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I, Claudia’s: A Thorne in No One’s Side

Say bonjour to another episode of “I, Claudia’s,” America’s first and foremost experiment in baseball reporting and self-congratulation.

Tuesday, April 13
One of my great interests as Baseballing Enthusiast — an interest that I’m sure is largely shared by the wide readership — is the art and science of baseball broadcasting. Just as a great college professor can make almost subject interesting, so too can a great broadcaster greatly enhance the experience of the game upon which he’s commenting.

I’ve already had occasion to sing Bob Uecker’s praises in this space. I’d like now to add to the list of FanGraphs-approved broadcasters.

I had the opportunity to watch MASN’s coverage of tonight’s Tampa Bay/Baltimore game. Their broadcast team — color guy Mike Flanagan and play-by-play man Gary Thorne — is the very picture of competence. Thorne, in particular, distinguished himself, both for his Official Man Voice, and also for his unusual commitment to the faculty of reason.

Here are three comments right from that particular horse’s mouth:

1. “I do not favor public money for stadiums.” (While discussing the stadium situation in Tampa Bay.)

2. “Someone asked me, ‘Is it bush league to attempt a bunt during a no-hitter?’ No. You’ll hear guys on the opposing bench — the guys for the pitching team — hear’em saying ‘Swing the bat!’ You’ll hear’em saying some other things, too. But, no, it’s not.” (While discussing Ricky Romero‘s no-hitter, which was in its fifth or sixth inning at the time.)

3. “They have the best run differential in the Majors.” (While discussing the Philadelphia Phillies, their excellence through the first week and half of the season.)

Comment number one represents (a) the only sane view on stadium financing and (b) a stance that I’m guessing very few broadcasters are willing to make publicly, on account of their job security is often tied to ownership, and ownership — for obvious reasons — totally hearts public money. The second statement is also a commendably sane one — and slightly daring, if only because there are a number of Real Baseball Men who feel differently. Finally, the third comment there — one echoed immediately by Flanagan — demonstrates at least a cursory understanding of Pythagorean Wins, a surefire way for one to endear himself to the baseballing nerdbone community.

A very little bit of interweb-ing reveals this unexpected, yet not wholly surprising, information from Thorne’s bio:

Thorne is a 1970 graduate of the University of Maine with a bachelor of science in business. He graduated from the University of Maine School of Law in 1973 and received a doctorate in law in 1976 from the Georgetown University Law Center. He is a former assistant district attorney in Bangor, Maine, and was admitted to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court in March 1977.

Wednesday, April 14
Colby Lewis struck out 10 of the 24 Cleveland Indians he faced. Moreover, he induced 15 swings-and-misses — on about 13% of the pitches he threw, in other words. By comparison, last year’s strikeout leaders, Justin Verlander and Tim Lincecum, each had swinging-strike rates of about 11%.

Wanna hear about a PCL game I went to this evening? Well, you’re about to. The scene: a sparsely attended PGE Park in Portland. The players: the Sky Sox of Colorado Springs (Triple-A affiliate of the Rockies) and the Beavers of Portland. This is why I was excited to go: Rockies prospect and right-handed starter Samuel Deduno. No, Deduno’s not a household name, but he possesses some of the requisite skillz to pay the proverbial billz.

If one were to own the most recent edition of Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook, one would almost definitely read that Deduno has a 92-93 mph fastball with sink, as well as a power curveball, a less exciting changeup, and some control problems (to the tune of 5.2 BB/9 for his minor league career). If one were to read FanGraphs regularly, one would’ve noted how Marc Hulet ranked Deduno as the number ten prospect in the Colorado system. Finally, if one were to point his internet browser over to Minor League Splits, he would definitely see that Samuel Deduno has posted a groundball rate of 57.8% in the minors.

Tonight, that trend continued. Despite underwhelming command — three walks to just one strikeout — Deduno managed to induce groundballs on 10 of the 14 balls in play, good for 71.4%. In terms of pure stuff, Deduno was maybe less impressive. He snapped off maybe three or four well-shaped and -located curveballs on the night and, yes, featured that heavy fastball. It deserves to be said, however, that the Portland lineup was also righty-heavy this evening — a distinct advantage for Deduno, who has yet to develop the change.