2013 Peoria Chiefs season review

Despite a disappointing second half, the St. Louis Cardinals Single-A Midwest League club had plenty of high moments during the 2013 campaign.

The season began with much excitement as the St. Louis Cardinals returned their full-season Single-A club to Peoria after the Chiefs had been the Cubs Midwest League affiliate since 2005. After a strong start in the first half of the season, the Peoria Chiefs struggled down the stretch with a host of new players and ultimately finished the 2013 season with a 68-69 record. It was good for fourth place in the Midwest League Western Division.

The team was in the postseason hunt in both the first and second halves. Manager Dann Bilardello's ball club was 38-29 prior to the All-Star break in July and missed a playoff berth by just 1.5 games.

The solid start gave the team and fans hope Peoria could make a run at one of the two playoff spots in the second half of the season. But it was not meant to be. The Chiefs were 27-26 on Aug. 16 and held the second half wild card spot. However, the team finished the season 3-14 and missed the postseason by 4.0 games.


The one positive that stood out all season was Peoria's pitching. Despite a multitude of promotions, the Chiefs ranked at or near the top of MWL in almost every major pitching category.

Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
ERA 3.54 2nd
Ks 1112 2nd
Walks 398 2nd fewest
HR allowed 71 3rd fewest
Saves 37 T-8th

Starter Kyle Helisek began the season with Peoria and was there through all the battles. He finished the year with a 7-7 record and 3.13 ERA. He was solid the entire 2013 campaign with his seven wins ranking second on the team. Helisek's ERA was also second among Chiefs starting pitchers. The lefty ranked seventh in the MWL in ERA. Helisek may not have been the first pitcher you thought of throughout the season, but he was the most consistent. The Chiefs would not have had nearly the same success without him.

Another starter, Cory Jones, did not arrive in Peoria until the end of May, but he made his impact felt for the rest of the summer. Jones finished with an 8-2 record and a 2.04 ERA. He led the team in both wins and ERA. The highlight of the year for the Chiefs pitching staff and Jones was his dominating stretch over seven starts from early June to mid-July. He went 5-1 over that period with a 1.36 ERA. Opponents were baffled by Jones and could not get runs across the plate. The right-hander was tied for 15th in wins in the MWL, but most made many more starts than Jones to get to that number.

The bullpen was led by different players all season long, yet was still a major strength for the team. In April and May, Zach Petrick and Corey Baker were two of the first guys called upon in relief for Bilardello. Both finished the year in Double-A. The duo combined for 30 appearances, two wins and 1.26 ERA.

After both were promoted, the Chiefs turned to Dixon Llorens, who finished out the season with the team. He led Peoria in saves with 11. Llorens was 3-3 with a 2.85 ERA. The right-hander proved to be a strikeout machine and led the ballclub with over 13 strikeouts per nine innings.


For as good as the pitching was, the offense was the opposite. The lineup was constantly in flux and the team struggled to score runs for most of the year. The Chiefs ranked near the bottom of the MWL in most hitting categories.

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16
BA 0.256 T-8th
Runs 573 15th
OPS 0.678 13th
Doubles 196 16th
HR 61 16th
Steals 91 15th

The offense was led by two players, neither of whom finished the season with the Chiefs. Jacob Wilson was a major part of the lineup from April until his promotion to Palm Beach at the end of July. Wilson had a .264 average, 15 home runs and 72 RBI while with Peoria. Despite not playing in August, the second baseman led the team in home runs and RBI. Wilson was a MWL All-Star and had a fantastic season. A concussion in June slowed his production or he could have had an even bigger year.

The other major contributor was Patrick Wisdom. While his average was just .231, the third baseman produced runs at a high rate. Wisdom was called up to Palm Beach just a week after Wilson and still finished second on the team in home runs (13) and RBI (62). The Chiefs offense was at its best in the first half of the season when this duo was in the lineup.

First baseman Jordan Walton also had a good season for Peoria. Walton was third on the team in average (.278). He also had three home runs and 49 RBI, the latter of which was good for third on the team. Outfielder Charlie Tilson really came on in the second half after struggling with injuries prior to the All-Star break. Tilson finished the year with a .303 average and 30 RBI. Utility man Breyvic Valera led the Chiefs in average (.309) and was fourth in RBI (48). Valera was a key on-base man for the big hitters in the Chiefs lineup.

April - Overall record: 10-12

The first month of the season was a wet one for the Chiefs. Four games were rained out and a few more were affected by the weather. Peoria's offense struggled to score runs, which was a sign of things to come for the team.

The season started with the ball club splitting a four-game series with Wisconsin (Milwaukee). The Chiefs went on to go 8-7 in their next 15 games. The month ended with the team getting swept on the road against Bowling Green (Tampa Bay).

May - Overall record: 18-12

May was a busy month for Peoria. With all the postponed games in April, the team played 32 games in 31 days, including four double headers. The Chiefs played well. They won five series and had their first sweep of the season against Fort Wayne (San Diego). Peoria beat up on Kane County (Cubs) and Wisconsin, going 7-4 against those two teams.

June - Overall record: 14-11

Peoria played its best baseball of the season in the weeks leading up to the All-Star Game on June 18. They went 10-5 in June before the break. The Chiefs continued to play well against Wisconsin, taking two of three to start the month. The ball club swept Cedar Rapids (Minnesota) on the road before the All-Star break to give the Chiefs confidence heading into the second half.

However, it was a rough start to the second half as the team finished the month 4-6.

July - Overall record: 15-12

The Chiefs opened July much like they finished June. Through the first 12 games, Peoria was 6-6 for a 10-12 record in the second half. However, the club got it together in the last 15 games and looked like they were heading for a second half playoff berth. The Chiefs went 9-6 over that period, including series wins against Great Lakes (Dodgers), South Bend (Arizona), Cedar Rapids and Kane County.

August/September - Overall record: 11-22

For as promising as the season was through the first four months, it all fell apart down the stretch. Part of that was due to promotions of so much of the team's offense, including Wisdom and Wilson. Jones also missed much of the month due to injury.

After Aug. 10, the Chiefs went 5-17, ending any hopes of making the postseason. Even a .500 record over that period would have put team in the playoffs.

Peoria just could not score runs. Over those 22 games, the team averaged 2.75 runs a game and scored one run or less eight times. That is not going to get the job done. The lack of offense ultimately cost the Chiefs a spot in the postseason.

The final word

Overall, it was a very good season for the Chiefs. Without thellapse at the end of the year, they likely would have been in the playoffs where anything can happen. The pitching was fantastic all season long, but the offense could not generate enough runs. Peoria still finished fourth in the MWL Western Division through the entire year.

The great thing about sports is that no matter how a season ends there is always another one right around the corner.

Link to master article with all 2013 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Peoria Chiefs Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.

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