Thursday, June 23, 2016

First Half Wrap Lite


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Fortunately for the Biscuits, a new season begins in June as the second half offers a chance to prove themselves after dropping to third place in the final days of the first half.

Disappointed at missing the first half title, fans have tried to find the flaws that led to the teams failures. Most of the flaws aren't ones that can be fixed, though there are a couple main factors that I can see.

STRIKE ONE
First, there is no predicting the Jackson Generals winning 46 and losing only 27. Even if every questionable call in every Biscuits game went Montgomery's way, there probably ain't enough of them to add up to 12 games.

STRIKE TWO
Second, going short handed in the bullpen really hurts, turning wins into losses, breaking fans hearts and ruining relievers stats for the season is the result of having to over-expose the remaining pitchers.

STRIKE THREE
Third, the Biscuits were unable to maintain a .500 win loss percentage against teams in their own division, or against teams on the road. To contend, a team pretty much has to do one or the other, preferably both.



OVERVIEW
The first half saw Montgomery lead the league in Home Runs, but fell to third behind Jackson and Chattanooga as the North Division paced the league in scoring.

Querecuto
The Biscuits sent Parker Markel and Adam Kolarek to Durham's bullpen squad, Markel finally getting the promotion after two opening days in Montgomery.

Johnny Field, Juniel Querecuto and Jake Hager all went North to try to hit the bull and win steak. Querecuto was sent back to Montgomery shortly, but has already been recalled to the Bulls after Mahtook's injury left a roster spot open.

Biscuit fans welcomed back relief pitchers Jordan Harrison and Kyle Winkler, as well as new guys Kyle Bird and starter Hunter Wood.
Faria

New hitter additions are Pat Blair and Cade Gotta, Patrick Leonard returned from Durham to play third base and regain his power stroke.


Last one out is Jacob Faria, sent to Durham after his AllStar appearance.
This likely sends Ryne Stanek back into the starting rotation, leaving a pretty large hole in the bullpen.


BISCUITS BUS TO BILOXI
The Skitz head to Biloxi to start the second half and get lucky to face them at the right time. Shuckers top arm Josh Hader has been promoted, as well as a few other roster changes, leaving the Biloxi Brewers in a state of flux that could offer the Biscuits an opportunity. 


PREDICTION REVIEW
Back in January I predicted the Biscuits roster, I thought that since we are at the half-way mark I would put up the list again and see how I did!


1b Mike Marjama - wrong position but check
2b Kean Wong - check!
3b Patrick Leonard - check!
SS Willy Adames - check!
C Justin O'Conner
RF Jake Bauers - check!
CF  Braxton Lee - check!
LF Granden Goetzman - check!

2b Tommy Coyle - check!
Of Marty Gantt - here as roving coach, check!
C Armando Araiza - check!
2b/ss/mi Andrew Velazquez
UT Pat Blair - check!


SP Brent Honeywell
SP Chris Kirsch - check!
SP Buddy Borden - check!
SP Chih-Wei "Robin" Hu  - check!
SP Taylor Guerrieri - check!

RP Ryne Stanek - check!
RP Jeff Ames - check!
RP Josh Kimborowicz
RP Issac Gil
RP Steve Ascher - check!
RP Kyle McKenzie

other possibles:
RP Kyle Bird - check!
RP Brian Miller
SS Jake Hager - check!
3b Jace Conrad

well, looks like out of the 28 names I put up, 19 players and one as a coach, not too shabby for a New Years Day prediction!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Last of the First Half, What to Look For vs Lookouts



Today the Biscuits face off against the Chattanooga Lookouts in the final homestand of the first half of the season.

THE 26th MAN
The Skitz got Juniel Querecuto back, though there is some confusion about how.

During the game the other night radio voice Chris Adams-Wall said that Granden Goetzman had been added to the Disabled List, but no listing on the league transactions page and no change in the Goetzman MiLB page suggests the league isnt aware of the move.

Perhaps since the Biscuits were made to go a man short for so long, they are now letting it slide that the team has 26 active guys.



SERIES PREVIEW
LOOKOUTS AT BISCUITS

The Noogas are a tough foe for Montgomery, both teams share the same number of wins in the first half. Due to a rainout along the way, the Biscuits have one more loss than Chattanooga and this series should determine second place in the division.

However even if the Skitz win the series, it could result in a dead heat, with 3 wins and a Biscuits series victory Montgomery and Chattanooga would finish the half with identical win loss records of 35-35.

 NEW LOOK LOOKOUTS
The Lookouts are a shell of last years Championship team in terms of prospects, but the talent they do have is on the field more often than not.

Prospects on their roster include  SP Kohl Stewart (ranked 7th), the injured reliever Nick Burdi, reliever Jake Reed (ranked #15), shortstop Engelb Vielma (ranked #16), lefty reliever Mason Melotakis (ranked #19), catcher Stuart Turner (ranked #22), outfielder Travis Harrison (ranked #23) and outfielder Daniel Palka (ranked #28).

Their Prospect Rating of 90 seems low, but with a fair portion of that talent being in the bullpen its easy for Lookouts skipper Doug Mintkiewicz to get them all onto the field during a game, more than once a series.



 WHAT TO LOOK FOR

The Lookouts have been one of the hottest teams in the league over the past few weeks, look for a scrappy team that refuses to give up.

Look for Montgomery to rely on starting pitching and extra base hits to keep the team in games.

Look for former Biscuit Leonardo Reginatto, now with the Noogas, to enjoy his return to Montgomery.

Look for a tight, highly contested series. Both teams are statistically similar in many categories, such as tied atop the league in stolen bases. Side by side in Runs, Hits, RBI, OPS and many others, these two teams match up very closely.

Look for Montgomery to play WallBall, the Biscuits lead the league in doubles and Home Runs.

The Biscuits pitchers have been racking up strikeouts, look for Montgomery to extend their league lead in punchouts at the Lookouts expense.

On the flip side, Biscuit tossers allow the most free passes in the league, nearly 100 more than the stingy Nooga hurlers. Look for the Biscuit pitchers to put themselves in tough spots by missing the strike zone too often.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Rebuilding Biscuits


As the Biscuits bus left for Pensacola on Friday morning, the theme of the trip was Thrift Store Fashion. It was a theme embraced by the guys as they went all out to bring home the Best Dressed Title and avoid the Worst Dressed, though some were hoping to win both.


A fitting theme for a team that has been showing some wear, in need of a good cleaning up and perhaps a new patch or two.

While the Jackson Generals sewed up the first half title, Montgomery was slipping into third place in the division and wearing used clothing. After dropping the home series against Biloxi, the Biscuits were pretty well discombobulated and changes were in the works.


MISSION ONE: SAVE THE STAFF

REBUILD THE BULLPEN
Assessing the Biscuits struggles in the first half doesn't take a star chart or slide rule, the bullpen needed help and it showed. A pair of good arms had graduated, Parker Markel and Adam Kolarek were sent to Durham at the start of May, leaving the Skits with two empty chairs in the bullpen.

Kyle Bird listens to pitching coach RC Lichtenstein
Kyle Bird landed a week later as the first reinforcement, proving his worth in the first month by playing in ten games and losing none of them.

 As a lefty, Bird is tough on right handed hitters and has kept his walks very low. Bird is prone to pitch in traffic, he will usually allow a hit but he knows how to limit the damage. He has been particularly effective at Riverwalk.



Next in is Jordan Harrison. If the name sounds familiar, you get a cookie. Jordan was a Biscuit last April, tossing in six games and losing one.

After his bad start in Montgomery last year, Jordan went back to Port Charlotte, then down to Bowling Green and back to Port Charlotte, the lefty is now earning a second shot of double-A. For the Stone Crabs this year, hitters knocked Harry to a .309 clip but as a Biscuit Jordan has kept them to just .107 average.

ADJUST ROTATION
Starting Pitcher Hunter Wood
Then came Hunter Wood.

Fans wondered when we talked about Wood and his stats, he is a starting pitcher and we had a full staff of starters.

The Skitz had two six games series in a row, an oddity which gave Brady Williams the luxury of a six man rotation. But eventually the change was made, Ryne Stanek was seen sitting in the bullpen.

Wood earned his promotion with fine numbers and hard work, and responded by allowing just two earned runs and winning his first three starts.

BUILD A BRIDGE
Ryne Stanek was blissed about being sent to the bullpen.
Well, it RHYMES with blissed.

Not sure how many times a team has sent its strikeout leader to pitch in relief, but that is exactly what the Biscuits have done with Stanek.

Truth be told, I do agree its best for the team, though it does hurt Stanek and his prospect status. However a good fastball in the strikezone is just what the Dr. ordered for the Biscuits bullpen, and Ryne Stanek brings it.

This team needed a bridge - someone who could get the ball from the starter to closer, pitch multiple innings and strike out hitters. Stanek relieving gets him into the game more than once a series and lets Brady match up the other relievers. Simply put, this makes the Biscuits bullpen a whole lot better.


OUTGOING
In order to clear a roster spot, Brett Marshall was released.

THE DOUBLE-SWITCH
 I asked "how does a guy not on the roster lose the game?"
Buddy Borden was also given walking papers, though Borden's roster move wasn't posted on the league website until hours after his replacement, Kyle Winkler had taken the loss for the Biscuits in his first game with the team.

#BullpenLife
If you remember Winkler, you get another cookie! He was pitching for us last year too, in May and June. Winkler bounced around and was pitching great in indie ball, catching the eye of the Rays who brought him back.


The assessment was the same for both outgoing pitchers, Borden and Marshall seemed to be good guys but couldn't quite find a way to miss bats.


 NEW LOOK SECOND HALF STAFF
The New Rotation order could shuffle after the AllStar Break
motivational post in Biscuits dugout
Kirsch
Wood
Hu
Faria
Guerrieri

The new look bullpen:
Lefties Asher, Bird, Harrison
Righties - Mortensen, Winkler
The Bridge - Stanek
Closers - Ames, Schrieber



 MISSION TWO: LINEUP TUNEUP
BATTER-FIELDER CHANGES
Johnny Field
When infielder Juniel Querecuto was sent up, Pat Blair arrived quickly to replace him.

Also promoted are fan faves Johnny Field and Jake Hager.

I felt all these players were deserving of their callup to triple-A, they simply played their way out of the Southern League.

When Johnny Field was sent to Durham, in his place returned 3b/1b/OF Patrick Leonard.

Leonard takes over third base duty and gets a few games in the outfield, he should play regularly as he regains his swing.



GOTTA WELCOME
Cade Gotta was promoted from the Stone Crabs, and went right into the lineup, helping fill in for the injured-but-not-DL'ed Granden Goetzman.

Goetzman has been out with what is thought to be a strained hamstring since the series in Bham a few weeks ago.

Cade Gotta is fun to watch, with as much energy as a five gallon pot of coffee, he puts max effort into every swing and throw.

Presumably Cade puts max effort into tying his shoes and parking the car too, batting well over .300 he should keep doing whatever it is he is doing.

This guy is the Hunter Pence of Biscuitville, and could be the spark plug the team needs.




THAT NEW CAR SMELL
The New Look Biscuits Lineup
looking at the numbers, once goetzman is healthy the projected lineup looks pretty good for the second half...
wong 2b
goetzman cf
bauers rf
adames ss
leonard 3b
gillaspie 1b
marjama c
gotta lf
dh depew/lee/coyle/blair


BAD DAY
for Jean Machi, former Biscuit. details.


OTHER NEWS
Could the Biscuits get their bullpen catcher back?

Armando Ariaza was returned to the Rays from the Mexican league team he had been loaned to, the Tigres de Quintana Roo. He was sent to Port Charlotte.

Mayo Acosta was sent from Durham to Hudson Valley.

The Biscuits have been utilizing Tommy Coyle, Pat Blair and other non-catchers to warm pitchers in the bullpen. The other alternative is using the backup catcher, the guy who is supposed to be getting a rest from catching, to warm relievers.

With the Rays shuffling backstops, no word on Justin O'Conner yet.



BASEBALL CARDS
The Biscuits baseball cards are out, and I am pretty happy with them!

Not all, but most are ones I submitted, its great to see how they were used and it turned out great.

Pitcher Kirsch told me it was the best looking card he ever had, which pretty much made it all worthwhile.

No complaints here, grab a pack and see for yourself!



EMBARRASSED PSYCHIC
I went down and congratulated RC on sending more pitchers to the bigs, I told him I thought Snell and Schultz were getting called up. He and the Rays pitching coordinator were stunned, and raced to their cellphones. I must have misread a report and felt foolish when it turned out to be false.
"Maybe I'm wrong," I told RC, "or the Amazing Kreskin!"

Wait, Snell starts Thursday?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Sexy Biscuits, Numbers Game



Tommy Coyle
"Pimpin ain't easy, but you look good doing it"
Mark Sappington


So true for the Biscuits this year, who have a great looking club but have been overwhelmed in the first half by underwhelming obstacles and a fair portion of bad luck.

However, luck changes.




  THE NUMBERS GAME
I focused so much on the history during the last homestand, I thought it was time to take a look at the stats. 

One of the first things I noticed was the team's lack of ability to capitalize on bases loaded opportunities, to the tune of a .130 batting average. Of the six hits Montgomery has gotten in that situation, three were off the bat of Johnny Field.

With men in scoring position and two outs, Biscuits don't fare much better. Batting .207 with RISP/2out as a team makes for lots of potential runs turned into Left On Base.



INDIVIDUAL STAT NOTES
Jake Bauers

Over the last 30 days, Jake Bauers has 19 RBI, second in the Rays organization. Also Bauers has 20 rbi with runners in scoring position, best on the current roster.

Mike Marjama is perhaps the teams best clutch hitter, batting .250 with runners in scoring position and two outs.


Willy Adames leads all Rays players in OPS over the last month with .971 on base+slugging. Willy also leads all Rays with minor leaguers with 57 total bases over the last month.

Adames has set a career high in Home Runs with seven already this season and dropped his strikeout rate nearly 7% from where it was last year.

PITCHER NOTES

Hu
Pitcher Kyle Bird has been stingy with the hits, allowing just 12 of 64 batters faced to reach base in the last month.

Biscuits starting pitchers Ryne Stanek and Jacob Faria have topped the 1K mark in pitches thrown this season. Guerrieri is third with 920 offerings, Hunter Wood has 875 tosses, Hu totals 845 pitches, Chris Kirsch has 779.

Reliever Brett Marshall was released during the last homestand, announced on May 31.


WHATS WRONG WITH JACOB FARIA?

Its a question I sort of expected to hear, and indeed someone brought it up during the first game against the Shuckers.

The win-loss total and ERA haven't been helped by bullpen woes and defensive lapses, yet both those numbers mean more to fans than to pitchers or their teams.

I pointed out the season stats, more than a strikeout an inning, forty-odd hits in over sixty innings pitched, opponents struggling to bat .200 against him.

"The walks though, thats too many" came the reply. Yet over the last ten Biscuits games Jacob has walked just three in 13.1 innings.

Jacob has been the victim of some bad bounces and bloop hits, perhaps the baseball karma for winning an extraordinary 17 games last summer.

What is wrong with Jacob Faria? Nothing at all is wrong, thats just the breaks!


 BISCUIT CATCHERS
Last summer catcher Justin O'Connor was seemingly impossible to run on, throwing out any who dared to run or even just stray too far from the bag.

 Keeping pace with him was Jake DePew, drafted eight rounds later and seen as the working man backup to the prospect O'Conner. This April fans were happy to cheer a Jake DePew return and Marjama drew fine early reviews for his arm skills as well.

However it hasn't translated into a trend for the first half, nabbing just one out of every three attempted thieves. Last summer the Biscuit catchers were nabbing nearly 50% of baserunners. Fans have started asking what happened to O'Conner and why the catchers cant throw out any base stealers this year.

Its not all on the catchers though, the pitcher has to get the ball to him with enough time to throw a runner out. Every staff has pitchers who are easier to run on and others who make it hard to swipe a bag.

THE GOOD
Starting pitcher Ryne Stanek has been on the bump for 16 steal attempts, only six have been successful.

THE BAD
Knuckleballer Jared Mortensen has allowed seven successful swipes and only two caught stealing.

THE UGLY
Reliever Buddy Borden has been pitching for 11 steal attempts, only one has been caught.
Buddy Borden


THE OTHER SIDE
LORD HADER
The Biloxi Shuckers are a pretty darn good team, sporting a P-Rat of 114 once Hader is activated. Top guys and veteran bench make a good combo, a fine pitching staff is doing most of the heavy lifting for the Brothers Guerrero.
 

Nottingham
Top pitching prospect Josh Hader was sent to High-A, but it was just a paper move, he will start on Monday night. The prospect lefty and teammate Brett Phillips were part of last summers trade that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to Houston.

Brett Phillips - NotDatDudeBP is ranked #2 among Brewers prospects and looks solid.  He is a clutch hitter with two outs and a plus defender in the outfield.

Josh Nottingham - The Sheriff of Nottingham slugged a homer on Sunday, attacking a two strike pitch for a no doubter. He is ranked as the #10 guy in the Milwaukee chain.

Other prospects include OFs Tyrone Taylor & Victor Roache, as well as pitchers Adrian Houser and Brandon Woodruff.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Look for the Shuckers to do it on the pitching side, getting good innings from starters and the bullpen.

Pat Leonard
Look for Patrick Leonard to play all over the outfield, the former Biscuits 1b/3b return as an outfielder has looked smooth in defense at both corner spots as well as in centerfield.

Look for Shuckers tossers to find the plate, Biloxi is second in the SL for fewest walks surrendered and baserunners allowed per inning.

Look for the Shuckers to struggle at the plate, as a team, Biloxi has a .242 batting average.
Casey Gillaspie

Hot hitting Casey Gillaspie can start looking for lefty pitchers late in games as opposing managers figure out he is hitting just .250 vs lefties.

Look for the Shuckers to score in ones and twos, the team has trouble piling up big scores. Biloxi hitters have totaled 184 rbi's, and .667 OPS, next to last in the league.

Pat Blair
Biscuits fans can look for more Pat Blair, the super-utility man has been one of the hottest hitters on the team, batting over .300 in the last ten games.

If you look for the mustache, you will notice Pat shaved the one that he was sporting. It was probably to help end recent the losing streak, but he is already working on a new one!