Vancouver Notebook: Highlights In A Down Year

VANCOUVER, Canada - The Vancouver Canadians have had a rough season and have seen their playoff hopes dim thanks to their August struggles. Jeremy Knight updates us on the individual performances of the Canadians inside...

It has been the kind of season for the Vancouver Canadians that Seattle Mariners fans could relate to. By that, I mean it's been a season where a win seems like the C's have won the league championship. And those wins have been very hard to come by.

On paper, this club looks like they could do some damage. There's manager Rick Magnante, who recently picked up his 100th win as C's manager, former Canadian and current hitting coach JT Stotts, who knows a lot about baseball, and the pitching expertise of Jimmy Esclanate as pitching coach. Most of the players are coming off excellent collegiate seasons, but just can't produce in the minors.

Just two games behind first-place Salem-Keizer at the start of August, the C's are eight games behind the Volcanoes heading into their August 25th double-header match-up.

Let's start with the good with the team.

When you see the name, "Barfield," you immediately think, baseball. The son of Jesse and brother of Josh, the youngest Barfield, Jeremy, is batting .286, just .005 behind team leader in average, Jason Christian. Jeremy Barfield is coming off of a 24-game on-base streak that included three home-runs. In his last 10 games, he has nine hits, a double, a home-run and a stolen base. He also has 11 of his 38 RBI in that time, and has struck-out eight times.

SS Jason Christian hasn't done poorly, by any means, for the Canadians, but his average has dropped more than .035 since the middle of July. His average is now at a still good .291, however. He does have 18 errors in the field, and with the recent move to second base in the last few days, I'm guessing there will be more to come, but that's natural when you change positions. Whether he stays at second or goes back to shortstop will be decided in Illinois, as on Sunday, Christian was promoted to Kane County and will join the Cougars on August 25th.

LF J.D. Pruitt has been stellar at the dish since his return from a dangerous concussion, suffered in July after being hit in the head with a pitch. Pruitt is hitting .279 for the season with four home-runs. In the eight games since his return, he has 13 hits in 34 at-bats. He's batting .421 in his last 6 games, including two home runs, both in his previous two games. JD is hitting a whopping .455 against left-handed pitchers, and is a regular in the C's outfield.

Aside from Pruitt and Barfield, David Thomas is the other key player within the C's OF. Thomas' average has dropped since mid-July, but he is still batting .277 with 24 RBI and 17 doubles. He has had four multi-hit games since August 12th, and on Tuesday was 3-5 with a pair of doubles and 4 RBI. On Saturday, he as 3-4 with two RBI.

In the infield, first baseman Dusty Napoleon is hitting .257, while newcomer Dusty Coleman is batting .200. Coleman's first hit in the Northwest League came as a walk-off on Sunday, as he brought in Jeremy Barfield in the 9th inning with a double.

3B Rodney Rutherford is hitting .224, a dramatic change from the below Mendoza-line average he sported back in July. In my opinion, Rutherford is the most improved player on this Canadians roster.

While the numbers don't necessarily show it, Jareck West has been one of the hottest players on the C's as of late. After an amazing series against Spokane, during which he hit back-to-back at-bat home runs, West has appeared in just three games as a starter, but has been a pinch-runner four times since August 13th. Jareck is one triple away from tying the C's record, and remains one of the top runners on the ballclub.

On the hill, LHP Pedro Figueroa notched his first win of the season last Friday, and he has four starts in his last 10, where he's given up one or less runs all game. In those four games, three of the four have featured at least six strikeouts.

Right-hander Shawn Haviland had a game to remember on August 18th, striking out 10 Boise Hawks in just four innings. He did give up three runs, but 10 strikeouts is still quite a feat. In his last 34 innings, he has struck out 40 batters.

RHP Mike Hart has been excellent on the hill this season, and since becoming a starter on July 31st, he has allowed just four runs in 18.1 innings and has 18 strikeouts. Eight of those 18 came on August 10th, when he gave up just two hits in four innings. Hart's season ERA is at 1.95.

The other key starter for the Canadians has been LHP Trey Barham. Barham has struck out 16 of his 30 batters since becoming a starter in August, and opponents are hitting just .241 against him in that time. His best start was on August 17th, when in six innings he struck out half-a-dozen and gave up five hits. Vancouver won the game on a 9th-inning walk-off hit.

RHP Ronny Morla has started 13 games for Vancouver, not missing one start, since his Opening Day start on June 17th. Morla is 1-5 with an ERA of 5.52 and has surrendered 38 earned runs in 62 innings. Morla has had three starts where he hasn't given up a run, but hasn't had one of those great starts since July 23rd. Since that start, he's allowed 20 earned runs in as many innings.

Reliever Mathieu LeBlanc Poirier, the first Canadian-born Canadians player since 2005, has yet to give up a run since joining the team on August 15th. In 3.2 innings, he has five strike-outs, but has walked 6 batters. Opponents are hitting just .182 against him.

Closer Jose Guzman has been one of the top hurlers in the C's staff this season. He has 13 saves through 24 appearances. Guzman is 2-2 on the year with an ERA of 2.35. He has surrendered seven of his eight runs in his last eight appearances, but in that time has still managed five saves. He is one shy of tying the Canadians record of 14 saves, set by LHP Brad Kilby in 2005.

Fireballer Daniel Thomas has been pretty much lights out for the Canadians this year, striking out 15 in 14 innings. Thomas has yielded four earned runs this year, with all four coming in two games, one on August 5th against Everett, and the other on August 16th, when in two innings he gave up a pair of runs. His ERA stands at 2.45.

Illinois native Kenneth Smalley has been one of the most reliable pitchers in the C's bullpen this year, with a record of 4-1 in 17 games. In August, Smalley is 2-0 with an ERA of 1.59 through eight appearances.

Matt Fitts, NAIA Powerhouse Lewis-Clark State's most reliable pitcher in their championship 2008 year, has done pretty well in his first season in the Northwest League. Fitts has thrown 29.2 innings and has maintained an ERA of 3.34. In his only start of the year in July, he didn't give up an earned run through four innings, but since that time has been kept to relieving, and has surrendered six runs in eight appearances.

IN BRIEF:

2B Marcos Luis is batting .275 this year, with only 16 strikeouts through 109 at-bats.

CF Mitchell LeVier has been sidelined by injuries this year and has an average of .236. He has five doubles in 140 at-bats.
Catcher Juan Nunez has been one of the key players for the C's since his return from Kane County, where he was injured in July. Nunez was activated from the DL to rejoin the Canadians after Dante Love was injured. In the 7 games since his return, he has five hits, including one double and a three-run home run on August 23rd.
INF Francisco Tirado is hitting .209, while 3B Leonardo Gil is batting .204 with one home run.

OF Mike Lissman has been one of the top power hitters on the team, leading the club in home runs, but he is hitting a mere .207.

Catcher Julio Rivera's stats may look ordinary, but he has been playing better than his .200 average may suggest.

Catcher Dante Love was injured in batting practice last week, but may be back by the end of next week once he is recovered from a nose injury.

LHP Brad Hertzler has done well in his return to Vancouver after pitching in Kane County earlier this season. Hertzler, through 6.2 innings, has yielded three earned runs, walking five and giving up six hits.

Southpaw Ben Hornbeck has had a few bad outings this year, but other than that has been very good and reliable for Vancouver. Hornbeck has 40 strikeouts in 31 inning and he has an ERA of 4.88.

RHP Edgar Tejeda's ERA is 5.16 through 21 games, while LHP Fabian Gomez' 3-2 record may be overshadowed by his 6.47 ERA. Gomez is the team's top pick-off pitcher.

RHP Ryne Tacker is 0-5 with an ERA of 9.89, and has been moved to the bullpen after eight starts. Tacker has given up 37 earned runs in 33 innings, and has walked as many batters as innings pitched.

The Canadians have 11 games remaining on the 2008 schedule, with each starter with at least two starts left on the year.


Writer's Bio
Jeremy Knight is known as Canada's wonderkid of sports reporting. He covers CFL football, college baseball and minor league hockey for The Roadkill Sports Blog, and pro baseball for Notes From The Nat and Scout.com.



Oakland Clubhouse Top Stories