Trying to follow the Calgary Vipers in the loooong, tumultuous off-season is even more difficult than I thought it would be – and I thought it would be impossible.
Travis Drader earned 328 plate appearances as a rookie with splits of .280/.462/826 (AVG/SLG/OPS) in 81 games while playing third base for the Vipers in 2008. Swatting 9 home runs whist playing half your games facing the high, deep outfield walls of Foothills Stadium is nothing to sneeze at either.
He committed a team-leading 23 errors last season, but I watched a lot of his games and I honestly never thought of him as error-prone. Drader actually lead all GBL 3B in errors, and was second only to Orange County SS Jermy Acey‘s 28 errors for the league lead. The reality is that this is Golden League Baseball, and plays that are routine in MLB are not necessarily in GLB. Trust me, it’s part of the excitement. A quick look at the 2008 final GBL stats shows that 23 errors is not really outrageous for a rookie 3B that played the full season. Joe 3B (the third-base equivalent to Joe Batter) committed 12 errors over 60 games, which would butter over as 16 errors over 81 games. As mentioned before, Drader was a rookie in 2008, so I’d expect to see an move towards the mean in 2009 when it comes to the fielding errors.
The Golden League is a base-stealer’s league if you ask me. I contend that pitcher accuracy and back-catcher defense are two of the biggest differences between Golden League ball and Major League ball. You’ll see a lot more wild pitches and passed balls at, for example, a Chico Outlaws game than you will at an Atlanta Braves game. This is a base stealer’s dream come true, yet Drader only stole one base in 2008, while being caught stealing 2 times. Three stealing attempts is too small a sample size to say that Drader’s 33% efficiency in stealing a base is a concrete stat, but stealing only one base when you hit 47 singles is a telling stat – and would explain why The Baseball Cube has Mr. Drader’s speed ranked in the bottom three percent of players in his league.
A local product, Drader also has good taste in hockey teams. He didn’t shy away from telling Calgary Falmes hero and Calgary Vipers on again/off again publicity stunt Theo Fleury that he’s a died in the wool Edmonton Oilers fan. Atta boy!
All things put together, though, Travis Drader is a fine player to watch. He’s a power hitter (20 doubles in 2008, and 40% of his hits were for extra bases) and his walk-to-strikeout-ratio of 0.611, which is safely above Joe Batter’s of 0.594, shows pretty decent discipline for the Golden League. League MVP Patrick Breen had a monstrous season by all accounts, and a BB/K of 0.750, which I consider to be a very high bench mark for a power hitter in this league.
Amoungst my friends and I, Drader was also the most anticipated at-bat in the 2008 Vipers line-up. Why? Well, it’s simple, he had the best intro song.
Problem, is Drader’s too quick in the batter’s box, and we usually only get to hear five or six seconds of the song. In a perfect world, we’d get 26 seconds every time. Slow it down, Trav! Savour it! Feeeel it!
In trying to look up what our man Travis Drader is doing this off-season, all I could come up with is his involvement with the somewhat-delayed Absolute Baseball Academy as “staff”. I was hoping to make it to the ABA open house this past weekend, but weather was incredibly not permitting (-40 with wind chill, awful road conditions, terrible drivers who seem to be allergic to snow tires).
Being a young buck with transferable skills, I assumed Drader would find a winter league somewhere to apply his trade, but I can’t find any proof of this. Either way, here’s looking forward to seeing him in Vipers silks again in 2009.