Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sierra Nevada Two-Month Review

After playing a third of the season, the Goldens (32-24) are in a position to challenge their division rival, the Duluth-Superior Dukes (34-22) for the Copper Division title. Sierra Nevada is sitting two games back of the Dukes. The Goldens are also in the wild card race as Meridian (33-23), East Lyme (32-24), and Sierra Nevada are all separated by one game and are battling for the 2 Silver League wild card spots.

In assessing the Goldens, it's hard to say if they are just a piece away from being a powerhouse, or are they just a wild card team looking at an early playoff exit. After facing 8 opponents, the Goldens are a combined 3-11 vs. the division leaders Plainsfield & Green Bay. Two of the 11 losses against the top dogs were by 1-run, but the other 9 losses were not very close!

Conversely, the Goldens are a combined 29-13 vs. the other 6 early season opponents, with a winning record against each of the other Bronze and Steel Division opponents.


At this point, I'd have to say that the #1 & #2 starters are carrying the rotation, while the #3 - #5 starters have been very disappointing. Josh Beckett (2.78 era) and Mark Buehrle (3.30 era) have been solid with a 13-6 start while playing their home games at hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark.

On the flip side, Aaron Harang (6.75 era), Gil Meche (5.29 era), & Kyle Kendrick (6.63 era) have been dismal to this point. They are a combined 9-16 while the rest of the staff sports a 23-8 record! Harang was brought over in an off-season trade that was supposed to anchor that 3rd spot down, but has given up a whopping 14 HR's in 64 innings, the most HR's against on the staff. Kendrick and Meche aren't far behind with 9 HR's against each, good for 2nd most on the staff.

To round out the starting pitching, (El Duque) Orlando Hernandez & youngster Yusmeiro Petit have made the most of their 5 combined starts while giving the other starters some needed days off. Hernandez is 2-0 with a 3.86 era in his 2 starts plus relief appearances and Petit was effective going 2-0 with a 4.21 era in 3 starts and will hopefully be a rotation mainstay in future BRASS seasons.

To this point, the bullpen has been very effective (6-2) with era's ranging from 3.00 - 4.25 and a load of strikeouts. Led by Heath Bell, Brian Fuentes, Carlos Marmol, & Fanscisco Cordero, Sierra Nevada leads are in good hands. Only Chad Bradford has struggled so far getting torched with a 12.39 era in 20 IP.


Looking back at the 1st third of the season, the Goldens lineup has been powerful with good production at the top, while the bottom half of the lineup has been a struggle. Edgar Renteria (.319 ba, .373 ob) and Mrlon Byrd (.313 ba, .372 ob) have been good at the top of the order and have been murder on LHP from the opposition. With the lack of a true base stealing threat at the top of the order, #3 & #4 hitters Jim Thome and Adam Dunn have used the long ball to knock them in. Jim Thome is off to a torrid start to the year batting 3rd (.381 ba, 13 HR , 40 RBI), while Dunn bats 4th and is sizzling with (.314 ba, 17 HR, 42 RBI)! From the 5th spot on is where the production drops.

First base appears to be the biggest hole in the lineup. While Mike Jacobs has hit 10 HR's (7 at Home), he's batting a measley .225 & .262 OB%. His range has something to be desired at 1st as well, especially since he shares a 4-range rating with Dan Uggla, the starting second baseman who's also struggling at the plate. While Uggla has 8 HR's and a respecatble 31 RBI's thus far, he has only hit .191 with a .261 OB% and is 2nd on the club with 49 strikeouts!!! While Uggla appears to be a mainstay at 2nd base for years to come with his powerful bat, the Goldens expceted better numbers for sure. The lack of on-base percentage and defensive range from the right side of the infield has lost some games for sure in the 1st two months.

The Goldens have achieved modest production from 3B between the tandem of Hank Blalock and Kevin Kouzmanoff, with each hitting in the .270's in the platoon situation. To this point however, neither is really putting up the numbers you want to see from a #5 spot in the lineup and thier defensive abilities are also dragging down the starting pitching.

The Molina brothers Bengie and Yadier have been solid defensively behind the plate while putting up a respectable offensive attack. They have also combined to throw out 6 of 16 base stealers.

To round out the starters, the RF tandem of Jermaine Dye and Jose Guillen has been somewhat punchless, combining for only 4 HR's and Dye is only hitting .231.

After sprinting out to a 17-11 start in April, the month of May was a little more challenging going 15-13 as some weaknesses became exposed. It appears that for the Goldens to compete in the playoffs, Harang and Meche will need to bounce back in the next couple of months while management will need to try and bring in a suitable 1B improvement both defensively and offensively. The Goldens will be looking to move some OF depth in order to accomplish this. But first, Sierra Nevada will have to try and remain competitive against the buzzsaw Diamond Gems in June.