This Week in Milford

April 20, 2017

Saved by the ‘Cane


Maybe Wellington batters could make contact with Ryan Van Auken’s stuff if they weren’t using cricket bats.  Maybe CB Bucknor has found an umpiring job closer to his level and called that a foul tip.  Maybe Wellington’s first base coach (if they have one) shouldn’t let his baserunners get such a huge lead trailing by three runs.  Maybe Wellington shouldn’t channel the early 1980s Phillies by wearing powder blues at home. Maybe I should go back to using the black & white version of this strip for my posts.

In any event, much less drama than we were expecting out of the new kid who, from this angle, is looking an awful lot like the old new kid.  Guess we’ll have to wait a bit for his first meltdown. Maybe on the bus ride back to Milford?


  1. I am mostly baseball illiterate (which is the main problem with my plan to take over the writing duties of this strip when Rubin retires), so my observations may be way off base and easily explainable, but I like the shiny shiny glass, or possibly Saran Wrap, they use as a backstop.

    And again, baseball illiterate, but pick-off attempts pretty much never work, right? And that baserunner is far too far away to be sliding, yes? And baseball isn’t normally played on a sandy beach?

    Comment by drewfunk — April 20, 2017 @ 6:16 am

  2. The dirt vs grass looks about right, but the batters’ boxes in p 1 are rotated 90 degrees and the foul lines do not align with the point of the plate. And in another “Only in Mfnrd” touch, the first base foul line ends at first base instead of extending to the right field foul pole. At least it appears to. But the fact they’re using a crib mattress for first base makes it hard to be sure.

    Comment by vaganova's scorekeeper — April 20, 2017 @ 6:58 am

  3. Pick off attempt is very, very low, but they work often enough for some pitchers to be regarded as better than others at them, usually left-handed pitchers (which the strip has established that Van Auken is). The key to a successful pick off is, generally, catching the baserunner unaware that a throw to first is happening for as long as possible. A left-handed pitcher has his throwing arm on the first base side and doesn’t have to turn as much as a righty to attempt a pick off at first. This makes for quicker throws to first that involve less body movement and are, therefore, more likely to catch a runner unaware. At the same time, a good baserunner will know that leading off is a riskier proposition with a lefty on the mound and may adjust the length of his leadoff accordingly.

    Comment by billytheskink — April 20, 2017 @ 7:25 am

  4. Great explanation by billy. In a perfect situation, Ken would be in a deep stretch to shorten the distance, but this movement (with his left foot at the front of the bag) would telegraph the throw. Given the runner’s distance from the bag, it is clear he was asleep and Ken wanted him to stay that way. A well executed pickoff attempt should work about a quarter of the time, but even failed ones are useful because they discourage big leads.

    Comment by vaganova's scorekeeper — April 20, 2017 @ 9:30 am

  5. The NYT did a deep piece on holding runners, & why Thor is so bad at it, last Friday

    Comment by Downpuppy (@Downpuppy) — April 20, 2017 @ 9:42 am

  6. That really is a good piece. Baseball is a game of delicate balances, and it’s not just Syndergaard who gets run on– he is simply an extreme case. That kind of power requires a long throwing motion and gives the runner an advantage. Consider the opposite case, the pitcher with the compact motion who is harder to run on. Mike Mussina used to do a deep bend at the waist (with a runner at first) in order to check the runner “upside down.” If he sensed a jumpy runner he’d immediately step off. Extremely methodical pitcher who rarely balked or threw the ball away.

    Comment by vaganova's scorekeeper — April 20, 2017 @ 9:50 am

  7. P2 is a Gil Thorp classic. The runner looks to be about five feet off the bag at the point the first baseman catches the ball! He might not even reach the bag given where he is seen diving in P2. A rather aggressive lead when the first baseman is guarding the base.

    Comment by Richard — April 20, 2017 @ 11:41 am

  8. While we’re on pickoffs, allow me to recount my favorite. In a game in the late 90s, the Yankees’ Mike Stanton went in to relieve in the top of the 9th with two out and a man on first. As his first move, he picked off the runner, ending the top of the inning. Then the Yankees scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth, and Stanton– without making a pitch– was credited with the win.

    Comment by vaganova's scorekeeper — April 20, 2017 @ 3:08 pm

  9. I remember that Stanton pickoff, vaganova’s scorekeeper. I recall hearing about a similar situation happening in an All-Star Game in the early 1950s. Dean Stone, a reliever with the first Washington AL franchise, got the win without retiring any batters. He threw out an inherited NL baserunner who attempted to steal home, and the AL went ahead in the bottom of the inning to give Stone the win.

    Comment by teenchy — April 20, 2017 @ 4:11 pm

  10. That one I did not know about, teenchy, and I am glad you pointed it out. As Yogi observed, “Every time you go to the ballgame, there’s a good chance you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.”

    Comment by vaganova's scorekeeper — April 20, 2017 @ 5:47 pm

  11. Nice Styx reference yesterday T Drew. I’m reading TWIM later than usual with move to 2nd shift. Come Sail Away always reminds me of the dance scene in the first episode of “Freaks and Geeks”. If you haven’t seen it check out the series on NETFLIX. Show was canceled after 1 season. Shame. One of best TV series in my opinion. Aired from 1999-2000.

    Comment by Jive Turkey — April 20, 2017 @ 6:32 pm

  12. Strong comments today as always but, again, drewfunk, gotta hand it to you, you’re FUNNY. I loved that Saran Wrap comparison. That must’ve taken HOURS for the grounds crew to wrap the backstop like that. And teenchy, I’m glad you brought up the uniforms. Damn, when those things are done in color, (W)Ellington looks like invaders about to take over USS Enterprise in a ’60’s Star Trek episode. We can only wonder if Spock, Kirk, & Co. are up to the challenge. And in P2, aside from the flash cube in the first baseman’s mitt, not to mention the sound mutating from a VAP!!!!!!!! to a WAP!!!!!!!!!!!!(only in Thorpiverse), in all the years I coached in Babe Ruth League Baseball or when I watched my nephew play high school ball, NOBODY was EVER that far off the bag on a pickoff play. The first baseman could have a martini on the rocks before he’s gotta tag the runner out.
    Then there’s P3. The backdrop is due to grace a Moody Blues Box Set. I’ll be waiting for the release.

    Comment by T. Drew Hardin — April 20, 2017 @ 6:57 pm

  13. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Jive Turkey. People like you always keep me going and keep my sense of humor active(ha). BTW, I worked 3rd shift for years so I can DEFINITELY relate to the schedule change. Thanks also for the tips. I will check them out. I always like things you send my way. As I told teenchy, I’m always learning and want to learn. You da man.

    Comment by T. Drew Hardin — April 20, 2017 @ 8:07 pm

  14. […] of Ryan, it’s been made pretty clear that he’s been a starter during his entire tenure at Milford (and the only effective one this season, kind of like Max […]

    Pingback by Spare Us The Capper | This Week in Milford — July 26, 2018 @ 6:27 am

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