organization. Additionally, the lefty twirled 91 strikeouts for the Sounds in 2015 and picked up a Pitcher of the Week Award for May 24-June 1.
The Athletics, with Zito in tow, take on the White Sox tonight at 7:10 and will return to Oakland next Tuesday.
With only six games left in August, the Sounds offense is having their best month statistically.
The knocks kept coming in last night’s 7-4 win over the Aces. Over the first three games of the series, Nashville has outhit Reno 46-22. Brent Morel pounded out three hits, Tyler Ladendorf drove in two and hit his first triple of the season and Jason Pridie and Craig Gentry both had two hits. Joey Wendle’s 37th double of the season in the first inning also pushed his hitting streak to nine games.
Nashville is 14-10 in August due in large part to its .297 team average and 16 home runs. They have also plated more runs (113) than any other month and have a .427 slugging percentage.
The Sounds finalize their four-game series with the Aces tonight and proceed on to Tacoma to play the Rainiers for four beginning Thursday.
Eight of the nine players in the Sounds lineup had a multi-hit contest, with Brent Morel leading the way. Morel smashed a game-high four hits, scoring three runs in the process. Tyler Ladendorf, Joey Wendle and Bryan Anderson also aided the offense with multi-RBI affairs. The 21 hits were the most the Sounds have had in a game this season, eclipsing the past total of 19 (April 10 at Colorado Springs).
The offensive output overshadowed a terrific start from Aaron Brooks. The right-hander earned his first win as a Sound, delivering seven innings of one-run ball with just 82 pitches. He struck out eight for his seventh PCL victory this season.
The Sounds are looking for their fifth straight win tonight in the 9:05 p.m. CST contest at Aces Ballpark.
The Sounds received impact efforts from Joey Wendle and Jason Pridie on Friday night, beating Albuquerque 5-1 in front of a sold-out First Tennessee Park.
Wendle and Pridie are two of a handful of players who have spent the entire 2015 campaign in Nashville. Wendle is pacing all PCL hitters with 145 hits this season, raising his batting average to .285. The second baseman has played 121 games, which is tied for the most in the league, and added 49 extra-base hits.
Pridie blasted his 17th home run in the victory, driving in three runs and also swiping his 20th base. The outfielder is on the cusp of entering the exclusive 20-20 club, needing just three home runs to accomplish the feat. The last Sounds player to join the 20-20 ranks was J.J. Davis, when he hit 26 bombs and stole 23 bases in 2003.
The Sounds conclude an eight-game homestand tonight against Albuquerque with a 6:35 p.m. contest.
Despite an extra-inning, 5-4 loss to the Cubs on Thursday night, the Sounds are riding some hot bats in the month of July.
Nate Freiman has been a completely different hitter since the All-Star break. In the last 13 games, the 28-year-old is hitting .306 (17-for-56) and has posted at least one RBI in five of his last six games. He posted his second three-hit game of the season last night and added a double as well.
Joey Wendle has taken rest from the All-Star break to bust out as well. With another two-hit game on Thursday, Wendle has posted multi-hit efforts in seven of his last 10 contests. In those 10 games, the second baseman has seven extra-base hits and eight runs scored.
Jason Pridie has cooled off a bit, but has still clobbered the ball during the month. He has hit eight home runs and driven in 23, adding four stolen bases too. Pridie collected his 69th RBI of the season on Thursday, tied for sixth most in the PCL.
Nashville concludes its eight-game homestand tonight at 7:05 p.m. Get to First Tennessee Park early for a blanket giveaway.
In an ongoing attempt to honor the rich history of Sulphur Dell, the Sounds renamed the street address of First Tennessee Park to that of Junior Gilliam Way during a special pre-game ceremony. Gilliam was a popular icon who played baseball at Sulphur Dell during the 1940’s before making his mark in the MLB with the Dodgers. His number 19 is one of five numbers the Los Angeles Dodgers have retired. Mayor Karl Dean, Sounds Owner Frank Ward and several others were on hand for the special presentation. Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully even made an appearance on the guitar-shaped scoreboard.
Jason Pridie is having a month to remember.
The 31-year-old represented the Sounds during the Triple-A All-Star Game in Nebraska on July 15, posting a pair of singles, scoring a run and playing all nine innings in the outfield.
“It’s a nice acknowledgement that I’m playing the game at a high level, playing the game I want to play and still getting results to help the team win,” Pridie said of his third different All-Star selection.
Outside of the All-Star Game, Pridie has been raking Pacific Coast League pitching. In 18 games during July, the slugger has a 1.260 OPS, a league-leading eight home runs, 20 RBIs, 14 runs scored and a .364 average (24-for-66). The OPS, which has been helped by 13 extra-base hits and eight walks, is the third-best mark among all full season minor league players in July. In addition, Pridie has homered in three straight games.
After losing on a walk-off single on Wednesday, the Sounds are trying to take three of four from Colorado Springs tonight at 8:05 p.m. CST.
In three games since returning from the All-Star break, Nashville has played in extra innings twice and recorded walk-off wins in a pair of games at First Tennessee Park.
After his single gave the Sounds a walk-off win on Friday night, Niuman Romero had the opportunity to create pandemonium once again on Saturday night.
He did not disappoint.
Omaha issued an intentional walk with one out in the 10th inning, loading the bases for the Sounds’ infielder. Romero never got the chance to get the big hit this time, but instead had the ball hit his leg. As he limped down to first base and Jason Pridie jogged home, the crowd at First Tennessee Park was sent home happy for a second straight night.
Romero was not the only Sounds’ infielder to end a game on Saturday. Andy Parrino, who is currently on Nashville’s temporary inactive list, has been playing for Team USA in the Pan Am Games since the start of July. The USA squad found themselves down 5-1 at one point, but had battled back to pull it even in the ninth. With a runner on second base and two outs, Parrino took care of the rest.