Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Biscuits storm into first place

Biscuits feasted on Barons pitching, taking four of five contests and move into sole possession of first place in the North Division by outscoring the Brummies 34-11 during the series.

After a day off the Skitz now return to Riverwalk for a big ten-game homestand to face both first half division winners in back to back series. First up is a five game set against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the Reds double-A affiliate. The Wahoos are making their first trip to Biscuitville this year, they are the last team in the league Montgomery hasn't yet hosted.

The Jackson Generals, winners of the North Division in the first half, come to town for the tail end of the homestand.

The Blue Wahoos, winners of the South Division in the first half, are 15-15 in the second half which is good for third place. The Wahoos have won three straight series coming into the contests against Bradys Boys. When the Biscuits visited Pensacola back in June the Wahoos took three out of five games in spite of being outscored by the Skitz.

Led by slugging Brandon Dixon, the P'Colas offense blows hot and cold. Eight times this month the 'Hoos have won by scoring five or more runs, conversely they have just three wins this month when they post less than five runs.

Pitching is where the Wahoos get it done, leading the league in ERA (3.17) and WhIP (1.23) the Pensacola hurlers have kept opposing teams off the board often. The Pelican moundsmen have already tossed four shutouts in the second half.

Prospects abound on this squad and top 30 ranked players include: pitcher Nick Trevieso (DL), 2b Alex Blandino, pitcher Tyler Mahle, centerfielder Phil Ervin, pitcher Rookie Davis, 3b Eric Jagielo, pitcher Sal Romano, 3b Taylor Sparks, pitcher Zack Weiss (DL), shortstop Calton Daal, pitcher Jackson Stephens.


Pitcher Chih-Wei Hu is the Double-A leader in ERA. Not just the Southern League, that includes the Eastern and Texas Leagues as well. In spite of his great stats, Chih-Wei has just three wins for Montgomery.

Taylor Guerrieri
Pitcher Taylor Guerrieri's ten wins tie him for tops in all of double-A. His strikeout rate is down a little from past totals but he has been great at getting ground balls for outs.

Hu and Taylor G may or may not be tossing Biscuits for Montgomery very much longer, both have proven their abilities and are likely ready for a new level. Their situations over the next few weeks and months are very much hinged on the Rays actions around the trade deadline. If the big club deals pitchers, the Biscuits could lose Hu and Guerrieri, through trade or promotion.

pitching coach RC Lichtenstein
Conversely, the Rays have little reason to rush the two prospects.

Hu struggled in his taste of triple-A earlier this year and Taylor is being eased back after surgery a few seasons ago.

 Even if they both remain in Montgomery, its also possible the two pitchers are shut down at some point late in the season. Both Hu and Guerrieri have just passed the 100 innings pitched mark, a full third of their career totals of around 300 innings.

SS Willy Adames
With 1B Casey Gillaspie's promotion, Biscuits shortstop Willy Adames is now the league leader in bases on balls with 51. Look for Willy to put up quality at bats and force pitchers to give him strikes to hit.

Montgomery leads the league in stolen bases, but not in caught stealing - that honor belongs to Chattanooga. Look for Biscuit baserunners to swipe a few bases, but not run wild. A well placed success is better than giving up a big inning trying for one extra bag.

The Wahoos Phil Ervin likes to run as well, look for him to seek his 30th stolen base of the year in the series.

Look for the Wahoos to swing and miss, Pensacola leads the league in the futile stat.

Look for the two teams to slug it out, both clubs are among the leaders in home runs. Although the Wahoo pitchers are the stingy in allowing runs, they are more likely to serve up the long ball than Biscuit tossers.

Look for Pat Blair to play all nine positions in one game. Maybe not in this ten game series, maybe not even this month, but it certainly could happen at some point. Already in his four pro seasons he has played every spot but center and right field, including three relief appearances.
Pat Blair makes his point
Hu vs Mahle

Guerrieri vs Davis

Honeywell vs Stephens

Kirsch vs Romano

Chirinos vs Astin?


Patrick Leonard
Increasingly frustrating is trying to figure out who is on the team.

With transactions made and not reported on the league or team website are compounded by retroactive changes. Fans are left guessing when new players are added who may have been deactivated to make room.

Along those lines we learned that both Pat Leonard and Mike Marjama were nursing injuries and hit the disabled list last week. Leonards ailment is a sore back and Marjama's malady is a quad injury.

For Montgomery that means losing the top two hitters in the lineup for an unknown amount of time.

Patrick Leonard, all he has done since he returned to the Biscuits is hit. Posting a team leading .309 batting average, scoring 30 runs and driving in 28 in just 41 games Patrick Leonard was on fire.  Leonard last played on July 13th, his DL trip backdated to the 19th.

Marjama gets a hug from Taylor Guerrieri
Marjama last played in Fridays contest at Bham on July 20th, but came out of the game after just one at bat.

Mike Marjama's value behind the dish while handling the pitching staff cannot be understated, not to mention he was second on the team with his stout .288 batting average. Fourth on the club in RBI's, Marj is a solid run producer while splitting catching time with Jake DePew.

Pat Blair

Super utility man Pat Blair was sent to Princeton on the 21st to make room for bullpen catcher Josh Rapacz to get activated for the Biscuits, then Blair was back on the roster by the 24th. 

Outfielder Justin Williams arrived on or about the 17th of July and was inserted immediately into the daily lineup.
Justin Williams
The Smokies released their 2017 schedule already, meaning it has been approved and finalized by the teams and league. The Biscuits usually release their promo schedule earlier than the game schedule, and with the team doing well there is less reason to jump ahead already. Nonetheless we should look for the next season game schedule to be made available in the next few weeks or so.

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