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Baseball Analysis  Mike McCann / Minor Leagues

June 2004


By Mike McCann

I was finally able to make it to a minor league baseball game this season on May 24. In past years, I've been able to see games more frequently than this year, but that isn't the case so far this year. Since the Wilmington Blue Rocks are the closest minor league team, I try to get to a number of their games each season. On this day, I was able to see the Blue Rocks take on the Frederick Keys.

One of the reasons that I like going to Blue Rocks games is that the team always seems to be one of the best in the league.  The Carolina League only has eight teams, so being at the top of a four team division isn't that difficult, but it still shows that the team is playing well versus other teams at the same level.  Going into the game, the Blue Rocks were in a virtual tie with the Potomac Cannons for first place in the Northern Division.  They both had .500 records at the top; Wilmington at 22-22 and Potomac at 21-21.  Lynchburg was only one game behind the two.  The other team in the division, the Frederick Keys, weren't faring nearly as well.

Coming into the game, the Keys had the worst record in all of minor league baseball at 8-34.  They had dropped 9 of their previous 11 coming into the game.  Frederick had Joe Coppinger starting who was 0-4, 5.12 in 11 games (4 starts).  The biggest problem the team has had so far has been its pitching.  The team ERA was at 5.52 and they had a significant lead in home runs allowed and walks allowed among teams in the league.

Looking at the starting pitching, the numbers didn't look too pretty.  Don Levinski is 1-5, 6.37 in 9 starts.  Paul Henry is 0-3, 7.47 in 8 starts.  Ryan Hannaman is 0-1, 8.03 in 4 starts (5 games).  Rommie Lewis was their closer last season and was being converted to a starter, but after 12 games (4 starts) he was 0-5, 7.47.  The bright spot in the rotation is Richard Stahl who is 3-3, 3.46.  I have to admit that I'm a little surprised because I knew that the Orioles AA team in Bowie had one of the best starting rotations in minor league baseball, but I guess that Frederick wasn't able to keep the trend going.  Lewis and Hannaman (acquired from San Francisco last season in the Ponson trade) were considered two of the better pitching prospect in the Orioles system, but they weren't able to get it going so far this season.  The Carolina League is definitely known as a pitchers league, so if the pitchers struggle, the team will not do very well.

Wilmington had Devon Lowery pitching who is one of the better pitching prospects in the Royals system and put up better than average numbers so far this season going 2-2, 3.55.  He had pitched between 4 and 6 innings each game in each of his 9 starts.  He struggled in his previous two starts giving up 9 runs in 10 innings.

It looked like Frederick was going to be able to start to turn things around for this game at the beginning.  The Keys held a 5-1 lead after the top of the 3rd inning on an RBI double by RF Cory Keylor and 2 run double by DH Mike Done.  The Blue Rocks were able to scratch out two runs in the bottom half of the frame making the score 5-3.  Both starting pitchers left after 4 innings with this score still holding.

Paul Henry came in for the Keys making his first relief appearance of the season.  He didn't pitch as well as his counterpart allowing a leadoff triple to Blue Rocks 3B Damaso Espino who scored on a groundout by SS Mike Aviles.  In the 6th inning, the Blue Rocks were able to turn a leadoff walk into another run.  With the score now tied at 5-5, the Blue Rocks started off the 7th with two singles.  Nick McCurdy came in to relieve Henry and allowed the two inherited runners to score.  Rommie Lewis came in to pitch the 8th inning for the Keys and gave up two runs.

Meanwhile, the Blue Rocks bullpen was near perfect.  The combination of Drew Endicott, Nate Hoelscher and Ryan Braun allowed just one baserunner over the final five innings.  Blue Rocks DH Darren Fenster maintained his league leading batting average going 2-5 with 2 runs and raising his average to .362.  Damaso Espino was 2-4 with 2 runs.  Mike Aviles was 2-4 with 4 RBIs, and interestingly had exactly one RBI in 4 plate appearances.  2B Donnie Murphy went 4-5 with 3 runs scored and 2 RBIs.

The final was a 9-5 Blue Rocks victory.  Paul Henry took the loss falling to 0-4, 8.01.  Given the records of the teams coming in, it wasn't a surprising outcome.  But you really never know what is going to happen in any game, so it is always worth watching.

I am always looking for topics to write about, so please send me an email and let me know what would be interesting reading for you. Feel free to ask any questions or give an idea for a column.

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