All posts by jeff graham

More on Jason Hammel’s resurgence

Yesterday, I had a chance to watch South Kitsap graduate Jason Hammel pitch against the Mariners. He fared well before running into trouble in the seventh inning of a 6-3 loss. Here is the feature I wrote on Hammel, who has been a steady presence on the mound during his first season with the Baltimore Orioles.

Earlier in the week, I asked Jason Churchill of — he also is a scouting analyst for ESPN Insider — to explain Hammel’s turnaround. After all, this is a guy who looked like an average starting pitcher for six seasons with Tampa and Colorado before improving his stats across the board this year.

Here is what Churchill had to say about Hammel:

This year, Hammel clearly has a better plan and it starts with the use of his fastball. He’s throwing few more curveballs early in games to keep hitters off balance and to change their eye levels the first time through the lineup — but the fastball has also ticked up a bit in velocity by almost a full mph, which is significant.

The arm side run on his fastball is prevalent; in past years, that was a straight pitch for Jason and he needed to cross it over to his glove side — in on a left-handed batter, away from a right-hander — to get any sink. In 2012, he’s been using run it back over the outer edge against right-handed hitters early in the count and ties up lefties with it.

When you can do that down in the zone — something Hammel wasn’t doing a year ago as he was up in the strike zone regularly in 2011 — the secondary stuff becomes more effective.

Hammel, simply put, is a completely different pitcher. Even the slider is better this year — after being a flat pitch with little break and no tilt last year, it’s got bite and he’s keeping it down consistently.

As a result, he’s getting ahead and is better equipped to put away hitters when he gets to two strikes. Rather than a full arsenal with a plus fastball, two fringe breaking balls and below average everything else, including command, he’s solid-average across the board to go with the plus fastball.

It’s a bit backwards that he had to come back to the American League, and in the East, no less, to find success. I would venture to suggest that he needed a change of scenery, both literally — getting away from Coors Field where the humidor helps but isn’t a fix for the thin air and spacious pastures — and into an environment of consistency in terms of how he can attack hitters.


Pumas finalizing preseason schedule

The Kitsap Pumas are putting the finishing touches on their preseason schedule. The 2012 Premier Development League champions are going to play at least five games in April. The club is still figuring out game times, but here is what the schedule looks like:

April 11: Kitsap at Thurston Co. Premier FC

April 14: Kitsap at Bellingham

April 21: Peninsula CC at Kitsap (Gordon Field)

April 24: Trinity Lutheran at Kitsap (Gordon Field)

April 29: Kitsap at St. Martins

Kitsap owner Robin Waite said these games are open to the public, so if you’ve got the time, feel free to show up and watch.


Pumas sign veteran goalkeeper Brim

Spending the 2011 Premier Development League season as an assistant coach for the Kitsap Pumas, Dustyn Brim is ready to take the field again.
Kitsap coach James Ritchie said Friday that Brim has signed a contract with club for the 2012 season. The defending PDL champion Pumas begin play May 4 at Vancouver.
“We’re very, very excited to get him back,” Ritchie said. “We think he’s a top class goalkeeper.”
Brim, who was one of the first players to sign with Kitsap when the Pumas joined the PDL in 2009, served as the team’s starting goalkeeper his first two seasons.
Two back surgeries forced him out of action last year. He served as an assistant coach, along with Ritchie and Justin Stoddard. Brim is also head coach for Kitsap’s indoor soccer team.


Pumas close to announcing signings

Talked with Kitsap Pumas owner Robin Waite and head coach James Ritchie today, and both said the team is in the process of signing players for the upcoming Premier Development League season.

Ritchie said several players have signed contracts and paperwork has been sent to the United Soccer Leagues. As soon as the paperwork is approved, the team will be able to announce the signings. That could come as early as Friday.

If and when I find out about these signings, I’ll let everyone know.

Golfer Lee finding consistency at UCLA

Erynne Lee hasn’t won any tournaments in her freshman year at UCLA.
That doesn’t mean the golfer from Silverdale hasn’t found success for the top-ranked Bruins. In fact, she’s been one of the team’s most consistent players.

Following her third-place finish at last week’s Blue Wave Invitational in Tarzana, Calif., Lee now has placed third in her last three collegiate tournaments. She also took third at the Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge and the Arizona Wildcat Invitational in February.

Lee has been UCLA’s top finisher in four of the team’s past five tournaments.

Former UW golfer Nick Taylor swinging on mini-tour

I asked myself the following question when I discovered the website for the All-American Golf Tour:

What the HECK is the All-American Golf Tour?

First of all, it’s not just for American players. It’s a mini-tour based in Arizona that is focused on player development. Think of it as the Nationwide Tour for the Nationwide Tour. Winners of All-American Golf Tour events (usually 54 holes) often earn sponsorship exemptions to the Nationwide, which is considered a proving ground for golfers looking to one day play on the PGA Tour.

If you think it’s a tour for scrubs, think again. I see at least three former University of Washington standouts on the money lists (Nick Taylor, Darren Wallace, Zach Bixler). Former Washington state prep standout Andrew Putnam, who went to Pepperdine) is also on there. Taylor has won over $11,000 (5th on the money list) and has cashed in all 10 of the events he’s played in, winning once.

Pumas need to fill an important position

The Kitsap Pumas have a bunch of positions to fill before the start of the 2012 season — including one in their Bremerton office.

The club is looking for some part-time clerical/administrative help. For more information, contact the team at 360-377-6008. Kitsap owner Robin Waite said on Wednesday that he’s got some good leads for the position, so don’t wait too long.

Pumas’ Lee destined to join Sounders U23s?

We knew that the Kitsap Pumas were going to look quite different in 2012 after winning the PDL title last summer. Some players have joined upper-level teams, others have moved out of the area or called it a career.

One player the club hopes will make a return is left back Mark Lee. The defender has been a mainstay in the lineup for three years. But here is a report from talking about Lee trying out for the Sounders U23s (formerly the Tacoma Tide).

Could the Pumas be losing one of their top players to their Northwest Division rivals? Very interesting….