Stockton Notebook: Slumping Into May

After getting off to a fast start to the season, the Stockton Ports ran into a rough patch during the second half of April. Chris Kusiolek updates us on the Ports progress as the team heads into the month of May.

Stats good through April 30, 2012

Team Overview

Immediately following a contest interrupted by an unusual delay where a swarm of bees overran Banner Island Ballpark and finished with Ryan Pineda walk-off home run to ensure a series victory against the Modesto Nuts, the Stockton Ports have been inconsistent, losing nine of their last 13 and six of their last seven contests in April as they stumble into the second month of the season.

Having averaged 5.7 runs per contest through the first 10 games of April, Stockton's offensive production suddenly halted when pitted against the same squad they defeated to christen the 2012 campaign, Lake Elsinore. They proceeded to produce nearly nothing in the first game of a three-game series, only mustering up three hits. The game resulted in a loss despite a solid performance from starter Josh Bowman. The following night brought about frightening case of déjà vu as Stockton was shutout for the second consecutive game. They stranded 10 baserunners en route to a 1-10 outing with RISP. Stockton was successful in salvaging a victory in the last game of the series, however, besting the Storm 8-0. In that game, A.J. Kirby-Jones had a mammoth outing, obliterating three offerings to become the first minor leaguer to record a three-homer game in 2012 (Sacramento first baseman Chris Carter has recorded a three-homer game since that time).

After the three-game set with the Storm, Stockton would embark upon a miniature roadtrip to Modesto and ultimately would emerge with a split of the series. Stockton was shutout in the first contest, the third time out of the previous four games that the Ports would be blanked. Stockton would then win the next two games, outscoring Modesto 24-7. Starter T.J. Walz dominated the Nuts in game two and the Ports had a 15-run outburst in game three during which Stockton slugged three triples. However, the Ports would drop the fourth game of the series.

The Bakersfield Blaze would travel to Stockton and would sweep the Ports in a rain-shortened series. Following this lackluster result, Stockton would journey southward towards Lancaster to challenge the JetHawks. The opening contest would mark the fifth time in the previous 11 games that Stockton plated one run or fewer, including their fourth shutout in a 10-0 defeat. The Ports would respond in game two with a roaring 11-4 victory, but would ultimately drop the deciding game, 5-4.

Despite their recent bouts of offensive ineptitude, the Ports still have posted a cumulative statistical record of .258/.323/.417 coupled with a 740 OPS, all of which ranks amongst the top teams in the California League. The Ports' pitching staff, despite allowing the fewest walks (55) and homers (12), has amassed a mediocre 4.16 ERA and 1.31 WHIP.

Comings And Goings

As expected, reliever Sean Doolittle received a promotion to the Midland Rockhounds after allowing only one earned run in 10.1 innings with the Ports. He posted a 0.68 WHIP. Doolittle's place on the Stockton roster was taken by catcher Petey Paramore, who had been "loaned out" temporarily to the Sacramento River Cats. Paramore's return to Stockton temporarily gave the Ports three catchers on their active roster, but that logjam was loosened on Tuesday, May 1, when the A's promoted catcher Juan Nunez to Double-A Midland. Paramore is sharing the catching duties with Beau Taylor while Max Stassi continues to be sidelined with an ankle sprain.

Nunez's departure wasn't the only move made on the Stockton roster on Tuesday. Outfielder Chad Oberacker was promoted from Low-A Burlington and pitcher Anthony Capra was added to the roster from extended spring training.

Who's Hot?

The Ports have been guided by slugger Miles Head, who has dominated the offense-friendly Cal League in the early going. Head has accumulated nine doubles, three triples, six HRs, a .368 BA (third in Cal League), a .390 OBP, and a .716 SLG (tops in the league). His 1106 OPS and 68 total bases in 95 at-bats also lead the league.

Kirby-Jones has dazzled in a Ports uniform as well, complementing Head in what could be compared to a second coming of the "Bash Brothers." Kirby-Jones has thrived not only from his dangerous bat, but his superb plate discipline, acquiring a 15.7% walk rate that vaults him to fifth in the league in that category. He has five homers, four doubles and a .449 OBP that ranks second amongst his league counterparts.

After hitting a meager .182 through the first 14 games, Stockton's 2011 leader in batting average, Myrio Richard, has snapped out of his slump. In his last nine games, he is batting .350 (14-40), including two doubles and two triples.

The Stockton pitching staff features three of the top eight starters in FIP in the Cal League through April. Walz has raised eyebrows in his first full minor league season by compling a brilliant 2.70 ERA, 2.53 FIP (fifth in the league), a 0.39 HR/9 ratio, 10.41 K/9, and a 4.50 K/BB while maintaining a .297 BABIP.

Fellow 2011 draft pick Blake Treinen has impressed as a reliable anchor for the Ports, recording a 3.86 ERA, 2.58 FIP (eighth in the league) and has fended off baserunners with a respectable 1.17 WHIP. Bowman has also had some bright moments. While Bowman has allowed a 1.82 WHIP and a 5.75 ERA, he is one of only four starters in the entire California League to have not surrendered a home run this season, which has drastically decreased his FIP to 2.51, good for sixth in the league.

Reliever Jake Brown has excelled recently. In his previous five appearances, he's allowed a mere six hits, one walk and zero runs in 11.1 innings pitched.

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