The Johnson City Cardinals finished the week (Sunday through Saturday) with a record of four wins and three losses with one game suspended by rain. They are currently 18-20 and are in last place in the five-team Western Division of the Appalachian League. They are four and half games behind the Elizabethton Twins.
In the ten-team Appy League, the offense currently ranks second in walks, stolen bases, and home runs and third in both runs and runs batted in (RBI). They are sixth in batting average (.257), ninth in strikeouts, and last in triples. The pitchers have the most walks, hits, hit batters, innings-pitched, and walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) while ranking sixth in earned run average (ERA). The pitchers remained in second place in the league in strikeouts.
I was able to attend all seven of the
home games scheduled for this week.
Those observations provide the basis for this report. One of the seven games was suspended by
rain after the first inning. The
suspended game was the last game of the year scheduled against the Elizabethton
Twins. It will likely be completed
at the end of the year only if the game factors into the West Division
Championship. Saturday's game in
Injury/Playing Time Updates
All thirty-four players on the active roster played this week.
SP Brett Zawacki, who missed three starts (Games 21, 26, and 31) due to an infection in his right foot, was scheduled to return to action on the back end of the piggyback system in Game 36 (Wednesday). Zawacki was instead pushed back to Friday (Game 38).
SP Jon Bravo missed his start on Friday (Game 38) on the back end of the piggyback. "[Bravo's] arm is a little tired. We are just giving him [one or two] start(s) off. He had a long college season. He's pitched a lot here and he's been throwing for a long time. There is a chance he may be back in the rotation with [Matt] North the next time around [but] if not, he should definitely be back the following time [around]", said Pitching Coach Tim Leveque. "We'll probably have to do some more shuffling once we get Jonny [Bravo] back and once Zawacki gets built up. For now, that is how it is going to be."
The Week in Review
Four consecutive wins to start the week turned into a three-game losing streak to close the week. There wasn't anything that really stood out this week from the team's performance. The team had a .279 batting average and 2.80 ERA for the week. They allowed three home runs while hitting seven.
Game 26 Continuation (Sunday): Win 6-1: The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 07/21.
Game 33 (Sunday): Win 11-3: The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 07/21.
Game 34 (Monday): Win 3-2: The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 07/22.
Game 35 (Tuesday): Suspended at 0-0 after 1st inning due to rain/lightning: The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 07/23.
Game 36 (Wednesday): Win 4-2: The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 07/24.
Game 37 (Thursday): Loss 2-3: The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 07/25.
Game 38 (Friday): Loss 4-10: The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 07/26.
Game 39 (Saturday): Loss 1-4: The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 07/27.
League Leaders (Top Ten)
Niko Vasquez (right) – second in on-base percentage (.444) and walks (19); third in runs (27); sixth in batting average (.341), total bases (68), and hits (44); fifth in on-base plus slugging percentage (.972); seventh in home runs (6).
Curt Smith – third in slugging percentage (.595) and RBIs (28); fourth in batting average (.360) and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.003); sixth in on-base percentage (.408); seventh in home runs (6); eighth in total bases (66).
Guillermo Toribio – third in stolen bases (10).
Osvaldo Morales – fifth in slugging percentage (.589), seventh in home runs (6), and eighth in doubles (9).
Brett Lilley – seventh in on base percentage (.407) and eighth in walks (13).
Alex Castellanos – eighth in doubles (9).
Travis Mitchell – fifth in stolen bases (9).
Jorge Rondon – first in games (15), eighth in games finished (8), and tenth in saves (3).
Joel Pichardo – fourth in games (12).
Matt Frevert – fourth in games (12).
Jose Mateo – first in holds (3) and fourth in games (12).
Samuel Freeman – eighth in games (11).
Tandem Starter Pitch Counts
Game 26 (Completion of suspended game, 6-1 Win):
Jon Bravo (4.1 innings pitched) – 57 pitches, 33 strikes, 10 of 16 first-pitch strikes.
Game 33 (11-3 Win):
Matt North (4.2 innings pitched) – 70 pitches, 39 strikes, 11 of 23 first-pitch strikes.
Game 34 (3-2 Win):
Kevin Thomas (4 innings pitched) – 50 pitches, 31 strikes, 9 of 16 first-pitch strikes.
Reynier Gonzalez (2.2 innings pitched) – 48 pitches, 27 strikes, 7 of 12 first-pitch strikes.
Game 35 (Suspended 0-0 after completion of 1st inning):
Adam Veres (1 inning pitched) – 17 pitches, 12 strikes, 1 of 3 first-pitch strikes.
Game 36 (4-2 Win):
Deryk Hooker (3 innings pitched) – 49 pitches, 35 strikes, 9 of 11 first-pitch strikes.
Scott McGregor (3 innings pitched) – 38 pitches, 18 strikes, 7 of 15 first-pitch strikes.
Randy Santos (1 inning pitched) – 13 pitches, 10 strikes, 3 of 5 first-pitch strikes.
Game 37 (3-2 Loss):
Andres Rosales (4.2 innings pitched) – 52 pitches, 42 strikes, 14 of 18 first-pitch strikes.
Mike Blazek (3.2 innings pitched) – 56 pitches, 40 strikes, 10 of 17 first-pitch strikes.
Game 38 (10-4 Loss):
Matt North (4 innings pitched) – 57 pitches, 40 strikes, 11 of 18 first-pitch strikes.
Brett Zawacki (2 innings pitched) – 41 pitches, 25 strikes, 7 of 10 first-pitch strikes.
92-year-old Don Ballard (right), a pitcher for the 1939 Johnson City Cardinals, threw out the first pitch on Tuesday (Game 35). Ballard warmed up before the game with the help of Guillermo Toribio, Alex Castellanos, and Jose Mateo. Ballard left the field in his #26 Johnson City Cardinals uniform to a standing ovation and a wave of his hand. Ballard remembers playing the 1939 season with legendary minor league hitter and 1939 Johnson City Cardinal Leo "Muscle" Shoals.
Brett Lilley had the dubious distinction of contributing to all three outs in a single inning. On Sunday (Game 33), Lilley led off the bottom of the third inning with a called strike out and then closed the inning out by grounding into a double play. Lilley also made half of the web gems I documented for players this week. The best play was probably the diving stop and throw from his knees made in the eighth inning of a 2-2 game on Monday (Game 34).
Curt Smith, in the third inning of Sunday's Game 33, hit a two-run home run to dead centerfield that traveled over 450 feet. Smith normally has an infectious smile but he looked angry after he crushed that one.
The team had 13 stolen bases for the second consecutive week. However, this week, they were only caught stealing twice (versus six last week). Alex Castellanos increased his season total to six stolen bases by adding five this week.
Of the eighteen pitchers currently on the staff, Carlos Gonzalez, Reynier Gonzalez, and Matt North had the worst week. The threesome combined for a 0-2 record, 8.11 ERA, 2.16 WHIP, 23 of the 52 hits allowed, 15 of the 19 earned runs allowed, all three home runs allowed, and 13 of the 32 walks allowed in just 28 percent of the innings pitched.
Players of the Week
Each week, I select one position
player and one pitcher as the
There were three pitchers with a walks plus innings pitched (WHIP) of less than 1.0 and a total innings pitched of three or more (Andres Rosales, Jon Bravo, and Deryk Hooker). Of the three, Hooker had the best strike out per innings pitched ratio (1.43) while also leading the team in strikeouts with ten. Hooker (nicknamed "Hook" by his teammates) features, as you might expect, a very good sharp-breaking curve ball as his primary strike out pitch. He also adds a four seam fastball, a change-up, and a slider to keep hitters off balance.
Rosales was a close second in the
running this week. Rosales threw
four and two thirds innings without allowing a walk and while leading the team
in WHIP (0.43). With his last
outing and with his experience from last year, Rosales looks to be spending a
very short time in
Bravo saw his strike out per nine innings rate drop this week but he still managed to pitch four and one third innings without allowing a hit or run. If Bravo hadn't walked two and hit two other batters, he may have won the award this week.
The offense this week was concentrated amongst four position players. Two of those have been season-long offensive leaders (Curt Smith, and Niko Vasquez) while two others made a surge into the spotlight for the first time this week (Edgar Lara and Alex Castellanos). Those four players were the only ones to hit for an above-team-average batting average (.279) in more than three at bats.
Vasquez hit .348 this week but that was only good enough for fourth place. He added two errors in the field, hit only one extra base hit (a home run in Saturday's 4-1 loss), and allowed three other hits by throwing late to first base. Vasquez has a tendency to play pretty deep and throw looping but accurate throws to first base. That tendency, along with some speedy hitters who hit weak groundballs to shortstop, led to three groundball base hits to Vasquez that really should have been outs.
Edgar Lara had his best week at the plate this year while adding an impressive outfield assist to home plate from right field on Wednesday (Game 36). Lara led the team in RBIs (5) and doubles (3) while finishing a close second in slugging percentage (.650) and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.085).
Curt Smith (right) had his normal good week at the plate. Smith led the team in hits (10) and on-base percentage while recording another impressive AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS line of .385/.448/.538/.987. Smith is now a solid league leader in most offensive stats.
Alex Castellanos had a very impressive week while posting a six game hit streak through Saturday. Castellanos also added two "web gems" this week by making quick diving plays into the hole while playing third base. "Casty" led the team in runs (5), hits (10), total bases (15), and stolen bases (5) while posting team leads in SLG, AVG, and OPS with an impressive line of .435/.435/.652/1.087.
The offense improved their line (.279/.357/.419/.776) for the third consecutive week but the fielders allowed eight unearned runs on eleven errors. The errors cost the team at least one win this week. The pitching, in many respects, improved this week. The team posted a 1.38 WHIP and a 2.80 ERA this week but the pitchers combined for seven hit batters and 32 walks in 61 innings pitched.
The Week Ahead
Game 40 (Sunday): Randy Santos followed by Adam Veres – @ Danville Braves
Game 41 (Monday): Scott McGregor followed by Deryk Hooker – @ Danville Braves
Tuesday: Appy League scheduled off-day
Game 42 (Wednesday): Mike Blazek followed by Andres Rosales – vs. Princeton Rays
Game 43 (Thursday): Brett Zawacki followed by Matt North – vs. Princeton Rays
Game 44 (Friday): Kevin Thomas followed by Reynier Gonzalez – vs. Princeton Rays
Game 45 (Saturday): Adam Veres followed by Randy Santos – vs. Burlington Royals
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