Thankfully, the focus of these season reviews is on the players, as a team, on the field. Because otherwise the Hagerstown Suns have become — in today’s parlance — a hot mess.
Between the prolonged stadium debate and the threats to move the team to Winchester and Fredericksburg, it’s hard not to interpret that the people of Hagerstown are expressing their dismay by staying away. Attendance fell to a reported 1,058* per opening in 2013, a 23 percent drop from 2012 and less than half of what was being claimed as recently as 2009, which was 2,138 per date. * Figures per Ballparkdigest.com
Now that the elephant in the room has been addressed, let’s get down to business…
With the help of some rainouts, Hagerstown won the first half by a ½ game with a 38-29 mark and nearly won the second with a 42-28 run in the second, losing out to West Virginia by 2½ games. Overall, the Suns went 80-57, third best in the league behind the Power (82-58) and the GreenJackets (82-55).
Buoyed with the top two pitchers from Auburn, Hagerstown took two of three from West Virginia in the semifinals and won the opener of the Sally League Finals before losing the next three straight to the Savannah Sand Gnats.
Taking a look at how the Suns compared to the rest of the Sally League, there’s one rather noticeable outlier, which fans of the GBI have probably already guessed…
* GPA = Gross Production Average
Hagerstown led the Sally League in offense despite hitting just 56 home runs (12th-best in the league) and having close-to-league-average power. The secret? No, not Calgon. Getting on base (#1 in OBP, #2 in walks drawn) and not striking out (#3). The math-inclined folks have already deduced that the lack of HRs was made up by more doubles and triples, at which the Suns were third-best in the league in both categories. Another quirk was finishing second in sacrifice flies, though that could very well be a factor of volume, not efficiency.
Thanks to injuries and promotions, there was a lot of flux with the Suns, such that just one pitcher (Pedro Encarnacion) exceeded 100 innings pitched. Nine pitchers made six or more starts, 15 different pitchers made at least one start (excluding rehabs). Seven of those guys were better than league average in ERA.
Really not much to complain about at the macro level, which is why like to drill down further, beginning with the Top 12 batters…
|Name||Age||PA||Position(s)||G @ Pos||Fld%||Err||GPA||ISO|
(* = 2012 Draft Pick, ** = DSL Graduate)
What stands out the most to me is how “set” the positions were for this crew — basically, the top four guys in terms of PA were day-in, day-out at their position. Five of the Top 12 only played one position all year long — that kind of consistency is unusual, especially in light of the organization’s favor towards athleticism and versatility. Not to mention, part of the point of the minors is finding out where guys best fit in terms of their skills… or what the parent club needs.
As was the case a year ago, this was an older group of guys — second oldest in the Sally, actually — so the lack of power is cause for concern. Just two of these 12 had isolated averages that exceeded the league average of .116. Defensively, the team finished third in terms of fielding percentage, which is an admittedly flawed measuring stick, but until the likes of baseball-reference and fangraphs make advanced defensive stats less cumbersome (e.g. if I want to see how good a player’s range factor is vs. his peers, I have to go to each and every team page and extract that data), it’s the best we’ve got for an exercise such as this.
Speaking of defense, one name that’s been mentioned to me as one to watch is Pedro Severino, despite the 14 errors and 16 passed balls. “The best arm the Suns have had in years,” as my Hagerstown guy put in his recent review of the Hagerstown hitters. The Nationals aren’t as deep at catcher as people think they are (and haven’t been for nearly two years); Severino was one of just two (2) catchers younger than the league average in the entire system (Raudy Read was the other).
On to the pitchers, the Top 12 listed by innings pitched…
|Pedro Encarnacion**||22||25/24||10-9, 0||3.58||128⅓||116||37||113||1.192||10||8||16|
|Brett Mooneyham*||23||17/17||10-3, 0||1.94||93||50||41||79||0.978||5||4||8|
|Nick Lee||22||19/17||6-4, 0||3.96||91||83||43||102||1.385||7||5||11|
|Ronald Pena*||21||28/10||4-3, 1||3.48||88||89||34||55||1.398||4||1||7|
|Kylin Turnbull||23||16/16||6-5, 0||3.58||83||97||16||67||1.361||10||1||3|
|Dixon Anderson||23||15/15||5-5, 0||3.20||78⅔||62||30||72||1.169||3||0||7|
|Ivan Pineyro**||21||13/13||5-3, 0||3.14||66||57||17||65||1.121||4||3||10|
|Ian Dickson||22||16/10||5-3, 2||4.39||65⅔||65||17||71||1.249||8||1||2|
|Travis Henke||24||30/0||3-1, 2||2.72||59⅔||49||17||41||1.106||3||4||3|
|Bryan Harper||23||34/0||5-1, 1||3.97||45⅓||32||32||43||1.412||2||8||5|
|Cody Davis||22||35/0||2-3, 1||2.76||42⅔||40||14||46||1.276||1||0||6|
|Brian Rauh||21||14/0||3-2, 2||5.21||38||37||15||31||1.714||3||2||5|
As you might imagine with a team that finished 4th in a 14-team league in pitching, the quality of pitching was amazingly consistent. The two starters that were above the league average had an ERA around 4.00 (Lee, 3.91; Dickson, 4.01). Only one reliever with a 1.5+ WHIP threw more than 20 innings (Will Hudgins), likewise only one pitcher with more than 20IP had a 5+ ERA (Rauh)… and he was promoted to Potomac, where he started 12 games and went 4-1 with 4.01 ERA.
As aforementioned, injuries influenced the large number of starters: Dixon Anderson saw his season shortened (again) by shoulder woes while Brett Mooneyham missed seven weeks with the Belichek-esque “arm discomfort,” which led to Ronald Pena and Ian Dickson shifting from the ‘pen. Promotions, of course, were also a factor with Matt Purke, Brian Rauh, and Ivan Pineyro “movin’ on up.”
The question, of course, is which of these guys will be the next Taylor Hill or Blake Schwartz — to name two pitchers that really exceeded expectations and who will hit the wall and have to return, which happened this season to Derek Self, Christian Meza, and Kylin Turnbull. For the opinions of my “Hagerstown guy,” I’ll refer you to his take on the 2013 Suns pitchers.
OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
Once again there was a temptation to reduce the list from five to four when I took a step back and consider what other folks (i.e. non-Nats fans) may think of these guys. Especially with the position players, I keep coming back to: “His numbers were good, but not great, and he was old for the level.” Keep that in mind before you make your case in the comments for the guy that I didn’t list below.
1. Tony Renda
2. Brandon Miller
3. Wander Ramos
4. Estarlin Martinez
5. Pedro Severino
1. Pedro Encarnacion
2. Nick Lee
3. Brett Mooneyham
4. Cody Davis
5. Ian Dickson