|"Tater", the Gem's Mascot|
The Gems season so far has been a mix of high and low spots – eerily similar to that of the HarbourCats. Like Victoria, Klamath Falls burst out of the gate with a hot home stand, going 6-1 to start the season (remember way back, Victoria started 9-1). Since that point however, the team has been up and down - at one point losing 6 in a row, and more recently coming off the All-Star break, putting together a 4 wins in a row before losing last night in Kitsap.
Coming into tonight’s game, the Gems find themselves at .500 on the season with a 21-21 record. After being swept by Corvallis, the HarbourCats sit at 18-23. Both teams are now long shots to gain a post-season berth, both sitting in 4th place in their respective divisions, the Gems 6 games back, the ‘Cats 4.5.
With similar records, you would assume similar stats, but each team has it’s own unique profile at this point in the season:
The Gems have surprisingly good power and offence, and suffer from a lack of decent pitching at times. Not all the time though – Gems pitchers have more strike outs than anyone but Bellingham, but have a team WHIP (Walks + Hits / Innings Pitched) over 1.5 – close to the bottom of the league. All Star pitcher Brandon Horth is no longer with the team, or so Pointstreak seems to indicate. Nick Sabo, also an All Star is now the one remaining ace on the staff, boasting a 5-2 record with an impressive 1.12 WHIP. It seems there has been some significant turnover on the pitching staff, with several other early-season starters leaving the team. In fact, they are down to 7 pitchers on the roster at this point.
On the offensive side, the Gems score more runs per game than anyone in the league. It’s a real example of how stats can be misconstrued to show anything you want them to. While they lead in runs scored, they do not have a player in the top ten in RBI leaders. In fact, the only Gems hitter near the top of any offensive categories is Home Run Derby King Cody Hough, who is leading the league with 7. Free swinger Nick Fisher was also here for All Star week, and he sits with Dempsey Grover and Dylan Rogers all with 4 big flies.
So who knows really what to expect this week... The Gems have been involved in some crazy blow-out games on both sides of the outcome, and routinely give up 6+ runs a game, while equally as often putting up the same.
I see Victoria being able to put the bat on ball against the weakened pitching staff. It would seem that if you can get into the bullpen, you’re golden.
Victoria’s biggest issue is on the mound. I’m wondering if this is the point in the season where a more traditional rotation needs to be established. Most of these boys aren’t starters on their college teams, so why not build a rotation around strengths and weaknesses. Something like this?
Go with a 4-man rotation (SP). I realize Rowe - who’s only appearance was last night – wasn’t overpowering for sure, but maybe that 4th spot becomes a rotation spot. Manage the starters to keep them fresh. No 120 pitch games, max them out at 5 innings, 80 pitches or so. Keep some live arms in the middle relief core (RP) who can bring some heat while keeping runs at a premium, and dedicate a closer (C) with a 1-inning mentality. The rest of the crew gets mop-up duty only.
Given the WHIP to date on this squad, you should be able to parlay some low-scoring starts into some W’s on the scoreboard. It would be great to be able to see a Hold or two down the stretch.
Then again, maybe this is a development league, and setting a rotation just isn’t something you do? At this point in the season, there may be a move to get some players more experience and innings than they have been getting, while others may begin shutting down in preparation for the college season to begin. It will be interesting to see what happens as Victoria’s chances at the post season continue to drop... As it is, Victoria is scheduled to send Lobana, Navilhon, and Russel to the mount this series.
Prediction, for what it’s worth... As Yogi Berra said, “Pitching always beats hitting – and vice versa”. I tend to agree, leaning a bit more on pitching. With focus, I’d suggest Victoria could take all three games this week without much trouble. I won’t be at all surprised though, if they struggle to hang on to a single win...