Oct 262010
 

Like the ’10 G-Nats, the 2010 Hagerstown Suns were a team that could mash the ball, leading the South Atlantic League in hits, runs scored, batting average and OPS. Unfortunately, they also led the league in runs allowed, hits allowed, and WHIP. Like adding insult to injury, salt to the wound, or a baby to a family sitcom, the defense did not help matters; it was second-worst in the league. That they even came close to the playoffs in the first half (36-34, 6GB) is a minor miracle.

Injuries, suspensions, and losing three-fifths of the starting rotation doomed the team to its sixth-place finish in the second half. Overall, the team went 65-75, three games behind its pythagorean projection. But there were some bright spots, too, most notably the possible resurrection of hope for a ’07 high-school pick that appeared to be on the path towards doing what a ’06 h.s. pick did in May: retire in ignominy (Colton Willems).

As we’ve done before, let’s take a look at Hagerstown’s hitters as a group compared to the rest of the Sally League…

HITTING

TEAM AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA SB
Hagerstown 4764 710 1289 72 398 1052 .271 .333 .389 .247 161
Lg. Avg. 4702 632 1204 81 412 1074 .256 .323 .377 .240 146

Bold = League Leader

PITCHING

TEAM IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
Hagerstown 1227.1 4.50 5.23 1.418 98 424 998 .7 3.1 7.3 2.35
Lg. Avg. 1229.1 3.82 4.54 1.315 81 412 1074 8.8 3.0 7.9 2.61

Three Suns (Bloxom, Ramirez, Perez) placed in the Top 10 of the Sally League for batting average, offsetting below-average on-base and slugging rates. While it’s tempting to say that this is a team of plodders when you subtract Eury Perez’s league-leading 64 steals, but this was also a team that led the league in triples (Perez had 5). The big inning was this team’s calling card, frequently scoring 3, 4, or 5 runs in single frame.

On the other side of the ledger scorebook, the lead was just as thick. Early on, the starting pitching was good — the aforementioned top three starters of Mitchell Clegg, Danny Rosenbaum, and Trevor Holder combined for a 13-6 record and an ERA of 2.63 in the first half — but in the second half, those marks would be 7-18 and 4.82 for the second-half triumvirate of Paul Applebee, Paul Demny and Graham Hicks.

But the relief pitching was horrid all year long, with just three full-time relievers (Rob Wort, Dean Weaver, Luis Garcia) posting sub-4.00 ERAs and only two falling below the league average for WHIP. Middle relievers Shane Erb, Wanel Vasquez, and Kyle Morrison appeared in 114 games and were 7-12 combined with six saves, an ERA of 6.06, and a WHIP of 1.69 over 175 innings.

I’m expanding to the Top 16 hitters and pitchers in terms of plate appearances and innings pitched because there are notables outside the Top 12. The full statistics for the team can be found here.

Name Age Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err PA GPA
J.P. Ramirez 20 LF 73 .922 10 551 .275
Destin Hood 20 RF/LF 69/60 .960 9 537 .247
Eury Perez 20 CF/RF/LF 113/16/3 .962 9 491 .251
Justin Bloxom 22 1B/3B/RF/LF 81/13/11/7 .983 14 454 .279
Francisco Soriano 23 SS/2B 68/24 .925 32 414 .252
Sandy Leon 21 C 91 .975 19 385 .239
Brett Newsome 23 1B 64 .994 3 366 .264
Steven Souza 21 3B/SS/RF 75/2/1 .890 27 344 .246
Jeff Kobernus 22 2B 71 .959 12 343 .229
Justino Cuevas 21 IF/OF 60/2 .931 14 216 .227
Adrian Nieto 20 C/1B 50/1 .967 13 203 .194
Marcus Jones 23 RF/CF/LF 36/7/2 .948 4 197 .196
Rick Hague 21 SS 29 .879 16 176 .304
J.R. Higley 22 CF/RF 22/13 1.000 0 133 .225
Stephen King 22 3B 29 .878 9 119 .219
Adrian Sanchez 19 2B/3B 24/1 .940 8 107 .238

Before doing this review, it would have been easy to say that the suspensions of Souza and Higley hurt the team offensively, but it’s pretty clear that the additions of Hague and the second-half emergence Eury Perez more than made up for their loss from the lineup. Hitting was not this team’s problem. Defense, as you can see rather clearly with nine of 16 batters in double digits for errors committed, most assuredly was a weakness. As was pitching…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HBP WP
Paul Demny 20 27/27 6-10, 0 4.23 129⅔ 128 47 106 1.350 16 13
Paul Applebee 22 29/11 6-6, 1 4.10 107⅔ 119 27 67 1.356 5 5
Daniel Rosenbaum 22 18/18 2-5, 0 2.32 101 95 28 84 1.218 7 4
Mitchell Clegg 23 20/13 9-3, 2 3.48 93 95 22 55 1.258 2 1
Josh Smoker 21 30/19 3-10, 3 6.50 91⅓ 106 56 92 1.774 4 8
Kyle Morrison 22 37/0 3-6, 2 5.30 73 86 29 88 1.575 5 13
Graham Hicks 20 15/15 1-5, 0 5.26 66⅔ 84 25 58 1.635 4 4
Trevor Holder 23 12/12 4-3, 0 3.15 65⅔ 68 7 50 1.142 4 4
Wanel Vasquez 23 19/0 2-4, 3 7.00 54 66 25 32 1.685 4 8
Luis Garcia 23 26/0 4-4, 0 3.88 51 48 17 43 1.275 5 10
Dean Weaver 22 42/0 1-3, 16 3.04 50⅓ 49 18 36 1.331 4 4
Shane Erb 23 39/0 2-2, 1 6.19 48 53 37 30 1.875 4 9
Patrick Arnold 21 26/0 2-3, 1 4.28 46⅓ 56 16 33 1.554 2 4
Rob Wort 21 33/0 5-0, 8 2.08 43⅓ 28 16 33 0.854 2 3
Evan Bronson 23 8/8 4-2, 0 5.40 43⅓ 59 6 24 1.500 3 4
Jack McGeary 21 8/8 4-1, 0 4.62 39 38 15 32 1.359 5 4

The ’07 pick referred to earlier was Josh Smoker. As a starter, his ERA was 7.38, his OBA was .319, and his WHIP was 1.872; as a reliever those numbers dropped to 1.35, .174, and 1.200. His walk rate, unfortunately, remained fairly constant (5.54 vs. 5.40) but his strikeout rate went up dramatically (8.19 to 14.17). Granted, it’s a small sample size (13⅓ innings over 11 appearances) but it’s something to look forward to in ’11, when he’ll be just 22 years old and he’ll still be a left-handed.

Next year could be quite unpredictable when it comes to guessing who will be back and who will be going up to Potomac for the Hagerstown pitchers. Smoker and Demny are likely to move up, based on the past offseason pattern of Florida Instructional League invites. Just about every pitcher that deserved a bump up to Potomac got one in-season. In terms of the hitters, it’s probably fair to say that most of the top six or seven guys will be Woodbridge next year, but with strong offensive outings from guys in Vermont and the GCL, it’s not a given.

OBLIGATORY TOP 5 LISTS
Without further ado, here are the watchlists, which may have some repeats next week. Feel free comment on how you think we ought to address that problem (a top 8 for full-season A?).

Batters
1. J.P. Ramirez
2. Rick Hague
3. Eury Perez
4. Destin Hood
5. Justin Bloxom

Pitchers
1. Daniel Rosenbaum
2. Rob Wort
3. Trevor Holder
4. Josh Smoker
5. Dean Weaver

Sep 152010
 

The tables were turned on the Winston-Salem Dash as the Potomac Nationals used both the long ball and the big inning to twice overcome one-run deficits for a 5-3 victory. The win evened the Carolina League championship series at 1-1, which will resume tomorrow night in Woodbridge.

Trevor Holder was the stopper for the second time in as many starts with 5⅓ innings pitched, with two runs allowed on eight hits, no walks, and five strikeouts. Zach Dials got the win in relief, allowing hits to the first two batters he faced in the sixth but then retiring the side in the seventh.

Early on, the P-Nat lumber was still in a slumber as Winston-Salem’s Dylan Axelrod faced 10 batters before Derek Norris led off the fourth with a double. After Bill Rhinehart popped put and Tyler Moore struck out, it appeared that he would be stranded until Jamar Walton launched a two-run blast to left to give Potomac its first lead at 2-1.

Dash cleanup hitter Seth Loman chased Holder with a one-out solo shot in the sixth, tying the game at 2-2, and Ozzie Lewis greeted Dials with a triple to center. Jose Martinez followed with a single to left to send in Lewis and return the lead to Winston-Salem at 3-2.

Axelrod was lifted after seven innings in favor of journeyman Brandon Kloess. Francisco Soriano walked and stole second second base. After Nick Moresi struck out, Soriano would score after Dan Lyons and Norris hit back-to-back singles, chasing Kloess. Lefthander Hector Santiago came on to face Bill Rhinehart. Santiago got the out, but the flyball was deep enough for Lyons to score the go-ahead run. Tyler Moore singled to complete the rally.

With a 5-3 lead, Patrick McCoy took the ball in the eighth and let up a leadoff single to Brandon Gilmore, giving the crowd of 4,009 hope for another rally. But the burly lefty crushed any hopes of that by retiring the next six batters to notch the save and send the two teams back to Virginia, in what now amounts to a best-of-three with Potomac as the host.

Sep 102010
 

Harrisburg was unable to avoid the split, while Potomac earned it, as both teams head home tonight with their playoff series tied at 1-1.

Aaron Thompson last pitched against last night’s opponent in a 3-2 loss on September 2nd, but the familiarity outpaced the extra rest as the Curve touched him for three runs over four innings en route to a 6-4 loss in Altoona. First man out of the bullpen, Adrian Alaniz, was also ineffective in pitching a three-run bottom of the fifth that followed a Senator rally in the top of the inning that had tied the game at 3-3.

The 7-8-9 batters paced the offense for the Potomac Nationals, combining eight of the 11 hits the P-Nats collected, including a double and two triples.
Zach Dials was perfect in relief, retiring all nine batters he faced to earn the save. Trevor Holder started and went the first five innings allowing four runs (one earned) on six hits while walking one and striking out four. Rob Wort pitched a scoreless sixth to get the win.

Harrisburg would outhit Altoona 10-7 but went an abysmal 1-for-12 with RISP, stranding 10 runners as the Senators couldn’t take advantage of two errors and five walks.

Back-to-back RBI triples by #7 hitter Robby Jacobsen (4-for-4) and #8 hitter Sean Nicol (2-for-3), followed by a sacrfice fly by #9 hitter Chris Curran (2-for-3) would tie the game at 4-4 in the top of the fifth, an immediate response to the three-run rally by the Keys in the bottom of the fourth. Curran would double in Jacobsen in the top of the seventh for the go-ahead (winning) run.

Harrisburg hosts Altoona for the next two nights with the “Guz Two” — Ryan Tatusko (3-1, 1.72) and Tanner Roark (1-1, 2.50) — scheduled to pitch against Justin Wilson (11-8, 3.09) and Tony Watson (6-4, 2.67) respectively. As frequent commenter Souldrummer reminds us, Game 5 (if necessary) would be played in Altoona on Sunday.

Potomac hosts Frederick for at least the next two nights, and possibly on Sunday afternoon. Veterans Jimmy Barthmaier (4-1, 3.62) and Zach Clark (2-3, 5.25) square off tonight, with Marcos Frias (7-5, 5.69) and Luis Noel (3-2, 6.18) scheduled to pitch tomorrow — a matchup that could potentially change with the outcome of tonight’s game, as the P-Nats could opt for Evan Bronson to negate lefties Xavier Avery and Billy Rowell while the Keys could ask the likes of Jose Duran and/or Brett Bordes to start in favor of Noel, who was pounded in his previous outing against them in late July.

Rain is in the forecast for both Altoona and Woodbridge on Sunday afternoon.

For the bullet-point folks…

Team Pitching Star Hitting Star #1 Hitting Star #2
Harrisburg Senators
L, 6-4
Brad Peacock
2IP 0H 0R 1BB 3K
Josh Johnson
2-2, 2R, 2B, 3B, 2BB
Chris Marrero
2-5, R, RBI
Potomac Nationals
W, 5-4
Zach Dials (SV, 1)
3IP 0H 0R 0BB 3K
Robby Jacobsen
4-4, 2R, 3B, RBI
Chris Curran
2-3, 2B, SF, 2RBI
Aug 252010
 

Some folks will say that Wilmington’s Will Smith dominated the P-Nats last night, but the more careful observer will tell you: This is what happens when you swing at pitcher’s pitches.

For eight innings, Potomac flailed at the Blue Rock southpaw, consistently putting themselves behind 0-2 and 1-2. For 5⅔ innings, Smith retired every batter he had faced before Nick Moresi singled up the middle to break up the perfect game.

The lanky centerfielder would be the lone exception as batter after batter refused to wait him out — even Derek Norris — as Smith racked up 12 strikeouts over eight innings against no walks.

Meanwhile, Trevor Holder’s troubles keeping the ball in the yard continued, as he surrendered two home runs to Wilmington, accounting for three of the four Wilmington runs. Holder has allowed five home runs in 45 innings for Potomac, but four have come in his last three starts.

But with such abysmal offense, it’s a nitpick. Potomac would get two runs in the bottom of the ninth against the Blue Rock bullpen as a walk, a Moresi double, and a Norris two-out double would cut the Wilmington lead in half before Tyler Moore would become the 13th and final strikeout on the night fly out to center to end the game.

The loss drops Potomac into second place, a ½ game behind Wilmington, and into a tie in the loss column. The latter matters because Wilmington will play just 68 games in the 2nd half, making it possible for the Blue Rocks to make the playoffs as a percentage-points winner.

Jimmy Barthmaier looks to stop the three-game slide for Potomac against Wilmington’s Timothy Melville, who is 0-1 with a 4.21 ERA in two starts against Potomac this season.

Jun 272010
 

Perhaps the only thing more reviled than the intentional walk is the throw over to first base. When it works, a few people notice and understand. But when it fails, everybody sees and wonders why didn’t he just to pitch to him?!

It was turning point in the game last night in Woodbridge.

With the score tied at 6-6, and two outs. Rocket Wheeler was faced with a decision: Pitch to the lefty Bill Rhinehart, who had smoked a triple in the second inning for the P-Nats first two runs. Or pitch the to the righthanded Brian Peacock, who hadn’t gotten the ball out of the infield.

For the second night in a row, Rocket Wheeler ordered the free pass, and just like the night before, the decision backfired. Peacock blistered an outside fastball between the Pelican first baseman and first base itself for a two-run triple.

In the press box, the home team pulling ahead in the eighth is sometimes called a sportswriter’s win because then they can start writing up the game early, or at least think up their ledes. Dan Leatherman also did his part by striking out two in a 1-2-3 ninth for his 4th save.

As the 8-6 score implies, this was not pitcher’s duel. Neither Potomac’s Trevor Holder nor Myrtle Beach’s Randall Delgado was sharp or effective. Both went five innings and gave up five runs.

Holder labored to keep the ball in the strike zone, but only issued one walk. When he was locating the ball, the Pelicans let him know with authority, smacking eight hits including two home runs and lifting five flyballs.

As was the case last Sunday, the separation between Holder’s pitches was only apparent when he threw his soft breaking pitch that’s not quite a curve and not quite a change (this is why scouts want to be directly behind home plate; it’s difficult to read pitches otherwise, especially when seated in an elevated grandstand like the POS Pfitz).

Following Holder was Carlos Martinez, who returned to the P-Nats from the GCL to make his first appearance of the season, and his 55th in parts of five seasons with Potomac. He pitched two innings and allowed one run on two hits.

Clayton Dill pitched a scoreless top of the 8th to earn his 4th win of the season, walking one and striking out one.

With the win, Potomac improves to 2-1 on the season and hits the road for a six-game swing through North Carolina, visiting Kinston Sunday through Tuesday, then Winston-Salem on Wednesday through Friday.