Lava Flow for June

If you played the Volcanoes in June, it might have seemed like Joey Votto was always on-base. For the month, Votto was 33 of 79 (.418 BA) with 14 walks and 1 HBP (.505 OBP) and 6 HRs (.722 SA). By Strat’s sabermetric calculations, Votto created 29.6 (of the Volcano’s total 110.9) runs in June. While the Volcanoes “created” 111 runs in June, they actually scored 101 runs. The Volcanoes left 155 runners on base in June, with 49 left on base in the Applegate series alone. Margaritaville won 12 games in June (4 against Tatooine, 3 against Bismarck and Satellite Beach, 2 against Applegate). The Volcanoes welcomed five new players in June: Andrew Cashner, Pat Neshek, Alex Claudio, Domingo Santana and Jarrod Dyson. The quintet of ex-Scorpions underwhelmed in their Volcano debuts. Cashner was 1-1 with a 7.25 ERA; Neshek was 1-1 with a 4.25 ERA (and 5 HRs allowed – 4 HRs to the Bombers); Claudio was 2-0 with a 4.91 ERA, Santana batted .183 (13 for 71) with a .326 OBP and .408 SLG. Dyson batted .290 with 2 HRs – a walk-off win against the Paperclips and a walk-off win against the Brawlers. The walk-off HR saved the Volcanoes in June play, as Chris Taylor added a 3-run walk off against the Rebels and Joey Votto’s 11th inning walk-off capped a comeback from 4 runs down in the 9th inning of game 5 against the Rebels. The walk-offs contributed to a 7-1 record for the Volcanoes in 1-run games in June play, offsetting a .260 team batting average, and a 5.05 team ERA in June play.

Disappointing so far has been Francisco Lindor’s batting. For the Indians in 2017, Lindor slashed 81 extra base hits (44 doubles, 4 triples and 33 home runs). For the Volcanoes in 2018, Lindor has slushed his way to 28 extra-base hits (18 doubles, 1 triple and 9 home runs). Lindor’s Volcano slugging is 132 points below his Indian slugging (.373 vs .505) and his OPS is 171 points below his Indian OPS (.671 vs .842). With his 2L card, Lindor has been surprisingly particularly pathetic against left-handed pitching. Against lefties, Lindor is 15 for 73 (.205 avg), with 2 doubles and 1 home run (.274 slugging) for a total OPS of .575.

With 51 wins at the halfway pole, the Volcanoes are on pace to win 102 games. In 2017, the Volcanoes had 49 wins through 80 games, and ultimately won 106. The 2017 team had scored 513 runs and allowed 433 runs through 80 games, the 2018 team has scored 435 and allowed 347. Through the first 80 games of 2017 David Ortiz hit .304 with 31 doubles and 27 HRs, scoring 57 runs and driving in 73. Big Papi’s bat is obviously missed, with the Volcanoes scoring 80 fewer runs. By deploying a deep bullpen the Volcanoes cut their runs allowed by 86 runs. So far in 2018 the Volcano bullpen has pitched 310 innings, and is on pace to pitch 620 bullpen innings. The 2017 team had a total of 522 bullpen innings pitched.

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Clip Files for June

Jorge Alfaro

Alfaro

The Clips’ front office can’t come to an agreement on whether the club is underachieving or overachieving. While its 48-32 mark at the season’s midpoint was built somewhat on a favorable early schedule, the Clips have established a 96-win pace without much contribution from slugger Aaron Judge, who has only 25 extra-base hits to this point (8-0-17), on the heels of 79 extra-base hits last year (24-3-52) for the Yankees. … Regardless, Applegate posted a 14-6 June and the Clips outscored their opponents 116-77. … The Clips packed their active roster with limited sluggers Nicky Delmonico and Jorge Alfaro, hoping to rack up wins against teams that were struggling this year. The strategy worked, with Alfaro hitting .367 and driving in a team-high 20 runs. He hit five homers and used up 49 of his limited ABs. For the year, Alfaro is hitting .398 in 93 at-bats. His catching counterpart, Willson Contreras, benefited from the extra rest, but still led the Clips in hitting in June at .458. … Brian Dozier slugged a team-high six homers, including a 10th-inning solo blast in Game Five against Dyersville that enabled the Clips to win that series, 3-2. … Interesting tidbit from Game Three of that series: After Applegate jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning (keyed by an Alfaro grand slam), Dyersville began the bottom of the first by pinch-hitting for limited leadoff man Michael Conforto. … The Dyersville series also saw the Clips turn a 5-4-3 triple play in the fourth inning on a lomax roll — one inning after a one-out lomax roll ended Dyersville’s bases-loaded threat in that inning too. The Treblemakers still won the game, 3-1. … Applegate’s 4-1 series win over Tatooine was highlighted by a 7-5 Game Four win in which the Clips were down 5-1 starting the eighth inning. … Applegate likewise went 4-1 at home vs. Bismarck, losing only Game Five, 7-5, leaving 18 runners on base. Applegate hit .324 that series and Judge had his only good series of the year with three homers and six RBIs. Judge does have a league-leading 80 walks in 80 games. …  Matt Chapman, spelling a limited Josh Donaldson at third, hit .412 with two homers and eight RBIs. Delmonico hit .545 and Alfaro .500. … The Clips walked off to victory in Game Two on a 2b (x) roll that went for a 1B** with Chapman up, runners at second and third, one out and the infield in in the 9th to win 4-3. … In its toughest battle of the month, Applegate invaded Margaritaville and reeled off wins in each of the first three games before suffering one-run walkoff losses in Games Four and Five. A seesaw Game Four saw Margaritaville surrender leads of 3-0 after three innings and 4-3 and 7-6 in late innings; Applegate coughed up a 6-4 lead in the eighth and saw the Volcanoes walk off in the ninth on a bases-loaded single by Kris Bryant off ace closer Blake Parker.  Kyle Crick was the victim in the ninth inning of Game Five; after the Clips scored two runs in the top of the ninth on a Billy Hamilton homer to tie the game 3-3, Jarrod Dyson led off the home half of the inning with an equally unexpected long ball to win it 4-3 for Margaritaville. Every game in the series was decided by one or two runs. … Stephen Strasburg had a good month, going 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA that included the club’s only complete-game outing of the year, coming against the Volcanoes. … Fernando Rodney was a bullpen workhorse, pitching 23 2/3 innings and notching a 3-1 record with a 2.28 ERA. … At the 80-game mark, Applegate is 16-3 in games in which the opposition starts a left-handed pitcher. Jose Martinez has 11 of his 13 homers against southpaws. … Applegate trails Superior now by one game in its division and trails only the Titans in best run differential in the league (+96 for Applegate, +104 for Superior)… The Clips have returned to the top of the team ERA standings after their solid June, checking in at 3.94. They have allowed the fewest homers in the league at 89 and trail only Margaritaville in homers hit (135-127)… The Clips also have a healthy lead for most team walks at 379. …

Gopher Holes for May

Righty Taijuan Walker enjoyed a spectacular debut month for the Gophers, going 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA in four starts, including a complete game victory over the division-leading Volcanoes. Walker gave up just 19 hits and two runs over 27.1 innings. The Gophers won three of his four starts, the only loss coming in a tough-luck 3-1 setback vs. the Rebels, Walker’s former team.

For the month, the Gophers broke even at 10-10 to reach the 60-game plateau at 34-26, five games behind the Volcanoes in the Northbound. Bushwood went 3-2 at Margaritaville and vs. Destin, but slipped to 2-3 vs. Tatooine and at West Atlanta. After winning 6 of the first 8 games of the month vs. Margaritaville and Destin (and grabbing a comfy lead in Game 9 vs. the Bums), the Gophers had visions of grandeur. But the club’s luck changed abruptly, with the Gophers limping through a 4-8 stretch to close the month.

Crummy game of the month: The turning point came against the Bums in that Game 4. Destin skipper Ken Crawford was already in a bad frame of mind after three quick losses. But the Bums showed signs of life in the fifth inning of Game 4, rallying for five runs against Yu Darvish to grab a 6-4 lead. Destin ace Chris Sale was struggling, and when he hit George Springer with a pitch to open the bottom of the fifth, Crawford pulled the lefty in favor of Addison Reed. False move. Reed promptly walked Buster Posey and Ryan Zimmerman, then allowed a grand slam to Austin Barnes to lose the lead and fall into endurance. For good measure, Shin-Soo Choo followed with a solo shot to put the Gophers up 9-6 and push Crawford over the edge. He decided to leave his tired reliever on the hill to absorb further punishment, but a funny thing happened. Reed settled down and tossed 2.2 spotless innings, and the Bums struck for two runs in the eighth and three more in the ninth to notch an unlikely 11-9 victory. Ryan Braun’s two-run homer got the Gophers sweating in the eighth, and Carlos Correa’s 3-run bomb in the ninth off elite reliever Steve Cishek finished them off in the ninth.

Cishek had a month to forget, repeatedly losing leads and getting lit up regularly despite a card to die for. His ERA climbed from 0.96 at the outset of the month all the way up to 6.06 by month’s end.

As a team, the Gophers’ offense fell flat in May, scoring 3 runs or fewer in 11 of the 20 games overall, including 4 of 5 vs. the Rebels. Against the Crush, the Gophers dropped three games in a row after winning the first two, scoring just 8 total runs in the three losses.

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Lava Flow for May

If you played the Volcanoes in May, it might have seemed like Joey Votto was always on-base.  For the month, Votto was 33 of 76 (.434 BA) with 13 walks and 3 HBP (.527 OBP) and 5 HRs (.737 SA).  Votto was other-worldly in his destruction of West Atlanta.  Against the Crush, Votto was 14 of 19 (.737 BA) with 4 walks (.800 OBP) and 2 HRs (1.211 SA).  By simple addition (.800 + 1.211), Votto’s OPS vs the Crush was 2.011.  The Volcanoes took 4 out of 5 from West Atlanta, outscoring them 27-17.  By Strat’s Sabremetric calculations, Votto created 19.6 runs vs the Crush.  … Compiling a “not-so-good” May was Khris Davis.  Davis hit 13 HRs in March and April play, but posted 0 HRs in May (along with batting 13 for 76 – for a .171 average – and 30 Ks).  … Joe “Five and Dive” Biagini filled his role to perfection in May, going 3-0 in his 4 starts, pitching 20 innings and allowing 20 hits, 4 runs (3 earned) and 0 HRs to post a 1.35 ERA. … The league caught up to Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen in May as each allowed 3 HRs in 10 IP (for a total of 6 HRs allowed by the dynamic duo in the month).  … The Volcano bullpen has posted an ERA of 2.79 through the first 60 games, which is a big part of how the Volcanoes’ team ERA of 3.75 leads the I-75 league.  In bullpen usage, Margaritaville leads the league with 222.7 relief innings pitched, and with 189 relievers used.  The league average is 185.6 relief innings pitched and 145.6 relievers used.  On a per-game basis, the Volcanoes use 3.15 relievers per game to pitch 3.71 relief innings.  The Volcanoes use each reliever an average of 1.18 innings per game, which is below the league average of 1.27.  Satellite Beach has the quickest “reliever hook,” allowing their relievers to pitch only 1.12 innings on average.  The Volcanoes are the only team to use an average of more than 3 relievers per game. … Applegate and Bismarck are tied for second at 2.77 relievers per game, and Superior is foruth with 2.72 relievers per game.  The East Cobb Juice are the most reliever-averse team in the league, using only 110 reliever appearances (1.83 per game) to pitch 137.7 innings (2.30 per game).  Earl Weaver’s Seventh Law is, “It is easier to find four good starters than five.”  In Margaritaville, we have updated this to, “It is easier to find eight good relievers than four good starters.”

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Clip Files for May

Applegate’s 13-7 May, supports largely by a 5-0 sweep of Boulder, came with ace Stephen Strasburg sitting out the month, as Luis Perdomo continues to take turns giving Applegate starters a one-month rest. The Clips went 2-2 in Perdomo’s starts as he generated a fat 7.94 ERA. … Both Drew Pomeranz (1.96 ERA) and Jimmy Nelson (5.96 ERA) went 3-0 on the month. Applegate had entered the month with the league’s best team ERA, but gave up 111 runs (101 earned) for a 5.03 ERA and pushing the club’s season-to-date ERA above 4 at 4.09. … Fortunately the offense had its best showing, blasting 35 homers while hitting .293 and scoring 139 runs, nearly 7 per game. … The 111 runs allowed included 19 by Savannah in a Game Two rout of Jhoulys Chacin, who surrendered 17 and saw his ERA climb above 7.00. … Rookie catcher Jorge Alfaro saw his first action and responded with a team-high .432 month, collecting 19 hits in 44 at-bats. Josh Donaldson had the team highs in both homers (8) and RBI (18). … Aaron Judge had 5 homers and 16 RBI, pushing his yearly totals to 13 and 38, on pace for just 35 homers. … The heartbreak loss of the month came in Game Five to Satellite Beach. The Clips led 5-3 in the ninth in the rubber game of the series and with one out brought in Ken Giles to relieve Andrew Miller. Anthony Rendon and Eduardo Nunez singled and Edwin Encarnacion doubled both of them in to tie the game. After Cody Bellinger struck out, pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick doubled in Encarnacion for the walk-off win. … Applegate outscored the Tree Huggers 47-17 in their sweep, hitting .363 and holding Boulder to three runs in the first three games. The Clips had a 15-4 edge in homers and four of Judge’s five homers in May came in this series. … Lefty assassin Jose Martinez has 12 homers in 111 at-bats overall. Eleven of the 12 have come vs. southpaws. Applegate is 13-2 in games in which the opponent starts a left-handed pitcher. … Applegate has saves from six different pitchers.

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Lava Flow for April

May play saw the Volcanoes stumble against SGP (2-3), before rallying against NNY (3-2), ECU (4-1) and DBB (5-0). The 14-6 month gives the Volcanoes a 27-13 record on the season, three games ahead of their 24-16 record after two months of the 2017 championship season.

A surprise in the 2018 season has been the bullpen-led pitching staff, leading the league in allowing the fewest earned runs (150), fewest hits (302) and lowest batting average against (.228). The bullpen has been the backbone of the pitching staff, pitching 143 innings through the first 40 games, and compiling an ERA of 2.58 versus the 214 IP and 4.57 ERA of the starters.

Stellar in the bullpen so far have been Kenley Jansen (0.73 ERA) and Aroldis Chapman (0.84 ERA). Since being drafted with picks #23 and #30 in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft, Jansen and Chapman have pitched 713 1/3 innings for the Volcanoes, giving up 534 hits and 297 walks while striking out 1,029, and recording 210 saves and an ERA of 3.22.

The Volcano offense is led by the 1-2 punch (they normally bat first and second) of Joey Votto (.350/.447/.541, 40 runs, 16 RBIs) and Kris Bryant (.338/.457/.629, 40 runs, 35 RBIs). Khris Davis has moved out of his 2017 left field platoon with Ichiro Suzuki and responded with a team-high 13 HRs and second-on-the-team 30 RBIs.

The Volcanoes continue to “lead” the league with zero sacrifice bunt attempts. Earl Weaver’s “Fifth Law” – “If you play for one run, that’s all you’ll get” is inscribed in capital letters in the Volcano dugout. Playing for the big inning, the Volcanoes lead the league with most games with 10+ runs scored (10).

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One night, two no-hitters highlights historic March

Heading into the I-75 League’s 39th season, the record book showed 17 no-hitters. That means many years passed without a single no-hitter being thrown.

We won’t have to worry about that in 2018, as we’ve already had two no-hitters that not only occurred in the same month, but were rolled on the same night.

On March 28, Margaritaville Manager John McMillan announced that three pitchers had combined to hurl the first no-no in Volcano history, and moments later, Satellite Beach Manager Steve Nieroda shared the news that Alex Cobb had done the same for the Brawlers. Needless to say, two no-hitters on one night had never before occurred in league history.

Margaritaville’s no-hitter, a 12-0 blowout of Boulder, ended in dramatic fashion, as the Tree Huggers’ Eric Thames rolled a SI * 1-15 with two outs in the ninth, only to pluck a 16 to end the game.

That came off Joakim Soria, who entered in the eighth and stuck around for the ninth when both managers realized for the first time that history was pending. Boulder had loaded the bases with walks in the first inning off Margaritaville starter Dinelson Lamet but failed to score. Jed Lowrie reached via a hit-by-pitch in the fourth. Randall Delgado relieved Lamet and pitched two hitless innings while Margaritaville’s offense continued to feast on Boulder pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Hoffman. Along the way, Boulder was missing a trio of 1-15 ballpark homer chances.

But when it was all said and done, the Volcanoes had their combined no-hitter, fanning nine and walking three.

Cobb’s no-hitter for Satellite Beach was nearly even more historic, as a sixth-inning walk by Tatooine’s Jason Kipnis was the only blemish on what was nearly a perfect game. Cobb struck out 10 while going the distance in the 3-0 win. Like Boulder, Tatooine also missed three ballpark homer chances in the game.

The no-hit victories helped both Margaritaville and Satellite Beach to 13-win months, a month notable for the fact that 10 of the league’s 15 teams got off to double-digit win totals, including every team in the Northbound Division and four of the five teams in the Westbound Division. Leading the way was Bushwood with 14 wins, a feat accomplished despite playing three of its four series on the road. Tatooine managed a 10-win month despite going 0-5 in the Satellite Beach series that included the no-hitter, winning its other series 3-2, 4-1 and 3-2.