Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sierra Nevada Goldens Jump Out to Quick Start; Make Deal to Solidify Rotation

The Sierra Nevada Goldens have experienced a very promising start to the 2090 BRASS season, as they have their best record at any time during their young 1+ year franchise history. They finished the May Schedule 22 Games over .500 with a 39-17 record having held at least a tie for 1st place since April 15th and currently have a 5 game edge over the rival SoCal Knights. The hometown fans have been treated to exciting games at home while watching their club win 75% of their games at Great American Ballpark, good enough for a tie with Meridian Trojans for the 2nd best home record in the BRASS league behind the Plainsfield Hitmen. The long ball has been the name of the game for the Goldens as balls have been dumping into the Ohio River off the bat of early Silver League MVP candidate, Adam Dunn, who has 19 dingers trailing only Washington Crossing’s Ryan Braun who has 21 of his own in the early going. The Goldens home run total thus far is staggering as they have already launched 101 bombs, which are 18 more than the Meridian Trojans! The home park obviously has a lot to do with this as they have hit 66 homers at home and 35 on the road, but opposing teams have not taken advantage of the long ball at Great American as they have only hit 28 homers on the Goldens’ field. Dunn surely hasn’t been alone hitting bombs in the early going as Goldens players make up 3 of the top 5 league leaders in TOTAVG. Dan Uggla has jumped out of the gate 3rd in the league with a 1.177 TOTAVG followed by Dunn at 1.164, & Jason Giambi at 1.090. The Goldens have 4 players with double figure home run totals with Dunn at 19, Uggla with 15, Giambi with 13, & Jermaine Dye with 12. Dye is also 9th in BRASS with 121 total bases.

To compliment the power surge, the Goldens’ high-priced top of the rotation has been doing its job as well. Leading Silver League Cy Young candidate Josh Beckett has been dazzling with an 8-0 record in 11 starts with a 3.71 ERA. He’s been devastating to opponents striking out 73 and walking only 18 batters in 77 innings. Gil Meche is 7-3 with a 3.43 ERA as the staff workhorse, and Mark Buehrle is 9-2 with a 4.11 ERA. It will be interesting to see if these 3 starters can keep up the torrid pace and win 20 games apiece and try to keep their ERA’s under 4.00. Relief pitching has been solid as well with Brian Fuentes closing the door at the end of games having saved 14 contests in 15 opportunities with a 1.27 ERA, while Carlos Marmol has been keeping the 8th under control with a 5-1 record, 2.66 ERA, while picking up 4 saves of his own. Management has been pleasantly surprised with a staff ERA of 3.88 thus far.

While the Goldens have got off to a great start, the competition in the Silver League is fierce and the schedule should keep getting tougher as we enter the dog days. Five other teams in the Silver have a winning percentage of .607 or better and only 5 games separate the Silver League leader and missing the wild card altogether! Some areas of concern for the Goldens after the first two months are the team’s overall defense, the lack of a true lead-off hitter who can steal bases and maintain a high OBP, depth in center field, and the #4 & #5 starters. It would be nice if the Goldens could improve the platoon situation at shortstop of Edgar Renteria & Jack Wilson with a true everyday leadoff man, but the current state is tolerable. Left field is also a platoon with Jose Guillen, David Murphy, & Conor Jackson, but it is going to be hard to move either Guillen or Jackson due to poor performances in MLB 2009. The key to the team’s defense to this point has been All-Star candidate Yadier Molina behind the plate. With cat-like reflexes and cannon for an arm behind the plate opponents have stolen only 9 bases in 14 attempts! With the help of Buehrle, Meche, and Beckett holding on runners, the Goldens have been able to keep big innings by opponents to a minimum and have kept the double play ball in tact snuffing out rallies.

Following the month of May, the Goldens addressed the #4 starting pitcher slot and CF depth as a deal was consummated with the league leading Plainsfield Hitmen. The Goldens traded utility infielder Ramon Santiago, middle reliever Chad Bradford, and starting pitcher Scott Feldman for defensive center fielder Brian Anderson and starter Jamie Moyer. While Moyer was brought in to improve the #4 spot in the rotation, he could conceivably battle Beckett and Buehrle for the #2 & #3 spot as he comes to town with an 8-1 record and 3.10 ERA in 11 starts with his former club. The month of June will be fun to watch as Moyer makes his Goldens debut and 3B Mike Lowell makes his season debut after sitting out the 1st two months with an injury. The series to watch this month will be against the Platinum Division leading Diamond Gems who have a 40-16 record. The series figures to be home run derby as the venues will both be dinger friendly at Coors Field & Great American Ballpark.