Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sergey on move, again

You might recall that after Matt Sergey was traded in August by the Wild Things to Laredo of the American Association, the pitcher had an amazing impact on the Lemurs. Sergey did not give up a run in 20 regular-season innings and tossed six shutout frames in his only postseason start for Laredo, which won the league championship.

Those numbers didn't keep Sergey in Laredo. He was traded as a player to be named to complete a deal with the Gary SouthShore RailCats, who are managed by Greg Tagert, who spent many years in the Frontier League.

Laredo is supposed to send two players to Washington to complete the Sergey trade. The Lemurs currently have 14 players on their roster who are Frontier League-eligible.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Driving excitement

Here's the link to an interesting story about Wild Things outfielder Scott Kalamar being the talk of the Lehigh Valley Amateur golf tournament.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Breaking down the FL's tiebreaker games

When the Frontier League decided last offseason that it would use the controversial International Tiebreaker rule -- the American Association and Can-Am League also implemented the post-10th-inning rule -- there were two popular reactions among the league's managers.

1. They said there was a sound reason for using the rule, though almost all admitted hating it and saying it was not real baseball. Washington's Bob Bozzuto and Schaumburg's Jamie Bennett were the two who spoke most passionately to me against the tiebreaker. Only two managers I spoke with said they liked the rule.

2. They said it would heavily favor the home team. The conventional wisdom was that, to borrow the analogy used by Evansville manager Andy McCauley, it would be like college football overtimes. The visiting team wouldn't know if playing it safe and for one run would be enough to win. The home team always would know if it should play for one run or the big inning.

It turned out that the visiting teams dominated ITR games.

There were 25 tiebreaker games played and the visiting team registered a 16-9 record. The road team won each of the first six tiebreaker games played.

The only team that managed to go the entire season without playing in a tiebreaker game was Windy City. Joliet played its first ITB in the final game of the regular season.

Washington and Rockford played the most tiebreaker games with six each. Both teams went 2-4.

Three teams went undefeated in the ITB format. Normal was 4-0, the Greys were 3-0 and Joliet 1-0.

The only team that played an ITB game and failed to win one was Lake Erie, which was 0-2.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Talkin' titles

Traverse City Beach Bums -- 2015 Frontier League champions

Trivia time.

Since the Wild Things joined the Frontier League in 2002, how many different teams have won the league championship?

Answer: Twelve.

The Traverse City Beach Bums become the Frontier League's 12th different champion in the last 14 years when they swept the River City Rascals, winning Game 3 last Friday night, 4-1.

Two teams -- Windy City (2007 and '08) and Schaumburg (2013 and '14) -- have won a pair of championships since Washington joined the league. If the Rockford Aviators fold as expected and the Greys are not needed, then the 2015 lineup in the Frontier League will consist of 12 teams. Of those 12, only three will have never hoisted the championship trophy: Florence, Normal and, of course, Washington.

Traverse City won its first championship in the franchise's 10th season. The record for longest run without a championship is held by Chillicothe, which never won the title in its 16 years in the league. Washington is 0-for-14.

By the way, the West Virginia Black Bears, the Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate in the New York-Penn League that played their inaugural season this year in Morgantown, W.Va., won the league championship. That should make every Wild Things fan cringe.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Late shows

The Traverse City Beach Bums and River City Rascals resume the Frontier League's championship series with Game 3 tonight in O'Fallon, Mo. Traverse City has a 2-0 lead and is on the verge of the franchise's elusive first championship.

The Beach Bums won Game 2 Wednesday night when they overcame a four-run deficit and won 6-5. Traverse City scored in each of the last five innings and pushed across the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth.

Late-game magic has been standard procedure for Traverse City, which has been one of the best teams in the league at scoring in the late innings. The Beach Bums tied for the league lead in scoring the game-winning run in its final inning of batting, whether it be the bottom of the 8th, top or bottom of the 9th or extra innings (and earlier in seven-inning doubleheader games).

The following is the number of times each team produced the game-winning run in its final inning of batting in the 2015 season:

15 -- Southern Illinois
15 -- Traverse City
14 -- Gateway
11 -- Greys
11 -- Normal
11 -- Washington
10 -- Evansville
10 -- River City
 9 -- Joliet
 8 -- Rockford
 7 -- Lake Erie
 6 -- Scahumburg
 5 -- Windy City
 4 -- Florence

Monday, September 14, 2015

Talking bullpens

How important is it to win your division in the Frontier League?

If the two years of six playoff qualifiers tells us anything, the answer is not much. In the last two postseasons, only one division champion has made it to the finals.

Traverse City and River City, two wild-card entrants, have advanced to the championships series by winning semifinal series over division champions. Traverse City swept West Division champion Normal and River City outlasted East champion Southern Illinois in three games.

Rascals rookie Josh Silver, who hit only one home run in 69 games during the regular season, smacked two grand slams -- yes, two grand slams -- during River City's 9-5 win in Game 3. He became the first player in Frontier League history to hit two grand slams in a game.

Traverse City and River City split the regular-season series at 3-3. They didn't meet at all until Aug. 11, so Game 1 will be the seventh contest between the Beach Bums and Rascals in a little more than a month.

If there is one advantage for Traverse City it might be in the bullpen. The Beach Bums' relievers were among the best in the league at protecting a lead while River City's was among the worst. Some of that has to do with Traverse City's home field being a pitcher's park while River City's T.R. Hughes Ballpark is a hitter's haven.

Below are the number of blown saves for each team during the 2015 regular season:

18 -- Greys
18 -- River City
14 -- Rockford
14 -- Southern Illinois
13 -- Gateway
13 -- Washington
12 -- Windy City
11 -- Florence
11 -- Schaumburg
10 -- Lake Erie
10 -- Traverse City
 7 -- Joliet
 5 -- Normal
 3 -- Evansville

The Wild Things had seven blown saves in 2014, a season that resulted in a playoff berth. Of those seven, Washington rallied and won three of those games. This year, once the Wild Things fell behind late after blowing a save they usually were unable to battle back. They had a 1-12 record in games with a blown save.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Checking up on 3 more former Wild Things

Notes about three more former Wild Things players:

* Outfielder Stewart Ijames (2013-14) had a big night in Game 1 of the Class A California League semifinal series Saturday night between Visalia and San Jose. Playing for the Visalia Rawhide, Ijames went 3-for-4 with a double, run and two RBI. He hit a tiebreaking, two-out single in the bottom of the eighth inning and came around to score after a walk and single.

Ijames began the season with Visali, was promoted to Class AA Mobile, where he played very well, then was sent back to Visalia late in the regular season. I assume that was because Visalia had already clinched a playoff berth and Mobile would not be playing in the Carolina League's postseason.

* Pitcher Vidal Nuno (2011) struck out a career-high 10 batters and allowed just one hit over seven innings Wednesday as Seattle blanked Texas, 1-0. Nuno has a 1-2 record and a 2.79 ERA in 31 games (six starts) this season. It was the first win for Nuno in 45 outings.

* Pitcher Matt Sergey is not the only former Wild Things pitcher on a scoreless streak. Reliever Al Yevoli (2012-14) has thrown 15 consecutive scoreless innings over 20 outings for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League. During that span, Yevoli has given up 11 hits and three walks.

Yevoli began the year in minor-league spring training with the Arizona Diamondbacks but was released. He signed with Wichita in the American Association and pitched in 31 games out of the bullpen for the Wingnuts before being traded to Sioux Falls. After three appearances with the Canaries, Yevoli was released and signed by Lancaster. He made a stop at Consol Energy Park to see his former team play while on his way to Lancaster. Yevoli has not given up a run yet with the Barnstormers.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Another former Wild Thing with big game in playoffs

Former Wild Things outfielder Quincy Latimore (41 games in 2013) had impressive game Friday night in the Eastern League playoffs, hitting two home runs, two doubles, going 4-for-5 and driving in six runs in Bowie's 11-3 victory over the Altoona Curve.

Latimore's big game gives Bowie a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 semifinal series.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Ex-Wild Thing Sergey still tossing scoreless innings

Matt Sergey
Has not given up a run while pitching for Laredo.

Former Wild Things pitcher Matt Sergey extended his run of scoreless innings since being dealt from Washington to Laredo when he fired six shutout innings Thursday night in the Lemurs' 4-1 victory over Wichita in the American Association semifinals.

Sergey allowed only two hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. He left after throwing 94 pitches and holding a 2-0 lead.

The win gives Laredo a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-5 series.

Since being traded by the Wild Things, Sergey has pitched 26 consecutive scoreless innings, allowing only 10 hits and four walks with 29 strikeouts.

With numbers like that, the two players the Wild Things are supposed to be getting in exchange for Sergey better be good. Very good.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

It always comes down to starting pitchers

The Frontier League semifinals begin later tonight with Southern Illinois playing River City in one best-of-3 series and Traverse City facing Normal in the other. If it comes down to starting pitchers -- doesn't it always come down to pitching? -- then you have to favor the Miners in a landslide and give a slight edge to the Beach Bums.

At least that's what the regular season indicated.

When it comes to producing quality starts -- at least six innings and no more than three earned runs allowed -- Southern Illinois and Traverse City were among the best in the league. Both teams are helped by having home parks that are considered pitcher-friendly, but each team got the job done on the road this year. River City is near the bottom of the quality start list, but that can be attributed to playing in a hitters ballpark with a short right-field line and a lightning-quick grass infield. You can pitch a very good game at T.R. Hughes Ballpark and give up a lot more than three runs.

Evansville led the league in quality starts with 59, which is believed to be the second-most in league history. Washington finished in the middle of the pack, though in the bottom half of the league.

Here are the number of quality starts generated by each team this season (does not reflect any scoring changes more than 24 hours after a game was completed):

No. - Team
59 - Evansville
55 - Southern Illinois
49 - Traverse City
47 - Rockford
45 - Greys
44 - Normal
44 - Windy City
42 - Washington
41 - Gateway
39 - Schaumburg
35 - River City
33 - Joliet
30 - Florence
20 - Lake Erie