Lava Flow for June

June play continued the odd journey of the Volcanoes through their 2019 season. The Volcanoes posted their season-best 12-8 record, and at the end of the month found themselves tied for first place in the Northbound division. For the season, the Volcanoes have allowed more runs (436) than they have scored (399), yet have won more games (41) than they have lost (39). The Volcanoes have hit better against righties (.800 OPS) than against lefties (.764 OPS) yet have a better record against lefties (12-6) than against righties (29-33). The Volcanoes have batted with the bases loaded a league-leading 73 times and while their overall OPS is .792, with the bases loaded they have hit to a .914 OPS, leading to a league-leading 61 runs from bases loaded situations.

(The Hypnotoads lead the league in bases-loaded OPS with 1.012, but have only batted with the bases loaded 56 times, producing 52 runs).  Applegate’s (.608 OPS) and Bismarck’s (.545 OPS)  batters have turned to jelly with the bases loaded.

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Lava Flow for May

In “The Opposite” episode of Seinfeld, Jerry discovers a peculiar balance in his universe:

Jerry: Played cards last night.

Elaine: Oh yeah? How’d you do?

Jerry: Broke even.

Elaine: You always break even.

Jerry: Yeah, I know; like yesterday I lost a job, and then I got another one, and then I missed a TV show, and later on they re-ran it. And then today I missed a train, went outside and caught a bus. It never fails! I always even out!

In May the Volcanoes won 10 games, and lost 10 games.  After 60 games, the Volcanoes have a record of 29 wins and 31 losses.  In their 12 series, the Volcanoes have gone 3-2 in six series, 2-3 in five series, and took a 1-4 thumping at the hands of the Hypnotoads.  They have just enough offense to win 29 games (Lindor hitting .324 with 17 HRs and 42 RBI) and enough bad starting pitching to lose 31 (six pitchers have started for Margaritaville in 2019, each has an ERA of over 5.00).  Kenley Jansen has 11 saves, but has given up five home runs in 28 IP and blown three saves.

A somewhat quirky – but ultimately useless – fact:  The Volcanoes have not played any extra-innings games in 2019.  Such is the journey to a .500 season.

Three Up

Shane Bieber 

April’s “Three Up” featured two starting pitchers – Luis Castillo and Domingo German – and May’s “Three up” features three more starting pitchers.  Through Memorial Day, Volcano pitchers rank No. 3 (Castillo), No. 14 (German), No. 16 (Brandon Woodruff), No. 18 (Mike Minor), and No. 21 (Shane Bieber) in MLB for lowest OPS allowed.  The potential to throw five of the top 21 (and with Jake Arrieta and Jose Quintana “lurking” at No. 50 and No. 54) starting cards in 2020’s rotation is a big turnaround from the end of the 2018 season, when the returning Volcano starters were Ervin Santana, Andrew Cashner, Michael Fulmer, Dinelson Lamet, Cole Hamels and Brandon McCarthy (we still haven’t given up on Lamet – who is expected back for the Padres soon).  A big part of the turnaround was pick No. 20 in the March draft – Bieber.  While BP was somewhat “down” on Bieber, stating, “The plus-plus command gives him a pretty high floor of capable innings eater, but the lack of advanced stuff or any true out-pitch is what keeps him from topping out as anything more than that,” Shandler was more optimistic, noting, “Still some Dom uncertainty, but otherwise this is a skilled young SP looking at a potential breakout year.”  Through 10 starts / 63.2 IP for the Indians, Bieber has resolved the “Dom uncertainty,” increasing his K/9 rate from 9.26 (in 2018) to 11.17.  Perhaps he does have a true out-pitch after all!  We might be looking back at this start against the Orioles on May 19 as the game where Bieber “announced his presence with authority.” Bieber pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing five hits (all singles), no walks and striking out 15. Bieber also appears to have resolved his split issues (he is rated a 6R pitcher in his 2018 card), allowing an OPS of .665 vs lefties and .639 vs righties so far for the Indians.

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Lava Flow for April

Through the season’s first quarter the Volcanoes emphasized that 2019 is likely to be a rebuilding year for the defending champions.  The Volcanos can score – their 207 runs scored rank fourth in the league — but cannot prevent their opponents from scoring. Their 228 runs allowed rank 14th in the league.  Most alarming is the 75 home runs allowed by Volcano pitchers, worst in the league and on a season pace for 300 homers allowed.  ERA stats for Volcano starters read like the midterm grades for Delta House:  Michael Fulmer – 5.85 (congratulations Mr. Fulmer, you’re at the top of the Delta House pledge class); Jake Arrieta – 6.07; Jose Quintana – 6.75; Luis Castillo – 7.17; Mike Minor – 9.56.

Somehow in April play the Volcanoes managed to patch together a winning record, winning series against South Grand Prairie, West Atlanta and Bushwood to post an 11-9 record on the month and 19-21 record on the season.  Key to this over-achievement were victories against pitching aces Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Trevor Bauer.  Even more impressive was winning a series against the Bushwood Gophers – a feat that the 2018 championship team could not achieve in three attempts (the Volcanoes posted a 4-11 record against the Gophers in 2018).

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Lava Flow for March

After back-to-back 106 win seasons and I-75 World Series Championships, the Volcanoes entered 2019 with high hopes. Reality for 2019 is perhaps best summed up in this comparison: in 2018 Kris Bryant had 6 ballpark diamonds on his card vs righties, and Kenley Jansen had 0 ballpark diamonds on his card vs righties – in 2019 Kris Bryant has 1 diamond on his card vs righties, and Kenley Jansen has 8 ballpark diamonds on his card vs righties. Offensive home runs down, home runs allowed up is never a good recipe for winning baseball. That recipe played out in March. While the Volcano offense scored 107 runs (good for 4th in the league), Volcano pitchers allowed a league-high 125 runs and 42 home runs. Highlights in March play included Francisco Lindor breaking out of his season-long 2018 slump to bat .354 with 8 HR’s and a 3rd in the league 20 RBI’s and Freddy Peralta’s 1.80 era and 2-0 w/l record across 9 relief appearances.

With the Volcano pitchers determined to play “home run derby” through the 2019 I-75 season, perhaps more interesting for Volcano fans is following their potential talent for the 2020 I-75 season. With “Three Up / Three Down” we can report on three Volcanoes who are performing well in their 2019 MLB stats, and three Volcanoes who are lagging behind expectations in their 2019 MLB performance.

Three Up:
Julio Urias – The Volcano’s second round draft pick in the 2017 draft had his future put on hold with shoulder surgery in the 2017 MLB season. Urias pitched 4 regular season innings in the 2018 MLB season (earning him the coveted “double void” card), and 7 postseason innings for the Dodgers. Facing an innings limitation entering his age-22 season in 2019, Urias appeared destined to begin the season in the Dodgers’ bullpen. With Urias pitching as perhaps the Dodgers best starter in spring training, and with injuries to Hill and Kershaw, Urias found himself in the Dodgers April starting rotation. Urias responded with a gem in his first start, shutting the Giants out on 3 hits (in 5 innings) with no walks and 7 strikeouts. Perhaps most encouraging of all, Urias’ velocity hit 98 mph – higher than his velocity pre-2017 injury. The ace-level ceiling for Urias is back “on.”

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Lava Flow for October

Joey Votto

Votto

With 13 wins in October, the Volcanoes reached 106 wins for the second consecutive year.  The matching 106-win seasons invite comparison between the 2017 and 2018 Volcano versions.  Each team led the I-75 league in runs scored – the 2017 team with 996 runs; the 2018 team with 971 runs.  The “new” Volcanoes were better at preventing runs – the 2017 team allowed 756 runs; the 2018 team allowed 678 runs.  By “Pythagorean” math (a team’s won-loss percentage is approximated by the formula runs scored squared divided by the sum of runs scored squared and runs allowed squared), the 2017 team exceeded their forecast by five games (101 forecast wins, 106 actual), while the 2018 team lagged their forecast by one game (107 forecast wins, 106 actual).  David Ortiz led the 2017 team with 130.9 runs created (and won the mythical I-75 league MVP award voting).  Ortiz’s void was more than filled by Joey Votto, who led the 2018 team with 162.7 runs created (and who also won the mythical MVP award voting).  Both teams led the league in home runs: 314 for the 2017 version; 272 for the 2018 version.  Over two seasons, the Volcanoes have hit 586 home runs.

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Lava Flow for September

Ah September …

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
(The Volcanoes beat the Bombers (4-1) and the Paperclips (5-0); the Volcanoes lost to the Gophers (1-4) and to the Treblemakers (2-3))

it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
(The Volcanoes scored 28 runs against the Bombers and 42 against the Paperclips; the Volcanoes scored 10 runs against the Gophers and 25 against the Treblemakers)

it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
(Charlie Blackmon had 7 RBI against the Bombers and 7 against the Paperclips; Blackmon had 2 RBI against the Gophers and 4 against the Treblemakers)

it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
(Alex Claudio had an ERA of 3.38 against the Bombers and 0.00 against the Paperclips; Claudio had an ERA of 13.50 against the Gophers and 13.50 against the Treblemakers)

it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
(The Volcanoes outhomered the Bombers 9-5 and outhomered the Paperclips 7-4; the Volcanoes were outhomered by the Gophers 6-1 and outhomered the Treblemakers 7-6)

we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
(The Bombers batted .238 against Ervin Santana and the Paperclips batted .176 against Santana; the Gophers batted .286 against Santana and the Treblemakers batted .571 against Santana)

we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way
(The Volcanoes converted .700 of their fielding x-chances against the Bombers and .963 of their chances against the Paperclips; the Volcanoes converted .682 of their fielding x-chances against the Gophers and .679 of their chances against the Treblemakers)

— in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Lava Flow for August

In August play the Volcanoes matched their July record, reposting a 1- win month.  The Volcanoes were dominant against the Titans (5-0 record), very good against West Atlanta (4-1 record) and took series victories against Destin and East Cobb (3-2 against each).  A significant improvement for the Volcanoes in August play was their record against left-handed starters.  From March through July, the Volcanoes posted a record of 13-11 against lefties.  After adding Justin Turner, Charlie Blackmon and Rhys Hoskins at the trade deadline the Volcanoes were a sparkling 6-1 against lefty starters in August play.  Batting stars in August play were Justin Turner (.352 avg, 15 RBIs), Chris Taylor (5 HR’s, 16 RBIs) and Kris Bryant (.436 OBP, 18 runs scored).  Stepping down to #2 in the batting order (with Kris Bryant now manning the leadoff slot), Joey Votto led the Volcanoes in August with 18 RBIs.  The starting pitching was strong in August play, with Ervin Santana, Andrew Cashner and Michael Fulmer each posting 3-1 records, and Brandon McCarthy returning from a 3-month vacation to post a 4-0 record.  For the season, McCarthy has allowed 30 runs in 66 IP – with 10 runs allowed in one disastrous April start against the Hypnotoads (that team again!).

Emphasizing the “team” nature of this season, for a team that leads the league in home runs and runs, the Volcanoes do not have a player in the top 5 in either home runs or runs batted in, and for a team that leads the league in fewest runs allowed and wins, the Volcanoes do not have a pitcher in the top 5 in either ERA or in wins.

In September play, the Volcanoes face three road series, visiting Bushwood, Applegate and Dyersville while the Bombers of Bismarck make their first visit of the season to Margaritaville.  The Volcanoes are 10-10 in 2018 play against these teams, taking 3-2 series victories against Dyersville and Bismarck while posting 2-3 series losses against Applegate and Bushwood.