Friday, October 31, 2014

HarbourCats Record Book - part 3

Today we roll out another section of the HarbourCats record book: Individual Pitching (Season).

To test your knowledge of HarbourCats history, I have created ten trivia questions that have been pulled from these pitching records. Try answering the following questions without looking at the record book -- or doing any Google searches! No cheating.
  1. Who is the only HarbourCats pitcher to hold opponents to a batting average below .200 in a season (min. 18 IP)?
  2. Which pitcher has the lowest walk rate in HarbourCats history (min. 18 IP)?
  3. Who has issued the most walks in a season for the ‘Cats?
  4. Which HarbourCat has the highest strikeout rate in team history (min. 18 IP)?
  5. Which pitcher has thrown the most amount of innings without giving up a home run in the entire season?
  6. Name at least one of the two ‘Cats pitchers to register a WHIP of under 1.00 in HarbourCats history (min. 18 IP).
  7. How many HarbourCats pitchers have won more than four games in a season?
  8. How many HarbourCats pitchers have notched more than four saves in a season?
  9. Who holds the team record for most wild pitches in a season?
  10. Who tossed the only complete-game shutout in team history?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

HarbourCats Record Book - part 2

Today we unveil two more sections of the HarbourCats Record Book: Individual Batting (Game) and Team Batting (Game). Since the franchise is only a couple of years old, many of the records are still fairly modest. For instance, we’re still waiting for a HarbourCat to register a five-hit game, although ten different players have notched four-hit games. Our team MVP, Hunter Mercado-Hood, turned the trick an impressive four times last season, while Nathan Lukes posted a pair of four-hit games.

Gabe Clark
The all-time West Coast League record for homers in a season is only 10, which isn't a surprise considering that college wood-bat leagues don’t typically feature a ton of home runs. This likely means that Gabe Clark’s three-homer game on July 18th of this year is a record that will stand for quite some time -- unless he breaks his own record in 2015, of course. Not only was Clark’s July 18th performance a team high for most homers in a game, but his 12 total bases is also a HarbourCats record -- by a fair margin. The second-highest number of total bases in a game is only 9, a mark shared by Hunter Mercado-Hood and both Schuknecht brothers (David and John). Clark’s six runs batted in that day also tied him with Hunter Mercado-Hood for most RBI in a game by a 'Cat.

It may be a surprise to some fans, but no HarbourCats player has ever hit more than two doubles in a game. Surprisingly, Griffin Andreychuk has swatted two triples in a game, and he did it in consecutive at-bats in an August 8th, 2014 game at Royal Athletic Park that was filled with oddities. To put Andreychuk’s back-to-back triples in perspective, those two hits also tied him for the most three-baggers by a HarbourCat in a season!

We have definitely seen more than our fair share of offensive explosions in the first two years of HarbourCats baseball, such as the July 27th, 2014 slugfest at RAP that set a record for most runs in a game by both teams (29). Although Victoria clobbered Corvallis by a score of 19-10 on that day, the outburst wasn't a record number of hits by both teams in a HarbourCats game -- that mark was set just a week earlier at RAP in an ugly 11-6 loss to Klamath Falls in which the teams combined for a whopping 31 hits. Something tells me that both of these records may stand for a while.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

HarbourCats Record Book unveiled

Bryan Conant
I found myself on a number of occasions last summer trying to figure out if something that happened in a HarbourCats game was a first for the young franchise. In most cases I had a vague idea of the answer, but given my faulty memory I still had to spend time searching through old box scores to come up with an answer for which I had close to 100% confidence. I realized that this process would take progressively longer as the seasons rolled by, so I came up with the idea of creating a record book for the Victoria HarbourCats and making it publicly available so that fans, the media and the HarbourCats front-office could just help themselves to the information.

Of course, finding the time to take on this task is easier said than done, but I managed to do just that over the last few weeks. Not only is it the off-season, but I recently underwent major knee surgery and found myself with considerably more free cycles at home than I would normally have. Rather than manually slogging through two years' worth of box scores, I decided to make good use of that Mathematics and Computer Science degree and come up with a record book that is as close to being error-free as possible.

After a fair bit of effort, I am pleased to present the first two chapters of the HarbourCats Record Book: Individual Pitching Records (Game) and Team Pitching Records (Game). You can view these records by clicking on the previous two hyperlinks. In addition, these links also appear on the right-hand side of every blog page under the heading “HarbourCats Record Book.”

The chapters above are actually the two smallest sections of the record book, but I’ll roll out the remainder of the records over the next few days. The other recently-completed chapters are:
  • Individual Batting (Game) - 14 record categories
  • Individual Batting (Season) - 22 categories
  • Team Batting (Game) - 16 categories
  • Individual Pitching (Season) - 29 categories
Ty Provencher was on fire in 2013 
I also plan on adding chapters for career batting and pitching records, but I'll hold off until the completion of the 2015 season before doing so. There just aren't enough players who have played more than one season for the HarbourCats to make these records meaningful at this point.

The beauty of compiling these records is that it provides context for each achievement, and I was amazed at the insight that I gained during the generation of the record book. For instance, I really have a better appreciation of just how dominant Bryan Conant was in 2013. Conant hurled three of the four best starts in HarbourCats history (who knew?) and he posted a sparkling 1.81 ERA and 0.94 WHIP that season.

How did I discover that Conant tossed three of the four best starts in HarbourCats history? Using Bill James’ Game Score metric, I was able to calculate a number that measures the effectiveness of each and every pitching appearance over the team’s first two seasons. Doing so uncovered Conant’s memorable start on August 3rd, 2013, in which he threw nine scoreless innings but took a no-decision in a hard-luck 10-inning loss in Walla Walla, Washington. That start registered a Game Score of 85 -- definitely a great outing, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the record eclipsed by a HarbourCat hurler in the next year or two. As a point of reference, check out the top Game Scores in MLB this season on the ESPN web site.

Our regular readers know that we don’t own a pair of rose-coloured glasses at the HarbourCats Baseball Blog, so I have also included measures of futility in the record book. This leads to an obvious question: Who had the worst start in HarbourCats history? Turns out that it’s none other than Andrew Nelson, thanks to a particularly malodorous outing on August 9th of this year that registered a Game Score of five (yes, it's possible to notch a negative Game Score). After re-reading Bubba’s post on that game, it’s understandable that the normally sunny blogger came across as a little cranky -- Nelson’s stinker came just one day after Logan Lombana set the previous team low. Yikes, talk about stumbling to the season's finish line.

One of the main goals of this little project was to help document the highs and the lows in HarbourCats history, and I hope that I have done so. I have no doubt that the upcoming season will see many of these records broken, especially the positive ones. Stay tuned for the release of the remainder of the records in the near future.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pair of righties added to HarbourCats pitching staff

Zander Clouse
The HarbourCats announced yesterday that they have signed two right-handed pitchers from the Pacific Northwest, Victoria’s Chris Fougner and Zander Clouse from Everett, Washington. Both were inked to full-season contracts.

His full name is Zander McClain Clouse, but he stands out for more reasons than simply having a colourful moniker. The sophomore from Bellevue College throws a fastball that tops out at 93 MPH and he’s coming off of a successful summer pitching for the Watertown (NY) Rams in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Although this league is a slightly below the tough West Coast League in terms of competition level, it’s no slouch in its own right, as league alumni include Hunter Pence of the San Francisco Giants. Clouse was a workhorse this summer for the Rams, logging 58 innings on the hill in nine starts and posting a solid 3.72 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. After playing for a summer team that averaged only 643 fans per game, I'm guessing that he’ll love playing in front of the much larger crowds here in Victoria.

Clouse struggled mightily with his control in non-conference games during his freshman season at Bellevue College, but he settled down nicely in conference games. His combined totals with the Bulldogs were unimpressive: a 4.74 ERA and a whopping 1.66 WHIP to go along with 4.5 walks per nine innings (although he did strike out a healthy 7.4 batters per nine innings). Given that his walk rate in Watertown was consistent with his senior year at Archbishop Murphy High School in Everett, his control troubles in non-conference games were likely a one-time blip. He should be able to make a smooth transition to the West Coast League with another season at Bellevue College under his belt.   

Chris Fougner
Fougner, a freshman at Salt Lake Community College in Utah, was both a star pitcher and right fielder for the Victoria Mariners. On the mound he posted an outstanding 1.71 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 11 regular-season and playoff appearances (8 starts). He struck out an amazing 11 batters per nine innings, but he struggled with his control and issued a generous 5.1 walks per nine. His best outing of the year was a nine-inning no-hitter in June against the Okanagan Athletics (BCPBL games are normally seven innings in length).

Fougner faced the HarbourCats in the June 5th exhibition game at Royal Athletic Park, giving up a run on two hits and three walks in ⅔ of an inning. The highlight of an otherwise disappointing outing was retiring John Grimsley on strikes, so he can already claim to have a WCL punch-out on his resumé. However, if Fougner is to make the big step up to becoming an effective pitcher in the West Coast League, he’s going to have to cut down substantially on his walk rate. I'm sure he’ll improve significantly after a season of tough competition at Salt Lake CC, so hopefully he’ll have better control by the time next June rolls around.

This signings bring the HarbourCats roster up to 15 players for next season. In an odd twist, none of the 15 players signed so far are outfielders. No, the ‘Cats aren't planning on deploying seven infielders arranged in some ground-breaking (and bizarre) defensive shift -- it’s just the luck of the draw. Players are announced as signed contracts are received, so you can expect a well-balanced roster to take shape in the upcoming months.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

2014 Stan Musial Award

The Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Blog (VHCBB) is a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA). The VHCBB once again has the honour of casting a ballot for the BBA awards given to players and managers in both the National and American Leagues. Today we reveal our ballots for the Stan Musial Award, which will be presented to the MVP in each league.

The BBA’s Stan “The Man” Musial Award recognizes the best all-around player in each league. The award is not based solely on offensive contributions, so the defensive abilities of each candidate must be considered. On my ballot that means that defensive standouts such as Alex Gordon, Josh Donaldson, Jason Heyward and Jonathan Lucroy may be ranked higher than some baseball fans might expect. Conversely, guys like Jose Abreu, Jose Bautista and Michael Brantley, who are below average defensively, drop lower on my ballot -- or as in Abreu’s case, drop off the ballot entirely.

National League

Mr. Pirate, Andrew McCutchen
The trendy pick in the National League is to go with Clayton Kershaw, but his season -- as great as it was -- just falls short for my top pick for the Stan Musial Award. The numbers for Kershaw and Andrew McCutchen are both worthy of a first-place vote, but I have to give the benefit of the doubt to the guy who is in the lineup every day. Kershaw’s numbers are outstanding, but I just can’t give my first-place vote to a guy who trots out there every fifth day -- especially since he missed the entire month of April with a back injury and only made 27 starts this season.

McCutchen, who made 648 plate appearances in 2014, finished third in the batting race with a .314 mark, swatted 25 homers and knocked in 83 runs. The Pittsburgh centrefielder also stole 18 bases and was caught in only three attempts -- a solid 86% success rate. Most impressively, he led all of MLB in on-base percentage (.410) and he topped the National League in OPS (.952). His excellent all-around play was one of major reasons why the small-market Pirates qualified for the postseason in spite of having the fifth-lowest payroll in the big leagues.

Monday, October 6, 2014

2014 Walter Johnson Award

The Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Blog (VHCBB) is a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA). Once again this year, the VHCBB has the honour of casting ballots for the BBA awards given to players and managers in both the National and American Leagues. Today we give you our ballots for the Walter Johnson Award, which is presented to the top pitcher (starter or reliever) in each league.

National League

Clayton Kershaw
The top spot on my NL ballot for the Walter Johnson Award is an obvious choice -- the one and only Clayton Kershaw. He has put up gaudy numbers his entire career, but 2014 was spectacular by even Kershaw’s lofty standards. He notched a 21-3 record along with a 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 239 strikeouts in 198 ⅓ innings pitched. His WHIP was the lowest in the big leagues since Pedro Martinez set the all-time record of 0.74 in 2000, and only four pitchers have posted a lower ERA since 1979. Clayton Kershaw's 2014 season was truly one for the ages.

Kershaw would be in line for his fourth consecutive title were it not for a voting glitch in 2012. He won both the Walter Johnson and Cy Young awards in 2011 and 2013, but he was denied each of the awards in 2012 when voters got seduced by R.A. Dickey’s 20-6 record (Kershaw went 14-9 but clearly out-pitched Dickey that year).