Monday, August 22, 2016

Biscuits Search for Wild Card


After dropping a crucial series against Chattanooga, the Biscuits are now chasing the Lookouts instead of the other way around.

Down one game in the "wild card" standings, the two games the Skitz dropped at the end of the first half loom even larger now. Sure, the team was tired and beaten up, depressed from being shut out of the first half crown - but falling to third place in June has created a huge obstacle for Bradys Boys at the close of August.


No longer do the Biscuits own their destiny, becoming reliant on other clubs to force losses on the Lookouts. However the schedule favors Montgomery, the Noogas have to close the season with five games against the Generals.

This team has much going for it but will have to play some fine baseball if they want to taste playoff champagne.

Either that or turn to other dark forces.


NEXT ON TAP
Next on the dance card is a grudge match against long-time rival Birmingham.

The Barons bring good prospects to the lineup but have yet to get the results one might expect. The Brummies are the league doormat, bringing their seven game losing streak to Riverwalk.

Barons play better on the road than at home, but are have just one win over the last two series. Montgomery hopes to make hay in the standings against Bham over the next five games.

Bham sports a P-rating of 109, a mix of prospects highlighted by WhiteSox #3 prospect pitcher Spencer Adams. A few prospects have graduated from this team since they were here last but have been replaced by quality guys. Trey Michalczewski, ranked #7, #10 Jordan Guerrero return for another series at Riverwalk. 
LHP Brian Clark and Courtney Hawkins pepper the list of top 3o prospects on the Bham squad.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Look for two bags. The Barons like to shop at the gap, picking up more two base hits than anyone in the league. Well, anyone except the Biscuits!


Kean Wong
Kean Wong has worked hard to improve his average and now is looking like the hottest hitter in the Rays system. He has been batting at .333 clip over the last month.


Look for the Barons to struggle on the hill. Slagtown tossers hold the leagues highest ERA, allow the most hits, the most baserunners per inning and the fewest bullpen Holds.


Hitters on both sides should look for a free pass, as the Barons and Biscuits moundsmen offer plenty of them. Only MsBraves hurlers walk more batters.

Look for Courtney Hawkins to try to hit a train, again. He made SportsCenter last summer when a high fly ball over the left field wall hit a passing train.


OF Justin Williams
Look for Justin Williams to keep driving in runs. JW's 22 runs batted in over the last thirty days are second among all TB players, tied with Longoria.


3B Pat Leonard
Look for Cade Gotta to bat lower in the batting order after three games hitting second during the series in Nooga. Gotta has just three hits in 29 at bats out of the two spot, but clubs a .336 average when batting 7th and 8th.

Patrick Leonard looks for lefties, hes crushing southpaw pitching at a massive .545 clip!

Look for Chase Whitley, assigned to the Biscuits after completing his rehab. He will join the starting rotation, sending Yonny Chirinos to the bullpen. The Troy pitcher has been excellent while wearing the Biscuits livery.




ADAMES RUNS TOP CIRCUIT
I hesitantly point out that Willy Adames leads the league in Runs Scored.
I say hesitant because a couple weeks ago I mentioned Chris Kirsch had snuck into the top five in the SL in strikeouts. Then Kirsch went without a single punchout in his next start.

With just two K's against the Lookouts, Kirsch dropped one spot to sixth place in the SL.
Now Chih-Wei Hu has moved into the team lead in strikeouts.

"You jinxed me!" Chris told me.

So is it a bad time to bring up that at 3.54 the Lackawanna Lefty is now in the top ten in ERA? Go get em, killer!



CHARITIES AUCTION
Can't snipe my Mahtook!
The annual charities jersey auction is Friday, soon the uni tops are available for online bidding.

Its always more lively when the home jerseys are up for bids, with the players names on the back. Fans love it, though it can be ruthless at the end. Grandmas and girlfriends have no qualms raising bids or trying to snipe at the last second!





POOR MORTY
What the heck is Mortensen to do?

He was an AllStar last year. A fine starter who had success in spite of getting bounced to the bullpen here and there.

This spring he shows up to camp and the Rays are teaching the knuckleball. Morty says he can do better and then does so, showing the best flutterball in the Tampa organization.

Its like when your parents like your girlfriend WAY better than you do. Sure shes okay, but not a life partner even though your folks are setting up long term plans for the two of you.

The Rays loved Mortys knuckler, maybe more than Morty loves it. But how can he break up with it now?
No help from the umps either

They want him to throw it all the time. But his numbers stink and he sits in the bullpen for six or eight days at a time. Less time throwing the knuckler makes it that much tougher to learn to deploy it properly, hurting his development.

He could discard the knuckler and pitch for better numbers to save his season stats, but thats not what the Rays want so he would be hurting his career by changing his pitch selection.

And it is a great pitch. Good knuckleballs are hard to hit, great knuckleballs are almost impossible to hit OR catch!

It doesn't help that he his regular receiver Mike Marjama was lost a quad strain. Morty lost the only guy who had any success knocking down the butterfly action of his special delivery. DePew and Araiza simply don't have as much experience with Mortys knuckler as Marj did.

Its a tough situation for a guy who has a major league quality knuckleball but cant throw it often enough to master the pitch because he has terrible stats to find places to match him up in game action. Tough situation, but noone is better equipped to handle the problem than Jared Mortensen. He has always struck me as smart enough to work his way through most any adversity.




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