Vancouver Notebook: Pitchers Leading The Way

The first half of the Northwest League season has been a struggle for the Oakland A's short-season A affiliate, the Vancouver Canadians. The hitters, in particular, have struggled, although the pitching staff has held its own. Maren Kasselik checks-in with the C's.

Despite a slew of feel-good comeback stories highlighting under-the-radar players, the Vancouver Canadians can't translate individual successes on the diamond into wins. With just a little over a week left to play in the first half of the Northwest League season — and Vancouver seven games out of first with a record of 12-15 — it looks like the C's will have to put together a second-half surge to qualify for the playoffs. At week's end, Vancouver sat tied with Salem-Keizer for last in the division.

If Vancouver successfully stages a comeback, the hitters must shoulder more of the work. Halfway through the season, the C's are last in most major team offensive categories in the eight-team Northwest League, including runs (88), doubles (33), triples (1), homers (8), RBIs (81), total bases (273), stolen bases (10), slugging (.304) and OPS (622). The saving grace is that Vancouver leads the league with the fewest strikeouts (187) and is third in walks (95).

The foil of the C's abysmal offense, however, has been their effective pitching staff, particularly the starters. Vancouver's team ERA (3.53) and strikeouts (214) are good for third in the league, while 82 free passes issued are the second fewest. The C's have only dished eight homers to opposing hitters — best in the league.

Names To Note

Deyvi Jimenez (2.56 ERA/ 31.2 IP/ 27 H/ 9 ER/ 1 HR/ 7 BB/ 19 SO/ .241 BAA)

While he rarely strikes out the side, Vancouver's ace keeps the ball low enough to force groundouts and doesn't issue many bases on balls — his WHIP (1.07) is tied for sixth-best in the league. That Jimenez forces groundball outs 1.54 times as often as flyball outs may explain why the Dominican has shaved four points off his '09 Arizona League ERA.

Jonathan Joseph (2.88 ERA/ 25.0 IP/ 20 H/ 8 ER/ 0 HR/ 9 BB/ 26 SO/ .215 BAA)

He may not have hit his stride with Kane County this year (4.67 ERA, .250 BAA), but Joseph is turning his season around with the C's. His mid-season demotion hasn't fazed him: his 26 strikeouts are tied for sixth-best overall, despite having pitched fewer innings than most Northwest League starters. While Joseph throws hard (92-95 MPH) and serves flyballs frequently (0.64 GO/AO), he hasn't surrendered a homerun while in Vancouver.

Nathan Long (2.79 ERA/ 29.0 IP/ 36 H/ 9 ER/ 1 HR/ 8 BB/ 16 SO/ .313 BAA)

Long's hits (36) and BAA (.313) are deceiving: in his second year in the league, Long has improved upon nearly all of his '09 numbers and has been Vancouver's workhorse. Four of his five outings have been quality starts. He allows batters to put the ball in play and forces groundballs nearly twice as often as flyballs, relying on solid defense to back him up. The Texas-Arlington alum's propensity to force the double play and work his way out of jams has helped Vancouver stay in ballgames.

Michael Hart (1.74 ERA/ 10.1 IP/ 14 H/ 2 ER/ 0 HR/ 2 BB/ 17 SO/ .318 BAA)

Vancouver's closer hasn't had many opportunities to finish games, but he has converted all but one of his chances thus far. The former Texas State pitcher has bettered his '08 numbers from Vancouver (2.52 ERA) and '09 numbers from Kane County (2.96 ERA) and is on pace to set career numbers for walks and strikeouts.

Douglas Landaeta (.314 AVG/ 10 R/ 1 HR/ 9 RBI/ 5 BB/ 11 SO/ .352 OBP/ .392 SLG/ 744 OPS)

A bright spot in the Vancouver lineup, outfielder Landaeta's batting average (.314) is sixth in the league and his slugging (.398) is 20th. The Venezuelan has earned his place at the top of the batting order, moving from the eighth spot to the third — where he is riding a 10-game hit streak.

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