As most minor league fans know by now, the Swing has been "experimenting" with an eight-man starting rotation. I'm not sure it's fair to call it an experiment any more, since it's fast approaching half the season. When the two starters per game rotation was first announced, I was very skeptical. VERY skeptical. I'm a traditionalist. How could fans ever get used to this system? Baseball is supposed to have FIVE starters so fans can follow the rotation and know who will be pitching next Sunday.
Well, ask just about any Swing fan now who will be pitching next Sunday and he'll tell you which two are scheduled, as if it's natural to have two starters in the game. If you'd like to find the pros and cons of the eight man rotation, check out the discussion forum on this site. There are several threads there that have good arguments on both sides of the debate. I'll just say that I've gotten used to the non-traditional rotation.
I'll take a paragraph to look at each of the Swing pitchers so far this year. Some have already been promoted, some released. I'll concentrate on the ones who are still here.
Eddie Degerman is the newest member of the pitching staff. He joined the Swing as a starter just a month ago. The 6-foot-4, 205 pound, 23-year-old righty has already made his mark. Through 30.1 innings his ERA stands at 2.08. Eddie is averaging over 13 strikeouts per nine innings and giving up less than one home run per nine innings. Opponents are averaging 0.127 against his pitching. It's very difficult to find a downside to Eddie Degerman except that I don't suspect that he'll be in the Quad Cities very long.
Elvis Hernandez has pitched 45.2 innings for the Swing, accumulating a 2.76 ERA. The 22-year-old prospect is having a great start in the Quad Cities. One thing that I think he'll have to work on as he progresses through the farm system is his willingness to speak English. Since we don't have Spanish-speaking coaches, I have to assume that he understands English but he pretends that he doesn't. I know, that's less of a baseball observation and more of an expression of my Midwest thought pattern, but St. Louis is in the Midwest and I think it's worth noting.
Of the pitchers who have been in the Quad Cities since opening day, P.J. Walters is simply lighting up the field. In the case of P.J., the stats don't tell the whole story. His ERA is 2.88. Opponents are hitting .233 against him. He is 5-1 in eight starts. His last two starts have been rough, but he threw 30 consecutive innings in May without giving up a run. He is giving up about 1.25 walks per nine innings and striking out more than a batter per inning. He's worthy of the vote to represent the Swing in the Midwest League All-Star Game and I expect a promotion for him shortly after the break.
Brandon Dickson (nicknamed "Cotton" for his very blonde hair) is another rising star in the Cards' system. Stepping to the mound at 6-foot-5, he presents an imposing figure. Dickson's ERA is 3.08 and his record is 7-3. He is striking out nearly four times as many batters as he walks. A possible down-side to Cotton is that he is striking out less than six players per nine innings pitched. Brandon has the lowest ERA and the most innings pitched of any of the Swing pitchers. One personal factoid about Brandon is that he is a life-long friend of Cards minor league pitcher Cory Rauschenberger.
Blake King is a Swing starter who has neither shined brightly, nor has he caused any reason for concern. He has an ERA of 4.93 in 42 innings pitched. He has started seven of his 14 appearances. As a starter, Blake needs to work on going longer into the game. In his last ten games, he has averaged less than 3 innings a game. Blake is only 20 years old so he has time to develop.
Brad Furnish has pitched 49 innings in 14 games, seven starts. Swing opponents are hitting .218 against the southpaw. His record is 0-3 and his ERA is 3.12. The stats show that the 22-year-old has room to improve but I've seen him come through at crucial moments and I'm impressed with his arm.
Tyler Herron is another of the Swing's 20-year-olds. The right-hander has a record of 5-4 with an ERA of 3.23. He has given up only one home run and 12 walks in 55.2 innings. Considered to be one of the Cardinals' top prospects, Tyler is another pitcher on track to make it to the Show.
After missing the entire 2006 season, Shaun Garceau is off to a strong start also. With eight starters, there's no "one to five order," so he is number eight in this report by nothing but simple coincidence. He's only 19 years old, the youngest on the Swing starting staff. Through 46 innings pitched, Shaun has an ERA of 3.33 and has given up only two home runs. One thing I have to say about the eight-man rotation that I dislike is that it's harder to get to know the pitchers. Shaun is doing a good job, but I can't say that I remember any of his highlights.
The other All-Star pitcher this year is Kenny Maiques. With 13 saves to his credit, he is simply walking away from other closers in the league. He's almost 22 years old and I have to say he's one of the nicest guys I've ever met. Throwing a 2.79 ERA, he strikes out more than one batter per inning. 16 hits, seven runs (six earned) in 19.1 innings makes it difficult to find anything negative to say about Kenny.
Armando Carrasco was promoted to the Swing on 17 April as a reliever. He has pitched 11.1 innings and has given up three runs for an ERA of 2.38. Carrasco's record stands at 1-0. I got to watch him pitch a day game and was very concerned about his abilities. It turns out that his stats are MUCH better in night games. I don't know that there is a correlation; this is just an observation. I predict that he will be an average minor league utility pitcher but I haven't yet seen any glimmers of MLB possibilities in the 21-year-old right hander.
Mike Schellinger started in the rotation and was moved to the bullpen in May. He has 28 Ks in 29.1 innings, with an ERA of 3.07. I think he deserves a better shot at the starting position, but he acknowledges that he is already 25, so this is his season to show his stuff. Mike also missed the entire 2006 season recovering from surgery to repair microfractures in his elbow.
Kyle Sadlowski is the only Swing pitcher who also pitched here in 2006. He'll be 23 years old this month. His ERA is 4.26 in 12.2 innings. It's difficult for mid-relievers to get much of a foothold on the job, especially in this eight-man system. I like Kyle, but he needs to find a way to pull it together and make a name for himself.
Kyle Mura is the last of the Swing pitchers on the roster, again by simple coincidence. The 22-year-old is in his first full season of professional baseball. Kyle's ERA is only 1.10, batters are only hitting 1.25 against him. He has 15 K's in 16.1 innings. Again, it's hard to find anything about Mura that isn't positive.
As a whole staff, Swing pitchers are doing well in the 14 team Midwest League. They are third in ERA (3.10), first in hits given up (421 in 491 innings), and first in runs given up (204). They trail only Dayton and Beloit in earned runs (169) and have given up only 25 home runs. They are second behind Dayton in total Ks at 489.
News of note: With 11 games left in the first half, QC is one game behind Clinton and 1.5 games behind Beloit, one game ahead of Cedar Rapids. The top two teams at the All-Star break will qualify for the post-season playoffs. CR and Beloit are both on the schedule in the next 11 days, so the games will be very important.
Next week, look for an individual look at the position players. Any suggestions you may have for that report are welcome. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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