The Johnson City Cardinals Report: 08/04/08

The St. Louis Cardinals' Appalachian League club went 4-2 during the period. Brett Lilley is the Player of the Week, while Kevin Thomas and Scott McGregor share the pitching recognition.

The Johnson City Cardinals finished the week (Sunday through Saturday) with a record of four wins and two losses.  They are currently 22-22 and are in fourth place in the five-team Western Division of the Appalachian League.  They are four and one half games behind the Elizabethton Twins. 


Johnson City actually has a chance to win the Division this year.  Seventeen of their last twenty-three games are against teams with below .500 records, however, only three of their last twenty-three are against teams in front of them in the West Division. 


In the ten-team Appy League, the offense still ranks second in walks, stolen bases, and home runs.  They also added on-base percentage (OBP) to the list of second place standings this week.  They remained sixth in batting average (.262) and last in triples (9) while falling from ninth to last place in strikeouts.  The offense ranked third or fourth in all other offensive categories.


The pitchers still have the most walks, hits, hit batters, innings-pitched, and walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) in the league while dropping from sixth to seventh in earned run average (ERA).   The pitchers remained in second place in the league in strikeouts.  


I was able to attend three of the four home games scheduled this week.  Those observations provide the basis for this report.  I attended all three games against the Princeton Rays and, with all apologies to Steve Austin and Lee Majors, six million dollar man Tim Beckham.  I missed Saturday night's three-game series opener against the Burlington Royals.


Injury/Playing Time Updates


Thirty-three of the thirty-four players on the active roster played this week.


SP Jon Bravo missed his second consecutive start on Thursday (Game 43).  Bravo's arm is a little tired.  Bravo may see action next week as a reliever or limited-pitch-count starter.


The Week in Review


It was a little bit of a wild week this week.  The pitchers had one shutout and only allowed one run in another game while allowing double digit runs in three other games.  The offense was pretty solid this week, scoring three or more runs in all six games.  The team had a .289 batting average and 4.83 ERA for the week.  They allowed five home runs while hitting eight. 


Game 40 (Sunday):  Win 5-4:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 07/28.

Game 41 (Monday):  Win 3-0:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 07/29.

Tuesday:  Appy League scheduled off-day.

Game 42 (Wednesday):  Win 14-11:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 07/31.

Game 43 (Thursday):  Loss 6-10:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/01.

Game 44 (Friday):  Win 6-1:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/02.

Game 45 (Saturday):  Loss 10-5:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/03.


League Leaders (Top Ten)


After a big offensive week, Johnson City now has four different players leading the league in six different categories.


Osvaldo Morales (right) – first in home runs (10) and slugging percentage (.637); fourth in on-base plus slugging percentage (.971). 


Niko Vasquez – first in runs (33) and walks (24); third in on-base percentage (.431) and doubles (11); eighth in hits (49) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.918); tenth in total bases (74).


Brett Lilley – first in on base percentage (.445). 


Curt Smith – second in RBIs (33); fourth in batting average (.343); seventh in on-base plus slugging percentage (.931); eighth in total bases (75) and slugging percentage (.547); ninth in doubles (10); tenth in hits (47), home runs (6), and on-base percentage (.384).


Alex Castellanos – third in doubles (11) and stolen bases (12); sixth in RBIs (28) and slugging percentage (.556); seventh in runs (28) and triples (3); eighth in total bases (75); tenth in home runs (6).


Guillermo Toribio – fourth in stolen bases (10).


Travis Mitchell (right) – fourth in stolen bases (10).


Jose Mateo – first in holds (3); third in games (15).


Jorge Rondon – second in games (17); sixth in games finished (9); ninth in saves (4).


Matt Frevert – fifth in games (14).


Joel Pichardo – sixth in games (13). 


Samuel Freeman – sixth in games (13); seventh in wins (3). 


Santo Maertz – tenth in games (12).


Tandem Starter Pitch Counts


Game 42 (14-11 Win):

Mike Blazek (2.2 innings pitched) – 66 pitches, 39 strikes, 11 of 15 first-pitch strikes.

Andres Rosales (3 innings pitched) – 48 pitches, 25 strikes, 6 of 14 first-pitch strikes.


Game 43 (10-6 Loss):

Matt North (4 innings pitched) – 73 pitches, 40 strikes, 12 of 18 first-pitch strikes.

Brett Zawacki (3.2 innings pitched) – 57 pitches, 37 strikes, 7 of 16 first-pitch strikes.


Game 44 (6-1 Win):

Kevin Thomas (5 innings pitched) – 67 pitches, 48 strikes, 12 of 16 first-pitch strikes.

Reynier Gonzalez (2.2 innings pitched) – 56 pitches, 37 strikes, 11 of 12 first-pitch strikes.


Pitch Velocities


Johnson City didn't have the display working during the Princeton Rays series. 


Game Notes


Position Coach Mike Shildt has continued to coach third base a little bit more as the season has progressed.  The last time I saw this happen, it was a precursor to a change in manager for next season.


The Cardinals have recently become much more aggressive on the base paths.  Double steals and hit and runs have been more of the norm of late.  This can be very exciting to watch when it is pulled off correctly but it can also be very frustrating to watch when someone misses a sign.  I am not sure they all occurred this week but on at least three occasions, one of the two players involved in either a double steal or a hit and run have missed a sign.  One base running mishap was on a double steal and two others were on hit and runs.  Brett Lilley was caught stealing four times this week but most of those were due to a missed sign by someone.  Jack Cawley executed a perfect hit and run through the second base hole in the sixth inning of Thursday's game (Game 43).


Alex Castellanos' three-run, game-winning home run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning of an 11-11 game was impressive but there was something even more impressive about it that the casual fan at the game may have missed and that everyone who didn't get to see it in person definitely missed.  Castellanos hit the home run according to Major League Baseball Rule 8.05(m) "Penalty".  What the heck is that rule you ask?  In more common terms, the pitcher didn't come to a complete stop before throwing a pitch. 


8.05:  If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when –

(m):  The pitcher delivers the pitch from the Set Position without coming to a stop.

          PENALTY:  The ball is dead, and each runner shall advance one base without liability to be put out, unless the batter reaches first on a hit … in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.


Field umpire Brandon Henson clearly called "Balk" as Princeton Rays' pitcher Jordi Amargos began to deliver the 0-1 pitch to Castellanos with runners on first and second.  Amargos delivered the pitch anyway and, according to 8.05(m), Castellanos essentially had a free swing at the pitch.  Needless to say, Alex took full advantage of the rule by depositing Amargos' high fastball into the netting above the left centerfield wall.  I am relatively certain this is the first time I have ever seen a home run with this rule. 


Osvaldo Morales (right) hit four home runs this week, all in consecutive games.  While Morales leads the league in home runs and slugging, he was definitely an all or nothing hitter this week.  Morales was 4-for-18 with eleven strikeouts.  In other words, Morales didn't strike out or hit a home run in just seventeen percent of his at bats this week.


Alex Castellanos had six stolen bases in five games this week without being caught once.  Castellanos has twelve stolen bases on the season.  Eleven of those have been in his last thirteen games (one caught stealing). 


Guillermo Toribio is now 0-for-his-last-20 after being a league leader and posting a .410 batting average through the first ten games of the season. 


Paul Cruz had one of the most unusual pickoffs at first base that I think I have ever seen. It occurred in the sixth inning of Friday night's game (Game 44).  Brett Lilley took an inside pitch for a ball to make it a 1-1 count but he immediately flipped the bat toward the on-deck circle and began to run to first base as if he had been hit by the pitch.  Paul Cruz, who was on first base with two outs, hesitated but then started trotting toward second base after Lilley made it about half way down the baseline.  Unfortunately, the home plate umpire did not see Lilley get hit by the pitch.  The Princeton catcher easily threw to first base to record a pickoff of Cruz.  A rather lengthy discussion between Manager Joe Almaraz and the home plate umpire ensued but even after a consultation between the two umpires, the pickoff stood. 


Players of the Week


Each week, I select one position player and one pitcher as the Johnson City players of the week.  The position player of the week, for the second time this year, is Brett Lilley.  The co-pitchers of the week, both for the first time this year, are Kevin Thomas and Scott McGregor. 


There were three pitchers with a walks plus innings pitched (WHIP) of less than 1.0 (Kevin Thomas, Scott McGregor, and Deryk Hooker).  Of the three, Hooker had the best strikeout per nine innings pitched rate (15.8) but Hooker won the award last week and he was the only one to walk a batter this week so Hooker is the tough luck odd man out this week.    


Scott McGregor (right) was impressive against the Danville Braves in Danville, VA on Monday (Game 41).  Recently promoted from the Gulf Coast League after a brief injury rehab, McGregor allowed only two hits and no runs while recording five strikeouts over five innings pitched.  McGregor is still building back up his strength and since he was originally assigned to Batavia before the season started, he may be spending a short time in Johnson City.


Kevin Thomas was simply amazing on Friday night against the Rays.  Thomas missed three starts earlier in the year with right shoulder soreness but he has come back strong in his last few outings.  Thomas allowed only one hit, a broken bat double on a 2-1 pitch in the first inning, over five innings of shutout baseball while recording seven strikeouts.  The right-hander features a good sinking 2-seam fastball and a hard slider as his best pitches.  He also throws a curve ball and a change-up (neither of which he really needed on Friday night).  He only faced one batter over the minimum and his seven strikeouts were recorded on the last ten batters he faced.


The offense this week was spread out over many different players but only four players (Brett Lilley, Joey Hage, Jarred Bogany, and Alex Castellanos) had above team average batting averages (.289) in ten or more at bats.  Two of those have been past offensive leaders (Brett Lilley and Alex Castellanos) while two others made a surge into the spotlight for the first time this week (Joey Hage and Jarred Bogany).  It is nice to see two outfielders being mentioned now after the group was struggling so much just a few weeks ago.  It should be noted that Rickey Noland (.750 batting average, four errors), Travis Mitchell (.500 batting average, one home run), and Matt Rigoli (.400/.400/1.200/1.600 line) all had noteworthy performances in limited at bats.   


Joey Hage posted a .462 batting average with six singles in just three games played.  Hage also added a very nice bases-loaded-catch against the left field wall on Wednesday (Game 42) in the fourth inning.  The catch didn't seem to be significant at the time since it gave Princeton an 8-3 lead but the Cardinals eventually came back to win that game 14-11 thanks to Hage turning a likely double into a sacrifice fly. 


Jarred Bogany had his best week of the year while leading the team in doubles (2) and triples (1).  Alex Castellanos led the team in runs (6) and RBIs (6) while drawing just his fourth walk to go with 135 at bats.  Osvaldo Morales posted team leads in home runs (4), RBIs (6), total bases (16), slugging percentage (.889), and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.152) despite only hitting .222. 


Brett Lilley (right) had his best offensive week of the year though and brings home the award for another week.  Lilley led the team in hits (10), on-base percentage (.522), and batting average (.476) while posting an impressive line of .476/.522/.619/1.141.


The offense improved their line (.289/.341/.480/.821) for the fourth consecutive week while the pitchers, especially the relievers, really struggled as a group this week.  The team posted a 1.41 WHIP (relievers 2.19) and a 4.83 ERA (relievers 8.02) this week.  The relievers walked nine in twelve innings pitched. 


The Week Ahead


Game 46 (Sunday):  Deryk Hooker followed by Scott McGregor – vs. Burlington Royals

Game 47 (Monday):  Andres Rosales followed by Mike Blazek – vs. Burlington Royals

Game 48 (Tuesday):  Matt North followed by Brett Zawacki/Jon Bravo – @ Pulaski Mariners

Game 49 (Wednesday):  Reynier Gonzalez followed by Kevin Thomas – @ Pulaski Mariners

Game 50 (Thursday):  Randy Santos followed by Adam Veres – @ Pulaski Mariners

Game 51 (Friday):  Scott McGregor followed by Deryk Hooker – vs. Greeneville Astros

Game 52 (Saturday):  Mike Blazek followed by Andres Rosales – vs. Greeneville Astros


Bonus photos


Co-pitcher of the Week Kevin Thomas in action.


Start of stride


Glove forward


Max elbow torque






Co-pitcher of the Week Scott McGregor.


Start of wind-up






Follow through



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