Vinnie Vincent Invasion was an ’80s hair band led by a former KISS guitarist named, as fate would have it, Vinnie Vincent. I’ve mentioned this before, but I once saw them open for Iron Maiden at Long Beach Arena. Pink amplifiers everywhere.

I’m still traumatized, thanks for asking.

Nick Vincent, on the other hand, is a reliever for the Padres. He traumatizes right-handed batters.

We’ll save the how and why for some other day. For now, let’s all revel in the glory that is Vincent. Here are pitchers with the lowest opponent OPS by right-handed hitters over 2013-2014, minimum 200 plate appearances (thanks, as always, to Baseball-Reference’s Play Index):

Player PA BA OBP SLG BB K
Craig Kimbrel 237 .125 .226 .188 24 87
Nick Vincent 231 .162 .199 .227 8 78
Greg Holland 217 .164 .218 .224 14 95
Jeurys Familia 203 .155 .251 .207 22 60
José Fernández 419 .163 .212 .258 22 135

First off, Fernández is a freak, or at least was before his injury. For baseball’s sake, here’s hoping he gets well soon.

Second, Vincent is sandwiched between two elite closers. It sort of makes you wonder if he might also be closer material. I mean, really, what’s the difference between Kimbrel, Vincent, and Holland?

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Sometimes it’s fun to revisit places we’ve been. It’s good to see how the world has changed, how we have changed. Every so often here at Son of a Duck, we’ll grab an old Ducksnorts article out of the vault and mark it up with red pen. Enjoy!

[Original article posted 7/11/99]

Last month the all stars from two Class-A leagues clashed at the Lake Elsinore Diamond to display their talents and bring victory to their league. My wife and I left work early and drove the hour or so up I-15 to the check out the game.

We parked in a dirt lot (overflow parking for the big crowd) adjacent to the stadium, and as we made our way into the state-of-the-art facility, the home run hitting contest was just getting underway. After the obligatory stop at the gift shop to pick up a Lake Elsinore Storm cap, we stood in the concourse and watched Chin-Feng Chen, of the San Bernardino Stampede (Dodgers), knock a ball out of the park. Visalia Oaks (Athletics) first baseman Todd Mensik ended up winning the contest.

The lot has since been paved, and there are now houses behind it. I’ve had so many Storm caps over the years, I can’t remember which one this was. I’m thinking red and black, the one my late pug Toby ate. This was the year I saw the Angels’ Ramon Ortiz make a rehab start for the Storm, pitching against Padres prospect Mike Bynum.

And I’m still baffled at Chen. Dude was a big-time prospect (Baseball America had him ranked no. 17 before the 2000 season) who never made it, never even got a chance, logging a total of 25 plate appearances over four cups of coffee with the Dodgers before returning to his native Taiwan. He played in the 2007 World Baseball Classic and the 2008 Olympics, and now plays for the Chinese Professional Baseball League’s Lamigo Monkeys. (I can’t find stats, but here’s video of Chen drawing a walk against his former Dodgers teammate Hong-Chih Kuo in September. Also, that crowd is seriously into the ballgame.)

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Geoff Miller is the author of Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game – In Baseball and in Life. He has worked with the Pirates and Nationals, and is currently the mental skills coach for the Atlanta Braves. A San Diego resident, Miller will be at Barnes & Noble in Grossmont Center on Sunday, October 12, at 2 p.m. to discuss his book. Find him online at WinningMind.com or on Twitter at @WinningMindGEM.

Recently I had the chance to ask Miller a few questions via the magic of email. Here they are, along with his informative responses:

Son of a Duck: When people see “mental skills coach,” they may think you’re a psychologist, but that’s not quite right. What exactly does your job entail?

Geoff Miller: Yes, there is a difference between being a psychologist and employing methods of sport psychology. I prefer the term “mental skills coach,” as it’s important for me to make a distinction between the two fields. I work exclusively with athletes on understanding how to perform under pressure and learning what it takes to use all of their physical talents on a consistent basis in their sports. I don’t do any work involving clinical issues like depression, drug or alcohol addiction, relationship issues, or general mental health counseling. My role is educational and strategic rather than medical in nature and, in fact, a good deal of the work we do at my company is executive coaching. Mental skills coaching could be seen as “executive coaching” for athletes. There’s a big misconception that my work is usually about helping athletes when they have “problems,” but even if that misconception is about helping athletes when they are slumping, much more of my work is helping athletes understand how to be their best and teaching them ways to get to the top or stay at the top of their professions.

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Seth Smith had a great season. Well, he had a great four months. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first, a history lesson.

Fewer Hits Than Kajagoogoo

Formed in Leighton Buzzard in 1979… oh, wait, wrong history. You aren’t here to learn about the masterminds behind 1983′s “Too Shy.”

A Smiths reference would have worked better, but the world won’t listen.

Smith didn’t actually have fewer hits than Kajagoogoo, but he did have only 118, which tied him for 178th in franchise history for a single season. It also led the 2014 team. Here’s a partial list of Padres who had more in a season:

Player Year H OPS+
Ozzie Smith 1979 124 48
Enzo Hernández 1971 122 61
Enzo Hernández 1974 119 62
Dave Campbell 1970 127 65
Garry Templeton 1986 126 69

In the interest of hilarity, I’ve omitted several names and statistical categories. The point is, Smith led the team with fewer hits than some awful hitters.

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On Sunday, the Padres invited 40 or so fans who are active on social media to attend #SDSocialSummit, where we would get to chat with each other face to face and also ask questions of key decision makers. The team fed us and put us up in a suite in the Western Metal Building.

While the free food and seats are much appreciated, you should know that my price for loyalty is a lot higher than that. Yeah, I had to buy my own beer.

Anyway, I didn’t take notes and this isn’t exhaustive, but here are some highlights from the event.

BS Plaza

The Padres acknowledged their mistake in the way they communicated the creation of Bud Selig Plaza at Petco Park, but not the creation of BS Plaza itself. They later took us to the physical spot and showed us their plan for the space.

Not that I ever want to see Selig’s name on anything, but if they’d explained to the general public what they were actually doing, this wouldn’t have been such a big deal. As much as I wanted to be angry, after looking at the area, I was underwhelmed.

The idea of honoring former Padres players who are in the Hall of Fame representing other teams (Rollie Fingers, Gaylord Perry, Ozzie Smith, etc.) is noble. I’m glad they’ll be moving the plaques from their current inaccessible location under the batter’s eye to somewhere fans can enjoy them.

I’m less thrilled about having Selig’s name attached to the area. Symbolically it sucks. Then again, we’re free to call it BS Plaza while remembering a bit of Padres history.

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The best pitch in baseball is strike one. This is especially true when facing the Padres, whose hitters self-destruct after a first-pitch strike.

As I mentioned during our bloggers roundtable discussion at last weekend’s SABR meeting, my research into the Padres’ offensive struggles this season has uncovered a few problems. One is the hitters’ extreme groundball tendencies that we examined back in June.

Another is their .175/.212/.270 line after an 0-1 count (all stats are through August 13, 2014). That’s a little worse than Jason Marquis’ career line of .196/.214/.278.

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“What’s the fish today?” he asks. Call him Joel. We’re in the dining car, south of San Luis Obispo.

The Padres fired their GM, Josh Byrnes, a few weeks ago. The new owners inherited Byrnes from the old owners, who never actually owned the team. Ergo, adios.

“Tilapia,” says the attendant. Joel orders the steak, as does his wife.

The team hasn’t found a new GM yet. That hasn’t stopped anyone from cleaning house.

“Ti-LA-pia!” Joel chews the word, spits it on the table, like Lasorda saying “Be-VA-cqua!”

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It’s no news that the Padres are getting nothing out of their second basemen this year, but did you know they could make history? Here’s something you don’t see every decade:

Sub-500 OPS by Position for Entire Team Since 1938*

Team Pos Year PA BA OBP SLG OPS
SF SS 1968 594 .193 .215 .222 436
SD 2B 2014 356 .151 .207 .238 444
Det SS 1977 539 .177 .219 .227 447
Hou SS 1963 619 .192 .225 .235 460
Det SS 1968 605 .163 .233 .227 461
Bal SS 1958 490 .181 .238 .232 470
NYA SS 1977 610 .189 .244 .234 478
NYA SS 1975 533 .183 .248 .229 478
Oak SS 1977 580 .207 .237 .256 492
Phi SS 1973 642 .210 .242 .250 492
NYN C 1967 583 .204 .237 .255 493
Tex 2B 1972 602 .193 .244 .252 496
Min C 1967 578 .190 .263 .233 497
Tex SS 1982 560 .205 .245 .252 497
NYN SS 1968 672 .205 .259 .239 498

*1938 is the first year such data are available; it could be even earlier.

This speaks for itself, but feel free to add your own commentary. If you’re at a loss for words, start with “damn” and go from there.

Books evoke a time and place, although sometimes this can be misleading. For example, when I traveled to Seattle in June for the Vedder Cup, I bought a copy of Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon. It’s a fascinating read that reminds me not of France or Earth’s satellite (neither of which I’ve visited), but of Bainbridge Island, where I bought the book.

Eagle Harbor Book Co. is a good old-fashioned bookstore, the likes of which once adorned San Diego–Burgett, Safari, Wahrenbrock’s, etc.–before yielding to an immense Seattle-based international online warehouse. On this day, a dog guarded the store (or at least the “used” section, which is accessed separately from the street-level “new” section) by sleeping in the hallway that leads downstairs.

Around the corner is a place to read rich words over rich clam chowder and local beer (3-T Rye Tripel, Troll Porter), with a serene view of the coast should you need a break from words, food, or drink. Harbour Public House even has a men’s restroom with signs on the wall like “We don’t serve women here, you have to bring your own.”

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The Padres are a mess. Not all of the problem is perceptual, but part of it is. Padres Trail mentioned “the allure of expectation” in his discussion of GM Josh Byrnes’ recent firing, and it’s a concern.

If false hope cost Byrnes his job–and with the current ownership group, who knows what the real motivation was–then maybe a key going forward is to set more realistic expectations and communicate those to the buying public via the mystical, magical discipline of marketing.

I thought about this for, oh, a good five minutes and came up with a few suggestions. By the time you finish reading, it will be obvious why I never went into marketing. Honesty may be a good policy, but there are some places it just doesn’t belong.

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