The Johnson City Cardinals Report: 08/11/08

The St. Louis Cardinals' Appalachian League club went 4-3 during the period. Curt Smith is the Player of the Week, while Deryk Hooker is our top pitcher.

The Johnson City Cardinals finished the week (Sunday through Saturday) with a record of four wins and three losses and recorded their third consecutive winning week.  They are currently 26-25 and are in fourth place in the five-team Western Division of the Appalachian League.  They are five and one half games behind the Elizabethton Twins. 


Johnson City is pushing hard to win the Division this year but with just five series left and three teams to pass in the standings, it is starting to look pretty difficult.  Thirteen of their last sixteen games are against teams with below .500 records however, only three of their last sixteen are against teams in front of them in the West Division. 


In the ten-team Appy League, the offense now ranks second in eleven different offensive categories.  They moved up to sixth in batting average (.268) and eighth in triples (nine) while remaining in last place in strikeouts.  The offense ranked third in hits and fourth in at bats.


The pitchers still have the most walks, hits, hit batters, and innings-pitched.  They improved from last to ninth in walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) in the league while remaining sixth in earned run average (ERA).   The pitchers remained in second place in the league in strikeouts and moved into third in shutouts with one this week.  


I was able to attend all four of the home games scheduled this week.  Those observations provide the basis for this report.  I saw the last two games of the series against the Burlington Royals and the first two games of the series against the Greeneville Astros.


Promotions to Batavia


A day after I made him player of the week last week, Brett Lilley was promoted to the Batavia Muckdogs. Lilley was 5-for-9 (.556) in his first four games in the New York-Penn League.


Adam Veres was the first pitcher to be promoted to Batavia.  Veres was my co-pitcher of the week in the fifth week of the season.  Veres features a four-seam fastball as his best pitch with his next best pitches, in order, being a curveball, slider, and changeup.  Veres made his debut this week in the New York-Penn League; pitching three innings while allowing four singles, no walks, no runs, and recording six strikeouts. 


When asked about Veres, Pitching Coach Tim Leveque beamed about his former tandem starter.  "He pitched great in Batavia!  Adam earned it (the promotion).  He pitched as well as anybody here.  They needed someone in Batavia.  He did a good job for us here and I think it was a good move."


Jairo Martinez, and his rather unique knock-kneed (pigeon-toed) stance, was also promoted this week.  Early in the year, Martinez was struggling at the plate - hitting just .197 through Johnson City's first 36 games.  He had become a little pull-happy, was not keeping his head down, and was not trying to hit the ball back up the middle.  A few sessions with the roving instructors seemed to fix the problem. 


Martinez was 6-for-11 (.545) this week before his promotion.  Sunday's game probably best demonstrated his improvement and his ability to listen to the coaches as he went three for three with all three singles being up the middle within a few feet of second base.  Martinez was in the running for player of the week this week, posting a very nice AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS line of .545/.643/.545/1.188. 


Call-ups from the Gulf Coast League


Former-catcher-turned-pitcher David Carpenter made his debut as a relief pitcher on Friday night (Game 51).  Carpenter threw sixteen pitches (eleven strikes) in a perfect inning while recording one strikeout. 


Infielder Luis Mateo made his debut this week, playing both shortstop and second base.  Mateo debuted as a starter on Tuesday (Game 48) from the leadoff position in the lineup with five singles in six at bats.  Mateo has cooled off a bit since then, getting just three singles in his next seventeen at bats (.333 overall).


Injury/Playing Time Updates


With three promotions and two call-ups, the active roster now stands at thirty-three players.  Thirty-one of those thirty-three players saw action this week. 


SP Jon Bravo missed his third consecutive start on Tuesday (Game 48) however, he returned to action, after recovering from a tired arm, on Saturday (Game 52).  Bravo was on the back-end of the piggyback starting rotation with Mike Blazek and should remain paired with Blazek in the future.


SP Scott McGregor missed his start on Friday (Game 51).  According to Leveque, "He was running the other day and twisted his ankle.  He is probably only going to miss (one start) and he should be back in on his next start."


SP Andres Rosales missed his two starts this week:  Monday (Game 47) and Saturday (Game 52).  According to Leveque, "He has a little bit of a tired arm right now so we are just giving him a little bit of a break.  He came up here from the Gulf Coast League with a tired arm and we figured not to push anything right now.  He is out for an indefinite period (right now)."


RP/SP Jose Mateo, per Leveque, "is our versatile guy.  (Mateo, who substituted for Rosales on Monday and for McGregor on Friday), can be used out of the bullpen or can spot start.  It is unpredictable when he is going to pitch because he can pitch every day if we need him."


The Week in Review


It was a little bit of an up and down week.  A three game win streak to start the week turned into a one win and three loss finish to the week.  Both the hitters and pitchers put up very good statistics but the defense (nine errors) and clutch hitting/pitching suffered this week.


The pitchers had another shutout and never allowed more than seven runs in a game.  The offense was very solid early in the week but then struggled to score runs late in the week.  The team had a .307 batting average and 4.21 ERA for the week.  The team allowed two home runs while hitting four.  The pitchers had a combined WHIP of only 1.08 for their best performance of the year in that category.  In sixty-two innings pitched, the pitchers only allowed nine walks while striking out sixty nine. 


Game 46 (Sunday):  Win 5-4:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/04.

Game 47 (Monday):  Win 11-3:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/05.

Game 48 (Tuesday):  Win 13-7:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/06.

Game 49 (Wednesday):  Loss 2-5:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/07.

Game 50 (Thursday):  Loss 2-6:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/08.

Game 51 (Friday):  Win 6-0:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/09.

Game 52 (Saturday):  Loss 2-7:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/10.


League Leaders (Top Ten)


After another big offensive week, Johnson City has two different players (Osvlado Morales and Niko Vasquez) leading the league and four others (Curt Smith, Alex Castellanos, Brett Lilley, and Jorge Rondon) in second place.  Castellanos and Smith are in the top ten in nine different categories each.


Niko Vasquez – first in walks (27); fourth in runs (36), on-base percentage (.423) and doubles (14); tenth in hits (55) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.897).


Osvaldo Morales (right) – first in home runs (11); third in slugging percentage (.611); fifth in on-base plus slugging percentage (.964); ninth in doubles (11). 


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


Curt Smith – second in RBIs (38), batting average (.374), and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.000); fourth in slugging percentage (.585); fifth in on-base percentage (.417); seventh in hits (59), total bases (93), and doubles (13); tenth in home runs (7).


Alex Castellanos – second in stolen bases (18); third in doubles (14); fourth in runs (36); fifth in total bases (95) and slugging percentage (.579); sixth in triples (4); eighth in RBIs (31) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.944); tenth in home runs (7).


Guillermo Toribio – sixth in stolen bases (11).


Travis Mitchell – fourth in stolen bases (13).


Jorge Rondon – second in games (18).


Jose Mateo – third in games (17).


Matt Frevert – fifth in games (16).


Joel Pichardo – fifth in games (16). 


Samuel Freeman – fifth in games (16); seventh in wins (4). 


Deryk Hooker – fifth in strikeouts (55).


Tandem Starter Pitch Counts


Game 46 (5-4 Win):

Deryk Hooker (3.2 innings pitched) – 82 pitches, 56 strikes, 11 of 19 first-pitch strikes.

Scott McGregor (4 innings pitched) – 38 pitches, 30 strikes, 13 of 15 first-pitch strikes.


Game 47 (11-3 Win):

Mike Blazek (4 innings pitched) – 65 pitches, 44 strikes, 9 of 15 first-pitch strikes.

Jose Mateo (4 innings pitched) – 57 pitches, 43 strikes, 14 of 19 first-pitch strikes.


Game 51 (6-0 Win):

Deryk Hooker (5 innings pitched) – 74 pitches, 51 strikes, 9 of 15 first-pitch strikes.

Jose Mateo (2 innings pitched) – 22 pitches, 16 strikes, 6 of 8 first-pitch strikes.


Game 52 (7-2 Loss):

Mike Blazek (5 innings pitched) – 79 pitches, 53 strikes, 18 of 22 first-pitch strikes.

Jon Bravo (2.2 innings pitched) – 42 pitches, 29 strikes, 9 of 11 first-pitch strikes.


Pitch Velocities


Johnson City didn't have the display working this week. 


Game Notes


Position Coach Mike Shildt celebrated his 40th birthday Saturday night.  Jaycee, the Cardinal mascot, was sure to let everyone in the crowd know about it by parading a sign on the field between innings.


Deryk Hooker had the most dominating pitching performance so far this year on Friday (Game 51).  Hooker allowed only one hit while facing the minimum fifteen batters over five innings.  That alone would be impressive but when you add that he struck out eleven of the fifteen batters he faced, you can see why it was such a dominant performance.  Hooker's only had two three-ball-counts and those were to his last two hitters. 


Hooker's only hit was a little questionable from my view on the third base side of the infield.  A weak grounder in the hole at shortstop was fielded cleanly by Niko Vasquez, who leaped, threw across his body, and sent it a little high to Curt Smith at first base.  The throw pulled Smith off the base but an accurate throw would have been in time to record the out. 


Osvaldo Morales, after I noted he was only good for a home run or a strikeout last week, walked eight times this week.  Morales only hit .167 this week but he did post an impressive .423 on base percentage.


For the second week in-a-row, Alex Castellanos (right) had six stolen bases without being caught once.  Castellanos has seventeen stolen bases in his last twenty games (one caught stealing).  The team had a collective seventeen stolen bases with only four caught stealing in seven games.  Luis Mateo and Travis Mitchell each had three stolen bases.  I timed Mitchell to first base this week at 4.19 seconds and Castellanos at a very slightly slower 4.23 seconds.  It would appear that Mitchell may be the fastest on the team with Castellanos and Toribio just a fraction of a step slower.  Paul Cruz is probably next but Jarred Bogany, who I haven't timed yet, is in the mix with the fastest Cardinals. 


Edgar Lara has a cannon for an arm.  It was an inaccurate throw, but he threw a ball from the warning track in right field to just past home plate (over 300 feet) on an attempted outfield assist in the ninth inning of Saturday's game (Game 52). 


Jarred Bogany had a very nice diving catch and outfield assist on an inning-ending double play in the sixth inning of Friday's game.  The gentleman next to me and I both thought Bogany trapped the ball but the field umpire ruled it a catch.  The aggressive play helped preserve the Cardinals third shutout of the season. 


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 third time this year, is Curt Smith.  The pitcher of the week, for the second time this year, is Deryk Hooker.


All of the pitchers actually had very good weeks.  The six relievers combined for a 2.70 ERA and 1.10 WHIP while the eleven starters combined for a 1.04 WHIP.  There were eight pitchers that threw four or more innings this week and four of those pitchers had a walks plus innings pitched (WHIP) of less than 1.0 (Scott McGregor, Matt North, Randy Santos, and Deryk Hooker).  Of the four, Hooker had the best strike out per nine innings pitched (15.6), the fewest earned runs (one), the most strikeouts (fifteen), and the lowest ERA (1.04).  It was a tough week to be a pitcher this week when you had to compete with what Deryk Hooker did on Friday.      


The offense this week was also very good, so many noteworthy good performances may miss my comments.  The hitters improved their line (.307/.367/.460/.828) for the fifth consecutive week.  Thirteen of the sixteen hitters had ten or more at bats and six of the thirteen (Jairo Martinez, Curt Smith, Alex Castellanos, Jarred Bogany, Luis Mateo, and Jack Cawley) had above-team average batting averages (.307). 


Just two of those six players dominated the offensive categories.  Alex Castellanos, the only player to play all seven games, led the team in runs (8), hits (12), triples (1), home runs (1), total bases (20), and stolen bases (6).  Curt Smith, in just five games, led the team in RBIs (5) while matching Castellanos in runs, hits, and home runs.  Smith posted team leads this week in all the hitting averages:  .545/.565/.818/1.383 and that is why Curt Smith was selected as the player of the week for his third time this year.


The Week Ahead


Game 53 (Sunday):  Matt North followed by Brett Zawacki – vs. Greeneville Astros

Game 54 (Monday):  Kevin Thomas followed by Reynier Gonzalez – @ Greeneville Astros

Game 55 (Tuesday):  Carlos Gonzalez followed by Randy Santos – @ Greeneville Astros

Game 56 (Wednesday): Deryk Hooker followed by Scott McGregor/Jose Mateo – @ Greeneville Astros

Game 57 (Thursday):  Jon Bravo followed by Mike Blazek – vs. Kingsport Mets

Game 58 (Friday):  Brett Zawacki followed by Matt North – vs. Kingsport Mets

Game 59 (Saturday):  Reynier Gonzalez followed by Kevin Thomas – vs. Kingsport Mets


Bonus photos


Pitcher of the Week Deryk Hooker in action.




Pitcher Adam Veres, now with Batavia.




Editor's note: Shawn Kerrick will be taking a well-deserved vacation. As a result, there will be no Johnson City Cardinals report next week, but it will return in its regular place on Monday, August 25.


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