With last night’s 5-4 Pigs victory, the IronPigs have finished their first half of games with a 35-37 record. They sit in third place in the International League North division, which is led by Syracuse. They are 6.5 games back of first place, and only one game out of LAST. As we know, things change fast in the Minors: guys get called up, guys get sent down, guys get injured and the like. Unless the lead or deficit is tremendous, anything can happen. The IronPigs are still in it, and will have a chance for the playoffs if they play well.
Here are some other interesting numbers from the first 72 games of the 2014 season:
LHP Starter: 6-13
RHP Starter: 29-24
Day Game: 16-7
Night Game: 19-30
Series Openers: 8-11
Series Finales: 11-6
One-run games: 14-9
In addition to the All Star Break, the second half of the season will include the two western road trips–the far-west Indy-Louisville and the Ohio- Toledo/Columbus. The first-place Durham Bulls from the Southern Division will visit in early August. There are plenty of games against Northern Division foes to sort out what’s been a close and middling race thus far.
Grades: (grades are for overall performance during the first 72 games)
Starting Pitchers: B
Jon Pettibone pitched well prior to his injury, as did David Buchanan prior to his call up. The all-veteran staff at this juncture still has good games possible every single night. There have been moments of dominance and a few real clunkers, but overall the staff has kept the team in games and hasn’t abused the bullpen.
Outlook: We likely won’t see the return of Jon Pettibone following “exploratory” surgery on his shoulder; however, we could possibly see Adam Morgan later on if rumors of his throwing prove true. I believe we will see Jesse Biddle before all is said and done this season. I’ll have more on that in a little bit, but it could be after the All Star Break or at the start of August. We may see the return of David Buchanan as Cliff Lee is throwing bull-pens as of today, and could be back for the Phillies by the All Star break if things go well. Or, they could send us Jeff Manship to be stretched out, instead. Finally, we could see veteran starter Jason Marquis pass through as he returns from Tommy John surgery and makes his way back to the Majors. I’d probably predict a second half grade of B+ or A-. Barring extreme injury situation or uncharacteristic problems, the outlooks is good for the starting staff.
Relief Pitchers: B-
The bullpen right this minute is performing well above that grade; however, the performance of Seth Rosin, Kyle Simon and Mike Nesseth add a drag on the first-half overall.
Outlook: The outlook is good for the current crew. All have been solid, some more than others. The final grade will likely depend on health–of our guys and those in Philly stay healthy I’ll predict a grade as high as ‘A.’ However, should roster changes push the three from Reading back East, the grade could remain current if their performance doesn’t improve.
Reid Brignac and Ronny Cedeno (once he got on track) performed well while here. Freddy Galvis was just getting warmed up, and Tyler Henson‘s been great all over the place. Jim Murphy has been a rock at first base and has been able to hit the long ball on the road. The “Bermuda Triangle” that is Left Field at Coca Cola Park has been a power drain for him, though. There have been some clutch times in which he’s struggled–that cleanup spot in the order is tough for this team. A bunch of guys have rotated through SS and 2B, and all have played reasonably well. Maikel Franco has been better than expected with the glove, but is still getting a feel for his game at the plate. Guys like Troy Hanzawa and Edgar Duran performed admirably when called upon.
Outlook: I expect Franco and Murphy to continue to improve as they make their first tour through AAA baseball. Franco could get pulled to Philly the second he starts to turn it on again, but that would probably be foolish. We may see Cesar Hernandez back for a time playing 3 of the 4 positions, and we may see the return of Freddy Galvis. We also may see Jake Fox again from Reading. Carlos Alonso and Albert Cartwright are hitting well in Reading and could make an appearance, depending on the situation. Brignac and/or Cedeno could return if they are DFA’d and accept the assignment. I’d expect a full letter-grade of improvement for the second half: A-.
Koyie Hill and Cameron Rupp have both been hot with the bat at times during the first half, but both have cooled off a bit of late. Sebastian Valle was here for a time and represented himself well. The catchers have all performed well behind the plate.
Outlook: I expect Hill and Rupp to continue to have hot periods with their bats. Should one of them end up in Philly for a time, I have good confidence in Valle as a suitable replacement at this juncture. I do not expect to see Tommy Joseph, as he remains on Reading’s DL with an arm injury–hopefully he comes back healthy and continues the good play he had earlier in the season down there. I predict a second-half grade as the same: B+.
The season started with Clete Thomas in the lead-off spot and playing some Richie-Thompson-esque outfield. With Clete’s injury, Tyson Gillies has taken over the CF spot on most evenings and done well. He’s been nicked up a bit, frustrated a bit, and not quite hitting as well as we’d like, though. Leandro Castro has been coming alive of late as his approach at the plate seems to have improved in general and especially while he filled the lead-off spot in Tyson’s absence. His arm is really good and he’s been solid in the field. Tyler Henson has been in the corners here, as well as the infield. He had a couple errors early, but Tyler’s done well there of late, when asked. Darin Ruf was here for a time and had some success prior to his injury. Steve Susdorf has been his usual solid self. Cameron Perkins came up from Reading recently and has picked up where he left off there with the hitting and the fielding. We hope to see some power from him, but the singles and doubles are just fine for now.
Outlook: Other than the return of Thomas and Ruf, I don’t expect many changes. Because of time missed with injury, I doubt we’ll see Aaron Altherr or Kelly Dugan promoted to the IronPigs–Altherr’s stint with the Phillies notwithstanding. If Gillies starts hitting like crazy, this grade could be an ‘A’ before season’s end.
Coaches and Managers: A
I really haven’t had a problem with anything Dave Brundage, Mickey Morandini, Sal Rende or Ray Burris have done this season. I always look to the record in one-run games as a sign of the crew’s success and aim to win games in addition to providing support for the big team. In the early years, we were always among the worst in the league. In the Sandberg years, among the best. This season, there was one time when I thought the bunt was a poor choice. There was one time when I thought Morandini should have sent the runner from third. But that’s nit picking. The lineups have made sense, and have been changed around when needed to put guys in different spots and help them to be successful. The pitching decisions and changes have made sense, and worked for the team with an eye towards winning.
Outlook: Probably more of the same. They’ll have to juggle rosters and schedule the pitchers as they’re used to, and I’m not expecting they’ll cost us any games.
While looking at some of the other Northern Division rosters, ours does seem a bit on the weak side. However, they are a solid bunch and have strength top to bottom. The pitching is in place to carry the team to more wins than losses. If they can make up some ground in the divisional games, they might have an opportunity to challenge for a playoff position, either leader or wild-card. In any case, I’m looking forward to it!
See you at the park,