With no baseball taking place in the Emerald City this weekend, the Defensive Specialist was forced to camp out in front of the Deep in the Hole Super Computer with a bowl of Stinky Tofu to watch the Perth Heat take part in the Asian Baseball Series. Aside from the fact the commentary was in Taiwanese, it was a surprisingly pleasant experience. The camera work was professional, the graphics were solid and best of all there was a message board in real time next to the screen which allowed the Defensive Specialist to road test all of the gags you’ll read throughout this post.
(Editors note: the message board was non-English speaking)
The Asian Series came at an interesting time for the Heat – smack bang as they’ve reeled off 11 consecutive wins and shaped as the form team of the competition. While the Defensive Specialist is sure Heat Manager Brooke Knight would have liked to stay downunder to continue punishing the local teams, the Asian Series did present an opportune time to showcase the Australian Baseball League and to measure up against Asia Pacific’s best teams.
Unfortunately the Asian holiday didn’t run to script as the Heat dropped all 3 of their games. Other than a blow out late in game 1, the contests remained fairly close and the WA lads will take some comfort out of knowing that they can compete at that level. What the series did do was raise a couple of questions that your old pal has some thoughts on:
1) How will losing 3 games affect the Heat when they get back to business in the ABL?
Interesting question and one that the Defensive Specialist is glad he asked himself. Momentum is a HUGE thing in baseball and the Heat had a whole lot of it after they finished boat racing the Blue Sox in Sydney last week. The vast majority of the offensive line up was hotter than hell fire and the pitching staff had looked sharp throughout the series. The jaunt to Asia probably didn’t come at the best time and may have 1 of 2 results when the Heat return to action
A) The 3 losses will shake the Heat’s confidence and Canberra will ride into town to steal a couple of ballgames from the Heat on their home turf;
B) The Heat will return home, somewhat embarrassed after dropping all three games and drop a severe beat down on the Cavalry in revenge.
You often hear teams that are running off a ridiculous winning streak state that the first loss was almost necessary. That’s an easy thing to say immediately after an L but when you think about it, it does make some sense. Winning multiple games in a row can often allow complacency to creep in and see teams going through the motions. The advantage the Heat has is that the games they’ve lost mean nothing (other than a blow to the Australian baseball psyche). The net result may be that the Heat evaluate some of their weaknesses, make the necessary adjustments and get back on the horse this weekend (and yes that was a clever metaphor about the Heat pumping the Cavalry).
2) What did the 3 losses expose in the Perth Heat?
Defense, defense, defense
The Heat may swing it with the best of them but their defense hurt them at almost every turn. 9 errors in 3 games is just not going to get it done when you’re playing a quality opponent and with a pitching staff that relies on command and control rather than brute force, additional outs are not so easily overcome with the strike out.
|Mitch Graham's hitting is outperforming his defense|
While shortstop Mitch Graham has been a revelation at the plate early in the season (.435 AVG, 4 HR, 16 RBIs, 10 runs), his unreliability in the field (6 errors on the season, 2 during the Asian Series) at a premium position is something that the team cannot afford. Manager Knight obviously saw about as much as he could stomach as Graham finished out the Asian Series at second with Mychal Givens taking over at short. Moving forward second base may be a much better fit for Graham (assuming Givens can handle short) but this poses a problem with Luke Hughes returning eventually. If Graham continues to hit, it’s a nice problem to have!
3) Was the Heat pitching staff exposed in Taiwan?
Simply – No
As stated above, the Heat doesn’t have a staff full of guys who blow 94mph but what they do have is a bunch of guys who can pitch. By pitch the Defensive Specialist means they throw strikes, work quickly and limit the damage. Both Ben Moore and Trevor Caughey yielded only 1 earned run (unearned runs were a different story) and while Daniel Schmidt was a little less effective than normal he only gave up 3 unearned. The Heat bullpen could really do with a power arm or two because the plethora of finesse guys has a tendency to all blend into one meaning that hitters can sit on a certain speed however the return or Brendan Wise at some stage definitely boosts the Heat pen. At the end of the day, the Heat proved last year that the control guys who ate up innings were the way to the Championship so why deviate from a proven formula?
|Ben Moore provided another solid outing|
No matter the result, the Asian Series is a great opportunity to showcase baseball and specifically the ABL. While it would have been great to win a couple of ball games, the break from regular competition could be the revitalizing shot the Heat need…… or it could completely derail their season. We’ll soon see.