Daily Archives: January 19, 2012

Jordan Comadena Interview: Funky Astros Catching Prospect

Thursday January 19, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: We welcome today to MLB reports: Jordan Comadena, Astros catching prospect. If you know Jordan well, then just call him Funky. With the last name Comadena- how could you not? But besides having one of the best nicknames in the business, Jordan is also busting his behind to make his baseball dreams come true. After playing for Purdue, Jordan signed with the Astros and played his first professional season in 2009.  Now heading in 2012, Jordan is looking forward to the upcoming season and the opportunities that lie ahead.  From the bat that he swings to the strangest autographs that he has signed, get into the mind of a baseball prospect- as we chat exclusively with Jordan Comadena. Playing for a young organization in search of its next big league players, Jordan Comadena is looking to move up the Astros ladder.  Today we learn what he will need to do to get there.  After a breakout 2011 campaign, we look forward to tracking Jordan’s progress this season as he continues his baseball journey.  For the life and times of the man they call Funky, I proudly present my interview with Jordan Comadena:

MLB reports:  First question:  You play professional baseball for a living.  Has that sunk in yet?

Jordan Comadena:  This offseason I am preparing for my fourth professional season. So at this point in my career I have a nice routine- and the fact that I am playing baseball for a living has certainly sunk in.  I have a good feel for my body and I have learned how to manage the offseason and get myself into the best shape possible to report to spring training.


MLB reports:  What is your brand choice for bat and glove/catching gear?

Jordan Comadena:  I swing a 33 inch 31 oz J155 made by DS Wood Bats.  They are a newer company to Major League Baseball (within the last 2 years).  The founder of the company is a very good friend of mine that I played baseball with at Purdue University.  They make a great product and they have been very accommodating to me over the last couple years.  As long as I am playing, I will be swinging DS.  As far as other equipment, I love the All Star system 7 catchers gear and I use an All Star CM3000BT catchers mitt.  When I play outfield or any other position, all my gloves are made by Rawlings.  (I really like Franklin batting gloves as well, I wear them at the plate).


MLB reports:  Did you have a favorite player growing up?

Jordan Comadena:  When I was very young my favorite player was Andy Van Slyke of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  My parents are from western PA, so I have always been a huge Pittsburgh sports fan and he was certainly my favorite growing up.  As I got to high school and I primarily played catcher, I really enjoyed watching MLB games on TV and I tried to really focus on the catcher.  I loved just watching how they received the ball and how they moved around behind the plate.  I especially enjoyed watching Javy Lopez, Eddie Perez and Mike Matheny.  I tried to emulate them and use parts of their game and make myself better.

 

MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Jordan Comadena:  I currently enjoy watching Koyie Hill catch because I feel like we are very similar behind the plate.  He’s not an overly big guy and he is primarily used in a back up role, much like I am.  I also really like watching Dustin Pedroia.  He is an undersized guy who works really hard and plays the game every day with everything he’s got.  He has always had to prove people wrong and I like that about him.  I have faced that same kind of skepticism throughout my career as well and I will continue to have a lot of people think that I can’t make it.  I use that as motivation to prove them wrong.


MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2012 season?

Jordan Comadena:  First of all I want to have a very productive spring training and continue to show everyone that I can play at any level.  In my opinion, my spring training performance has been better each of the last three years and I expect this year to be the best one yet.  As for the season, my goal is to make the AA roster out of camp and go there and contribute to that team.  I feel like I have a lot to offer as a baseball player and if given that opportunity, I will certainly make the most of it.  Last season I played more outfield than I caught- so I hope that I am able to do more of that this year.  Ideally, I would like to be able to help a team by playing some corner outfield, some first base and catch.  I caught sparingly in college.  I primarily played in the outfield and I played a lot of first base in summer ball in the Northwoods League.  I feel very confident in my abilities to play any of those positions at a high level.

 

MLB reports:  You joined the Astros organization in 2009.  Tell us about that process.

Jordan Comadena:  Like I stated earlier, I played my college ball at Purdue University (2005-2008) and I played my summer ball in Madison Wisconsin (2005-2007) as a member of the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League.  I played four years at Purdue and three summers in Madison.  Throughout my time in Madison, I had a lot of success and was a key contributor to three good teams.  I was even fortunate enough to have my number 14 retired by the Mallards during the summer of 2008.

I had an up and down freshman and sophomore year and Purdue but my junior season I got off to a terrific start and was hitting the ball as well as I ever had.  I hit in the leadoff spot and I was hitting for a high average as well as for power.  I was always on base and I had five home runs (18 extra base hits) in the first month of the season.  During our spring trip at Purdue, I broke the hamate bone in my left hand taking a swing.  For the next 2-3 weeks, I tried to play through it. But the pain got worse and worse and I was forced to have surgery.  I missed roughly the last 40 games of the season.  I got healthy and had my best year in Wisconsin.  My senior year at Purdue was very frustrating and I was never able to regain the rhythm I had the previous year.  As the season came to an end I was hoping that my total body of work, including what I had accomplished in Madison, was enough for someone to take a chance on me in the draft.  

The 2008 MLB draft came and went without my name being called and to say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  Playing professional baseball is all I have ever wanted to do and being drafted by a team would have been a dream come true.  With that not being the case, I immediately started calling and contacting anyone and everyone that I knew with a connection in professional baseball.  I was hoping that I could sign on that summer as a free agent.  I called everyone that I could think of and I even worked out for a couple of independent teams but no one wanted to sign me.  As August approached I decided to stop trying and get ready for my final semester at Purdue.  I would keep myself in shape and pursue signing with someone over the winter.  

Every year at the end of August the Madison Mallards host an alumni game where a number of former Mallards players come back to town and play in a friendly game for the fans.  Mallards players dating back to the team’s first year in 2001 are in attendance and mixed in with a number of former MLB stars from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.  Steve Schmitt, the Mallards owner, knows a lot of people throughout baseball and puts this event together for the fans.  During my time in Madison we would average around 7,000 people in the stands every night.  Even this alumni game got about 4,000 people in the stadium.  At first, when I was invited to participate in this event I was apprehensive about going because I did not want to be bothered by people asking me why I wasn’t playing professionally anywhere.  After being a fan favorite for three summers, I was a little embarrassed to return to Madison in this capacity.  But I took into account everything that the Mallards had done for me and I felt like I owed it to the front office staff to show up and be a part of the festivities.   

I played shortstop during the game and went 2-3 with 2 doubles and 4 RBI.  I hit doubles off Vida Blue and Blue Moon Odom respectively. After the game, in which I was named the MVP, I was approached by former Colt .45 and Houston Astros star Jimmy Wynn.  He was in attendance that night and took time out of his day to come talk to me.  He asked me why I wasn’t playing anywhere and I expressed to him how I very much wanted to continue my baseball career.  He was very friendly and told me that night that he would talk to the Astros on my behalf.  I was very gracious.  Despite everything we talked about that night I did not really expect anything to come of it.  Over the course of the next few months, he and I corresponded via e-mail and he did tell me that the Astros were interested.  In the interim, I had signed a contract with an independent team, the Gary Rail Cats of the Northern League.  January of 2009 rolled around and I got a call form the Astros scouting department saying that they had talked with Jimmy Wynn and the Mallards front office staff.  The Houston Astros wanted to sign me and bring me to spring training.  They asked me that night what position I wanted to play and I told them I wanted to catch.  Despite not really catching in college, I knew that was something I could do and I felt like it would provide me with the best opportunity to win a spot somewhere.


MLB reports:  You just finished your third full professional season, playing mainly for Lancaster.  How did you find your season overall?

Jordan Comadena:  Overall, for the opportunity that I was given, I felt like it was very productive.  When I was in the lineup I played very well and the fact that I showed I could do more than just catch was an added bonus.  At one point in the summer I had an 8-game hitting streak and was arguably our hottest hitter.

 

MLB reports:  You showed great improvement in 2011- you were really able to put it together.  What changed last year?

Jordan Comadena:  I think a big key this year was simply just being a year older and more experienced.  I didn’t try to do too much at the plate.  I tried to keep things as simple as possible and really look for good pitches to hit.  Another key, honestly, was going back to a 33 inch bat and sticking with the same model all year.  I went back to the same bat that I swung in Madison in college.  For some reason I had gotten away from that model bat.  I went back to it and it really felt good in my hands.  From now on, I will only swing that kind of bat.


MLB reports:  You have played mainly at the catcher position in your career.  However, you did play the outfield quite a bit in 2011. Why the change in position and is either the outfield or catcher your long-term position?

Jordan Comadena:  We had some injuries in the outfield last season and it got to a point where we needed someone to fill in out there for a little bit.  I expressed to the coaching staff that I played outfield throughout college and I won a mini tryout against a couple other players on the team for the opportunity to play in the outfield.  I view myself as a baseball player who happens to be able to play the catcher position.  I am able to play a number of different positions and I hope that as my career goes on, I am able to continue to do that.  Catchers are often negatively labeled as un-athletic and not able to run well.  I take offense to that stereotype as I do not fit that description.  I think of myself as baseball player, capable of taking on whatever is put in front of me.


MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?

Jordan Comadena:  I am not the kind of player that would turn a bunch of heads at a private workout. But I do feel that I play the game the right way and I can do a number of things well.  I can handle the bat and execute different situations that come up throughout the course of the game.  I have also had a very high success rate getting sac bunts down in my career.  I take pride in playing the game the right way and doing all the little things well.  Defensively, I feel like I am reliable in that where ever I am on the field the team will not miss a beat.  I have always had a good rapport with the pitchers I have worked with and I know that they enjoy throwing to me.  As a reserve player, my main goal when I am in the lineup is to have a positive impact on the game in some fashion.  


MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Jordan Comadena:  Every player at every level should always be working on something.  I am always trying to improve my arm strength and improve my catch and throw abilities behind the plate.  I try to do something in early work everyday to make myself better.  It’s part of my routine in getting myself ready to play.


MLB reports:  What do you need to do in order to be successful in this game?

Jordan Comadena:  I would say the most important thing is have a good mental approach everyday.  You need to be able to stay within yourself and not try to do too much.  Stay within yourself and play the game you are expected to play.  Trying to do more than you are capable of will only get you off your game.  Keep things simple and make the most of every day.  

 

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues?

Jordan Comadena:  Well it’s kind of hard for me to answer this question- simply because I have not had a season in which I have had more than 100 at-bats.  I do however, truly believe that if I were to get 200-250 at-bats in a season- I could do a lot with those at-bats and move up in the organization.  I feel like if I were to get that many at-bats per year over the next couple years, I could make it to the big leagues.   


MLB reports:  When did you sign your first autograph?  What is the strangest autograph request that you have ever had?

Jordan Comadena:  I really started signing a lot of autographs when I played summer ball in Madison.  We would get thousands of fans every night and they would want us to sign anything they could get their hands on.  I would say the strangest request was signing someone’s shoe.  Taking a shoe straight off their foot and having me sign it.  I would always say, “Are you sure you want me to sign the top of your shoe?”  You would see a little bit of everything up there.


MLB reports:  Funky Comadena – ever get that nickname before?

Jordan Comadena:  From the first day I showed up at spring training in 2009 ,I have been known throughout the Astros organization as Funky.  Obviously it works very well given my last name… and I do like the nickname.  I have Funky written on my batting gloves, bats, shoes and all my undergarments.  Pretty much everything I have in my locker is labeled with the nickname.

And yes, at various points throughout my life I have heard people refer to me with that nickname. But it wasn’t until 2009 that the nickname really stuck.


MLB reports:  Final Thoughts?

Jordan Comadena:  Thank you very much for allowing me to do this for you guys.  It’s been a lot of fun.  I hope everyone enjoys reading this!


***Thank you to Jordan Comadena for taking the time today to speak with us on MLB reports (and the pictures used in todays’ feature)!  You can follow Jordan on Twitter (@Funky2414). Please feel free to send Jordan any questions/comments you have- he would love to hear from his fans!***

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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Yu Better Believe It: Darvish to the Rangers

Thursday January 19th, 2012

Sam Evans: Last night, the Texas Rangers finally agreed to a contract with Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. The Rangers, who won the bidding to exclusively negotiate with Darvish last month, are acquiring a talented young starting pitcher. They definitely didn’t pay a small price for Darvish. We shall see if it was a worthy investment in the years to come.

Yesterday was the last day of bartering between the two sides. If Darvish and the Rangers could not come to terms on a contract, then Darvish would have pitched in Japan for the upcoming year. Luckily, they came to an agreement and we will see Darvish in the major leagues this year.

After the Rangers paid $51.7 million to negotiate with Darvish, it became clear that Darvish wasn’t going to come cheap. Darvish signed a 6-year, $60 million contract, making him the fourth highest paid player on the Rangers. In total, the Rangers are paying over $110 million for Darvish. On the other hand, C.J. Wilson who showed a desire to stay in Texas, wasn’t offered a contract. He ended up signing with the Angels for 5-years, $77.5 million.

One thing Yu Darvish has shown in Japan is the ability to carry a heavy workload. Darvish has pitched over two hundred innings in Japan every year for the last five years. Unlike other aspects of the game, an inning in Japan is the exact same thing as an inning in the majors. Conversely, I’m worried about the quality of hitters Darvish will be facing in North American. Japanese professional baseball is often compared to Triple-A. Both are considered to be leagues with hitters who don’t rely as much on scouting reports and can be overwhelmed with a fastball. In the majors, Darvish is going to have to deal with advanced scouting watching every game he pitches, and then analyzing and finding a way for opposing hitters to beat Darvish.

In my opinion, it’s crazy that the Rangers are paying this much for a player who has never even pitched in the minor leagues. This is a huge risk that the Rangers have shown that they’re willing to take. Personally, I would rather have C.J. Wilson for thirty million dollars less. Darvish should be a successful pitcher in the major leagues. His awesome array of pitches will likely baffle Major League hitters this year. Not to mention, the shuuto he throws will be something that most MLB hitters have never seen. Nevertheless, the Rangers are paying Darvish thirty million more than Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, and Chris Carpenter.

With his contract, Darvish will have to be an immediate ace for the Texas rotation in order to be worth the money. If I were the Rangers, I’d rather have used that money to go after Prince Fielder and sign him to a short-term deal. Fielder would be a bigger upgrade for the Rangers at first base over Mitch Moreland than Darvish will be over say, Alexi Ogando. The Rangers could have possibly signed Fielder to a 3-year deal, and brought in a veteran pitcher like Roy Oswalt to fill out the rotation. The Rangers would have had a much superior team than they will have with just Darvish… for the same price. I’m not doubting Texas GM Jon Daniels, but I think the Rangers might have gotten a little bit carried away in the Darvish extravaganza.  Besides his on-field performance, the Rangers are betting that between international merchandise sales and marketing exposure, Darvish will literally pay  himself.  Time will tell on that one.

For 2012, the Rangers will be looking to compete with the Angels to take the AL West. While the Angels overall roster has a slight edge on the Rangers, Texas has enough minor league talent to go and acquire a star first basemen at the trade deadline if Prince does not come aboard. Overall, Rangers fans should not be worried about the Darvish contract. The Rangers may have overpaid, but Darvish will bring youth and potential to a Rangers rotation that needs it. If everything goes well, the Rangers will have six years of Darvish to keep them continually in the running for a World Series title.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Batting Average and Earned Run Average: Are They Still Useful Baseball Stats?

Wednesday January 18th, 2012

 

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): Just as baseball cards have become outdated, so too are the statistics that many of us memorized on the backs of those same cards as kids. The statistics that I am referring to are the generic stats used to measure a player’s success, particularly batting average for hitters and earned run average (ERA) for pitchers. Sabermetrics has taught us that there are better methods to more measure a player’s worth or success on the diamond. Far too often, numbers like ERA or batting average are skewed and do not accurately depict a player’s true level of skill.

However, batting average and ERA are statistics that are fixtures in the game, particularly in fantasy baseball. They are used to define players and probably will continue to do so. For those of us in standard 5X5 Roto Leagues, batting average and ERA account for two essential categories.

In 500 at bats, the difference between a .250 and .300 hitter is 25 hits. With six months in a season (approximately 24 weeks), that comes to about 1 hit per week. I repeat, one hit per week! I think I first heard this statistic from Major League I. Remember the old catcher with the bad knees, Jake Taylor?

If you have ever watched baseball, you know how much luck can play a factor. A guy can hit the ball on the screws four times- yet make four outs… but just as easily, getting three hits without hitting the ball out of the infield. Likewise, a pitcher’s ERA can be entirely skewed based on circumstances beyond their control. Therefore, I introduce to you two sabermetric statistics that are key in determining a player’s “true” batting average and ERA.

According to Fangraphs, Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) “measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a give time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.”

The equation for FIP: ((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP-IBB))-(2*K))/IP + constant

XFIP takes it even a step further by replacing a pitcher’s homerun rate with the league average (10.6% HR/FB), since this statistic is subject to high volatility.

Considering the above, Fielding Independent Pitching and Expected Fielding Independent Pitching are great determinants for what a pitcher’s ERA should be. It can tell you if a player is overachieving or perhaps pitching better than their ERA might indicate. This is the key to fantasy baseball. Target the guys who have FIP’s lower than their actual ERA and sell high on the pitcher who’s FIP is much higher than their actual ERA. By no means is the stat perfect, but it certainly gives you insight into a player’s performance and is a better indicator of future success than ERA alone.

For batters, the key statistic in determining batting average is Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), which according to Fangraphs “While typically around 30% of all balls in play fall for hits, there are three main variables that can affect BABIP rates for individual players: defense, luck, and changes in talent level.”

The average BABIP for players is between .290 and .310, although some hitters can maintain a much higher level. For example, Ichiro Suzuki has maintained a career BABIP of .351, well above the league average. Therefore, you can look at a player’s BABIP to see how well they are actually doing at the plate. Buy low on a guy whose BAPIP is thirty points lower than his career total. Chances are his batting average is suffering and he is a good buy-low candidate. The lower BAPIP indicates that has a victim of bad luck. Likewise, the guy who is sporting a .400 BAPIP simply cannot maintain that level and will see a major regression to the mean. In this case: sell, sell, sell!

A perfect BAPIP example is Austin Jackson, who exploded onto the fantasy scene as a rookie in 2010. With a .293 batting average and good speed, he was an attractive young player with a rising stock. However, his.293 batting average in 2010 coincided with a .396 BABIP. We know Jackson is not Ichiro (.351 BAPIP) and therefore we had to expect a major regression in 2011. Sure enough, his BAPIP dropped to .340 (still well above the league average) and as result, he finished the season with a .249 average. Therefore, I would not touch Jackson with a ten-foot pole in most leagues, at least not until he can cut down his strikeout rates and put the ball in play on a more consistent basis. Although he has proven he can produce a hit more often than most when he makes contact, he simply does not make enough contact at this point in his career to be a .300 hitter.

The young guns are generally the guys who are most difficult to read. With the veterans, you at least have their career BAPIP to use as a reference. However, do not be afraid to look at the minor league stats, which usually prove to be solid enough indicators. At the same time, never take too much stock in minor league numbers and make a hitter prove himself at the major league level.

Overall, stats like FIP and BAPIP are really just cheats for your fantasy baseball league. Batting average and ERA are statistics that are so deep-rooted that they will most likely be used forever to define a player’s success and as a result, will continue to be used in fantasy baseball. However, do not look at ERA and batting average to value a player and trying to predict their future ERA and batting average. FIP and BAPIP give you a more accurate story and are better indicators for future success- by at least attempting to eliminate the many variables that exist in the wonderful game of baseball.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

 Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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