The half system one of the best things ever conceived for minor-league baseball. It’s an acknowledgment that player movement during the season affects the standings and helps generate interest in the second half. And it’s what helped make the 2010 Potomac Nationals’ pennant run possible.
The first-half Potomac team struggled to muster a consistent offensive attack, getting shut out seven times and scoring 10 or more runs five times, stumbling along to a 31-39 record — 10 games behind Frederick. The second-half team also started slowly, losing seven of its first 12 games before they headed up to Frederick, tied for last place. And then they swept the Keys to go to 8-7. After a split in Salem, Potomac returned to Woodbridge at 9-8. Despite having a rehabbing Jordan Zimmermann on the mound, they lost 3-1 to fall back to .500.
But a funny thing happened in that game. Potomac’s first baseman doubled in the lone run, his first game back after being benched in the second game of the doubleheader in Salem. The next afternoon, he homered. The night after that, he hit a grand slam and doubled twice. You know the rest of that story, but the hitting became contagious. Bill Rhinehart hit .281 in July after a .226 June. Michael Burgess went from .183 in June to .286. Sean Rooney, as part of the ripple effect of the Matt Capps trade that reassigned catchers from A+ to AAA, dropped down from Harrisburg, where he had been struggling as a backup, and picked up where he left off in ’09 and hit .308 in July.
Appropriately, this is a good time to take a look at how the Potomac bats compared to the rest of the Carolina League…
Bold = League Leader
The batting numbers are what you might expect from a team that went 70-69 overall: slightly above or slightly below the league averages. Unfortunately, while it’s easy to find splits on individual players, it’s a little harder for teams, thus I can’t easily demonstrate just how much better the team was on offense in the second half versus the first. Also skewing the results are the Winston-Salem Dash, who were sensational on offense, hitting .288 as a team and averaging nearly a full run per game above the league average (5.31 vs. 4.53). Potomac would finish second to them in HRs and total bases.
In terms of pitching, Potomac’s only true calling card was avoiding the free pass, finishing second behind the Salem Red Sox for fewest walks allowed. Unfortunately, that was offset by allowing the third-most HRs and hitting the most batters. In prototypical fashion, the starters were young, the relievers were not, but unlike the bats, they were not the oldest group in the league (Frederick).
In keeping with the format we’ve established, here’s a look at the Top 16 batters in terms of plate appearances, followed by the Top 16 pitchers in terms of innings. Full statistics for the team can be found here.
|Name||Age||Position(s)||G @ Pos||Fld%||Err||PA||GPA|
The naysayers like to point out the number of 25-year-olds that were on the team, either not noticing (slightly possible) or not knowing (quite probable) that 44% of the plate appearances were made by players 23 or younger. Add in the 24-year-olds (a not uncommon age for the league) and that number swells to 57%. With the exceptions of Bill Rhinehart and Tim Pahuta, none the “old men” on the team were above league average. Thus, it’s ignorant to write off this team’s offense as being too old for the level. That accusation can, however, be applied to the pitching…
|Adrian Alaniz||26||24/12||8-4, 1||2.61||107||93||26||101||1.112||6||10|
|Brad Peacock||22||19/18||4-9, 0||4.44||103⅓||109||25||118||1.297||4||10|
|Evan Bronson||23||21/16||2-5, 0||3.88||95||107||17||59||1.527||3||5|
|Marcos Frias||21||20/17||7-5, 0||5.69||91⅔||105||35||59||1.527||5||3|
|Pat Lehman||23||21/14||5-4, 0||4.84||87⅓||87||28||88||1.317||9||4|
|A.J. Morris||23||23/12||5-3, 2||3.88||72||67||27||61||1.306||6||3|
|Trevor Holder||23||15/14||3-3, 0||4.09||70⅓||76||22||52||1.393||4||4|
|Jesse Estrada||26||22/4||3-2, 1||5.11||56⅓||73||20||39||1.651||8||1|
|Clayton Dill||24||40/0||6-7, 1||4.41||51||50||33||48||1.627||1||11|
|Dan Leatherman||24||31/0||3-2, 11||2.12||46⅔||31||12||57||0.921||2||2|
|Pat McCoy||21||30/0||2-1, 6||2.93||46||52||12||44||1.391||1||0|
|Daniel Rosenbaum||22||8/7||3-2, 0||2.09||43||35||13||31||1.116||0||3|
|Cory VanAllen||25||36/0||2-3, 1||4.28||41⅓||49||8||48||1.379||1||3|
|Justin Phillabaum||24||29/0||0-6, 3||6.87||36⅔||50||15||28||1.773||6||4|
|Carlos Martinez||26||18/1||0-0, 1||2.57||35||35||6||14||1.171||1||3|
|Jimmy Barthmaier||26||9/5||4-1, 0||3.62||32⅓||36||7||26||1.330||3||3|
The bullpen (with one rather obvious exception that should be easy to spot in the list above) was a strong spot for P-Nats all season long, and it should have been because it was almost entirely pitchers that were 24 or older — several with AA experience. Injuries forced Adrian Alaniz and Jesse Estrada into the rotation, but when callups from Hagerstown came, only Estrada was sent back. Alaniz and Barthmaier were considerable factors during the second half, which is not to diminish what Rosenbaum and Holder also meant down the stretch.
I’ve been told that the Potomac roster is the last one to be decided coming out of spring training, with the implication being that at least some of the “old men” are guys that might have otherwise been at Harrisburg, but were the odd man out because player X is at Syracuse and they’d prefer player Y to play every day so he’s going to AA instead of sitting the bench at AAA. The aforementioned trade for Wilson Ramos demonstrated that in practice as Devin Ivany was sent down to Harrisburg and Sean Rooney, in turn, came to Potomac.
I don’t believe, however, that the age of the Potomac roster is entirely explained by that. The tendency to draft college-age players is a factor. The lack of timely development of the high-school-aged prospects is a factor. But I think the days of the team being this old are numbered. Next year’s team will have a lot of the 20- and 21-year-olds from Hagerstown, and should become the youngest roster I’ve personally seen in Woodbridge.
But an older roster shouldn’t diminish what this team accomplished. They still had to beat out a loaded Wilmington team to win the half. They still had to beat the Frederick Keys, which also had a lot of older pitchers and was in the Top 3 in most offensive categories. And they faced one of the most powerful lineups in organized baseball and kept them from scoring their customary 5+ runs a game for the entire series, one that yours truly even thought may have been just too much to contain.
OBLIGATORY TOP 5 LISTS
Most of the “repeats” are pitchers, and before folks start chirping, I’ll explain #5. Marcos Frias was one two pitchers that went to the GCL and came back a changed pitcher. His overall numbers were horrid, but he finished the regular season strong and it carried over to the playoffs. That performance basically bumped Pat McCoy off the list, but I mention him here because the line is that close. Tyler Moore’s place is simply indicative of the fact that his weaknesses haven’t been put to the test at AA. Chris Curran gets the nod over Francisco Soriano due to his speed and defense, though Soriano has the better bat and a stronger arm.
1. Derek Norris
2. Steve Lombardozzi
3. Michael Burgess
4. Tyler Moore
5. Chris Curran
1. Brad Peacock
2. Daniel Rosenbaum
3. A.J. Morris
4. Trevor Holder
5. Marcos Frias