Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2011 Week 1

Josh Lucas (1-0, 1.50 ERA) threw six innings on just 52 pitches Wednesday night in Kingsport. Lucas is fourth in the Appalachian League in walks plus hits per inning pitched (0.33).

The defending Appalachian League champions sprinted out of the gates this season by winning their first five games, four of those on the road.  Johnson City is in first place in the five-team Western Division of the Appalachian League, two games ahead of both the Bristol White Sox and the Elizabethton Twins.  The Cardinals pitching staff has carried the team through the first week.  The hurlers are leading the league in ERA (1.57), wins (5), holds (4), walks plus hits per inning pitched (1.07), hits allowed (34), and home runs allowed (1).

 

I was able to attend four of the first five games in person. I listened to Friday's Internet play-by-play broadcast of Steve Wilhoit of the Greeneville Astros.  Those observations provide the basis for this report.

 

Roster

 

There were no roster changes in the first week.  The roster holds at 31 active players (max of 35).  Unfortunately, the entire roster was not "active". 

 

2B Trevor Martin was injured in his first game of the season:  Martin: Bad Break in the Opener.  Martin has a history of separated shoulders and this one was apparently pretty bad.  Martin had an MRI a couple of days ago and even before the results were known, Martin had packed his bags expecting to leave for season-ending shoulder surgery. 

 

LHP Nick Gillung had an MRI on the 23rd and has not seen action yet.  If the MRI looks good, he could see action next week.

 

RHP Kyle Deese, who is still recovering from arthroscopic surgery that removed bone spurs and chips from his elbow late last year, has still not been medically cleared but could see action next week. 

 

LHP Ben Freeman is the 6th starter and was not scheduled to start this week. 

 

Manager Mike Shildt with a Ground Rule Briefing

The Week in Review

 

As mentioned earlier, pitching ruled the week.  The Cardinals are leading the league in nine different pitching categories even though they are last in the league in strikeouts (33) through five games.  The offense is fifth in the league in batting average (.250).  They are second in the league in triples (3) and are tied for last in the league in both home runs (2) and stolen bases (2).  The batters are third in on-base percentage (.338) and seventh in slugging percentage (.364). 

 

The two most interesting stats from the week were the number of times Cardinal batters have been hit with pitches and the number of Cardinal fielding errors.  It is amazing that the pitchers have been able to pitch through so many fielding errors.  It is perhaps more amazing that the team has won all five games while averaging 3.6 errors per game. 

 

Seven different Cardinals batters have been hit with a total of nine pitches over just five games.  The left side of the infield struggled the most with errors.  3B Roberto De La Cruz committed six errors (three throwing and three fielding) and SS Matt Williams committed five errors (two throwing and three fielding).  NOTE:  The stats will show five for De La Cruz and six for Williams but we cannot have a game in Kingsport without an official scoring error or controversy of some kind.  One error that should have been charged to De La Cruz was actually charged to Williams.

 

Kingsport 6 @ Johnson City 7, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 06/22/11

Johnson City 5 @ Kingsport 3, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 06/23/11

Johnson City 2 @ Greeneville 1, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 06/24/11

Johnson City 7 @ Greeneville 3, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 06/25/11

Johnson City 6 @ Greeneville 3, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 06/26/11

 

Tuesday's opener featured starting pitcher and 2010 supplemental first round pick Tyrell Jenkins.  Jenkins struggled a bit with his command and it was apparent from this outing that he will need some time to fine tune his repertoire of pitches.  The easy velocity and good movement on his pitches is all you need to see to understand why he was a top draft pick last year.  The future looks promising for the youngest member of the Johnson City Cardinals. 

 

 

There were three radar guns aimed at Jenkins; the standard one used by the Johnson City Cardinals, the standard one used by the Kingsport Mets, and the one used by someone from the Baseball Operations Department of the St. Louis Cardinals that I didn't immediately recognize.  The Mets' radar gun was the one that I could most easily see so the velocities are from it.  I later found out that the Mets' gun was consistently about 1 MPH faster than Johnson City's radar gun readings. 

 

Jenkins features a 4-seam fastball and a curve ball as his best pitches.  He also throws a change-up and has just added a 2-seam fastball this off-season.  In the first inning (and for most of the game), Jenkins stuck to his bread and butter, a 94-95 MPH 4-seam fastball.  All nine of his first inning pitches were four-seamers (seven strikes).  Both of his balls were outside and appeared to be aimed at the outside edge.  He struck out the first batter on a 95 MPH swinging strike, induced an easy one-hopper back to the mound on the second batter, and then gave up a deep opposite-field drive to the right field corner on a 95 MPH fastball. 

 

In the second inning, Jenkins broke out his curve ball after giving up a lead-off seeing-eye single in the shortstop hole.  He struck out the second batter of the inning swinging at a 77 MPH curve.  The third batter hit a 79 MPH curve weakly through the second base hole into right field for a single.  With runners at first and third, Jenkins ran the count to 3-1 with a curve in the dirt (72 MPH), a foul ball (94 MPH), a fastball in the dirt (94 MPH), and a fastball at the shoulders (93 MPH).  After a toss to first base, he yieldeda deep drive to dead centerfield on a fastball that CF Steven Ramos made a very nice running and lunging catch on.  The sacrifice fly gave the Mets a 1-0 lead.  Jenkins finished off an 18-pitch second inning with another hard hit liner to the left centerfield gap on a 92 MPH fastball that LF Gary Apelian made a very nice running catch on.  Jenkins sat 92-94 MPH in the second inning (18 pitches, 11 strikes). 

 

 

Jenkins touched 96 MPH in the third inning and relied mostly on his fastball; giving up a three-hop single over the mound to centerfield, an eight-pitch walk, an easy fly ball to left field, and a 6-4-3 double play on a 94 MPH heater.  Jenkins sat 92-94 MPH in the third inning (16 pitches, 8 strikes). 

 

The offense gave Jenkins a 2-1 lead in the third inning on RBI hits from CF Steven Ramos and DH Kolby Byrd.  Jenkins broke out his changeup in the fourth and immediately threw a wild pitch with it in the dirt.  He struck out two batters on swinging strikes with his curve ball in the inning.  The single was a broken bat dribbler (swinging bunt) to third base on a 95 MPH fastball.  Jenkins sat 92-93 MPH in the fourth inning (15 pitches, 11 strikes). 

 

The offense gave Jenkins a 4-1 lead in the fourth inning on RBIs from RF Ronald Castillo and CF Steven Ramos.  Jenkins allowed a hard hit single through the shortstop hole on a 1-0 count 94 MPH fastball with one out in the fifth.  That runner eventually scored after errors from C Jesus Montero and SS Matt Williams.  Jenkins' 74th and last pitch was a 93 MPH swing strike to record his fifth strikeout.  Jenkins sat 90-93 MPH in the fifth inning (16 pitches, 11 strikes).

 

Jenkins finished his first start with 74 pitches (48 strikes, 26 balls).  Twenty-three percent of his strikes were of the swing-and-miss variety.  Of his eleven swinging strikes, seven were on fastballs, three were on curves, and one was on a changeup.  Thirty percent of his strikes were fouled-off and thirty-one percent were put in play.  Seventeen percent of his strikes were called although none of those resulted in strikeouts. 

 

The rest of the week was mostly uneventful but wet, with the first four games all seeing steady periods of moderate to heavy rain during the later innings.  This may have contributed to the errors but if it did, it impacted the Cardinals more than their opponents. 

 

The pitchers other than Jenkins appear to have pitched mostly to contact with less movement.  This efficiency resulted in few strikeouts but relatively low pitch counts.  Josh Lucas was the poster child for this classic Cardinal "pitch-to-contact' approach as he got through six innings with just 52 pitches.  Appy League hitters, especially the Kingsport Mets, are generally aggressive at the plate.  All the starters this week gave quality starts and approached their maximum pitch counts. 

 

Starting Pitchers

 

As a reminder, listed below are the starting pitcher rotations for Johnson City.  As published previously (Cardinals Short-Season Minor League Rotations), Johnson City will utilize a six-man starting rotation that includes seven different pitchers.  This is a change from the last four years, which saw Johnson City use a "piggyback" system:  Cardinals Move to Six-Man Minors Rotation. 

 

The third position in the six-man rotation will include a "piggyback" or "tandem" of two pitchers.  The six lone starters will have 85-pitch limits while the two tandem starters will have 60-pitch limits.  The lower pitch limits are for those drafted during the June 2011 First-Year Player Draft.  Hald and Sherriff are coming off some pretty long college seasons.  Hald was the Colonial Athletic Association Co-Pitcher of the Year at Old Dominion University (VA) and was 8-3 with a 3.67 ERA over 95.2 innings pitched.  Sherriff was 5-4 with a 2.45 ERA over 77 innings pitched at Glendale Community College (AZ). 

 

Starting Pitchers (7): 

RHP Tyrell Jenkins (1)

RHP Josh Lucas (2)

LHP Kyle Hald (3A) and LHP Ryan Sherriff (3B)

RHP Eduardo Hiraldo (4)

RHP Jose Pasen (5)

LHP Ben Freeman (6)

 

Starter Pitch Counts

 

Tyrell Jenkins:  74 pitches, 48 strikes, 11-for-21 first-pitch strikes.

Josh Lucas:  52 pitches, 41 strikes, 14-for-21 first-pitch strikes.

Kyle Hald:  57 pitches, 36 strikes, 9-for-14 first-pitch strikes.

Ryan Sherriff:  33 pitches, 22 strikes, 6-for-11 first-pitch strikes.

Eduardo Hiraldo:  72 pitches, 45 strikes, 13-for-20 first-pitch strikes.

Jose Pasen:  73 pitches, 47 strikes, 17-for-23 first-pitch strikes.

 

Note:  Hiraldo's count was based on the Internet radio call by Steve Wilhoit of the Greeneville Astros and it is possible that a couple of pitches may not have been announced. 

 

Who's Hot (Hitters)

 

SS Matt Williams is leading the team in batting average (.412), on-base percentage (.474), and home runs (1).  Williams is second in slugging percentage (.647) and errors (5).  Williams was interviewed this week by Dustin Mattison:  Cardinals Draftee Interview: Matt Williams. 

 

Roberto De La Cruz in Kingsport

3B Roberto De La Cruz is second on the team in batting average (.400) and on-base percentage (.471).  De La Cruz leads the team in slugging percentage (.667), errors (6), and home runs (1).  His fielding percentage is .538. 

 

C/DH Kolby Byrd is tied for third on the team in batting average (.316).  He leads the team in doubles with two. 

 

RF/LF Gary Apelian is tied for third on the team in batting average (.316).  

 

LF/RF Ronald Castillo (.188) is tied for the team lead in runs batted in (3) and leads the team in triples (2). 

 

Ramos at the plate

CF Steven Ramos (.227) leads the team in at bats (22), runs (5), and stolen bases (1). 

 

Who's Not Hot (Hitters)

 

3B/2B Neil Pritchard (0-for-9) is the only batter who has yet to record a hit however, he has two walks, one run, and has played solid defense. 

 

C Jesus Montero (.125), the younger brother of the New York Yankee top-prospect of the same name, has three throwing errors and has allowed all five potential base stealers to reach safely.  He did a good job catching Tyrell Jenkins on Tuesday night. 

 

C Jonathan Keener (.143) has just one hit but it was a key two-out RBI single that gave the Cardinals a two-run lead on Saturday. 

 

1B David Washington (.167) leads the team in walks (4) and strikeouts (9) and has struggled with his plate discipline and pitch recognition in the early going.  He has played solid defense at first base by making some good stops on groundballs, converting some tough 3-1 force outs, and scooping several low throws from his infielders. 

 

Who's Hot (Pitchers)

 

Pitchers with walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIPs) of 1 or less with at least three innings pitched include Josh Lucas (0.33), Michael Santana (0.50), Dyllon Nuernberg (0.67), Kyle Hald (0.82), and Ryan Sherriff (1.00).

 

Michael Santana is tied for the league lead in earned run average (0.00) and holds (2).  He is tied for ninth in WHIP (0.50).

 

Lucas – Max elbow torque

Josh Lucas is fourth in the league in WHIP (0.33).

 

Pitchers with strikeouts per nine innings pitched (K/9) of 10 or more with at least three innings pitched include Dyllon Nuernberg (12.0) and Tyler Mills (10.8). 

 

Who's Not Hot (Pitchers)

 

Right-handed reliever Roberto Canache is the only pitcher with at least three innings pitched that has a walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) of 2 or greater and an earned run average (ERA) of 5 or greater. 

 

Week Two Schedule

 

Game 6 (Sun):  Freeman @ Greenville Astros

Game 7 (Mon): Jenkins vs. Elizabethton Twins

Game 8 (Tue):  Lucas vs. Elizabethton Twins

Game 9 (Wed):  Sherriff/Hald vs. Elizabethton Twins

Game 10 (Thu):  Hiraldo vs. Pulaski Mariners

Game 11 (Fri):  Pasen vs. Pulaski Mariners

Game 12 (Sat):  Freeman vs. Pulaski Mariners

 

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