The Johnson City Cardinals Report: 08/25/08

Though eliminated from playoff contention, the 2008 Johnson City Cardinals have clinched a winning record for the first time in a dozen years. Jack Cawley is our Player of the Week and Santo Maertz is our Pitcher of the Week.

The Johnson City Cardinals finished the week (Sunday through Saturday) with a record of four wins and two losses and recorded their fifth consecutive winning week.  They are currently 35-29 and are in second place in the five-team Western Division of the Appalachian League.  They are five games behind the league champion Elizabethton Twins.  Unfortunately, the Cardinals were officially eliminated from the division race on Friday of this week. 


Johnson City had a league wide off-day and six road games in West Virginia this week.  The report this week, therefore, has no first-hand observations.  The three games in Princeton were broadcast on internet radio by the Rays and I was able to listen to some of those broadcasts. 


In the ten-team Appy League, the offense now ranks second in ten different offensive categories (runs, hits, home runs, runs batted in, total bases, walks, stolen bases, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging percentage).  They are fourth in batting average (.271), seventh in triples (15), and ninth in strikeouts.  The offense has the most at bats and ranks third in doubles. 


The pitchers have the most walks, hit batters, and innings-pitched in the league, however, they have improved from last to fifth in the league in walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) over the last three weeks.  They are also fifth in earned run average (ERA), hits, home runs allowed, and saves.   They are sixth in runs allowed and seventh in earned runs allowed.  The pitchers are in second place in the league in strikeouts and third in shutouts.


Appy League All-Stars and Player of the Year


Earlier this week, the media and coaches were asked to vote for the Appy League All-Star team.  I was honored to be able to vote for the second year in a row.  The bad news with this honor is that I couldn't vote for any Johnson City players.  So, while I wasn't paying as close attention to the other players as I was the Cardinals, I cast my vote for eleven position players, three pitchers, one Player of the Year, one Pitcher of the Year, and one Manager of the Year. 


On Friday afternoon, word came from the league office that our own Curt Smith was not only honored as the Appy League All-Star first baseman, but he also garnered the biggest award of all, Player of the Year!  Brian Walton wrote a nice article on Curt so I will just reference it for now (Curt Smith: Appy League Player of the Year). 


If I include Smith (who would definitely have received my votes at first base and Player of the Year), fourteen of the seventeen I voted for were named to the All-Star team.  I would have voted Niko Vasquez as a utility infielder (behind shortstop Wilmer Flores of the Kingsport Mets) so I will have to admit that I was disappointed he didn't make the All-Star team.  Alex Castellanos was definitely playing like an All-Star over about four of the nine weeks he was in Johnson City but the late start wasn't good enough in the voter's opinions to warrant an All-Star position. 


Promotions to Quad Cities and Batavia


The heart of this year's team has pretty much been dismantled the past two weeks.  Adam Veres, Brett Lilley, and Jairo Martinez were promoted three weeks ago, Deryk Hooker, Jorge Rondon, and Alex Castellanos were promoted two weeks ago and this week, Curt Smith, Niko Vasquez, and Osvaldo Morales were promoted.  Smith and Vasquez moved to Quad Cities to join Hooker and Rondon while Morales went to Batavia to join Castellanos, Veres, Lilley, and Martinez. 


That brings the total number of promotions from this year's Johnson City Cardinals to ten (six position players, two starting pitchers, and two relief pitchers).  The active roster this year has seen a total of forty-one players (nineteen position players and twenty-two pitchers).  Ten of those forty-one have been promoted to Quad Cities (four) or Batavia (six). 


Reinforcements from the Gulf Coast League


Yunier Castillo and Ryde Rodriguez were called up and brought in.  Castillo made his debut with a start at shortstop on Wednesday (Game 62) in Bluefield.   Castillo was one for five with a run scored in his debut.  Rodriguez made his debut with a start in right field on Thursday (Game 63) in Princeton.  Rodriguez was two for three with a run-batted-in in his first JC action. 


Brian Walton put together a good article on the promotions of Smith, Vasquez, and Morales and the additions of Ryde Rodriguez and Yunier Castillo (Cardinals Promote Five More Prospects).  The promotions of Smith, Vasquez, and Morales, while disappointing for Johnson City fans, will go a long way in helping Batavia and Quad Cities fight for playoff spots in the New York-Penn League and the Midwest League, respectively.


Injury/Playing Time Updates


The active roster now stands at thirty players (seventeen pitchers, three catchers, four infielders, and six outfielders).  Twenty-nine of those thirty players saw action during the week. 


Matt North missed his third consecutive start this week (Thursday, Game 63) and was the only player on the active roster to miss action this week.  I will try to have an update on North for my last report. 


The Week in Review


A two game win streak to start the week was followed by a tough extra inning loss to end the series in Bluefield.   Despite twelve errors in two games, Johnson City split the first two games in Princeton.  Johnson City then won the rubber game of the series on the same night as the Men's Olympic Marathon in a marathon session of their own (15 innings).  The team was shut out for the first time this year on Friday (Game 64). 


The hitters struggled to put up good numbers this week.  The team put up a rather anemic AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS line of .254/.313/.352/.664 line.  The defense committed twelve errors (five by Yunier Castillo) that led to only four unearned runs.


The pitchers saw their team season earned run average and walks plus innings pitched both improve by posting a 2.90 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in fifty-nine innings pitched this week.  The team allowed five home runs while hitting four.  Both the relievers and the starters performed well relative to WHIP (1.11 and 1.01 respectively) but the starters posted a 2.27 ERA versus the relievers 4.69 ERA.  The team allowed just twelve walks this week, two from the relievers in fifteen and one third innings pitched and ten from the starters in forty-three and two thirds innings pitched. 


Sunday:  Appy League scheduled off-day.

Game 60 (Monday):  Win 4-2:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/19.

Game 61 (Tuesday):  Win 8-1:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/20.

Game 62 (Wednesday):  Loss 6-7:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/21.

Game 63 (Thursday):  Win 4-2:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/22.

Game 64 (Friday):  Loss 0-7:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/23.

Game 65 (Saturday):  Win 5-4:  The Cardinals Minor League Notebook 08/24.


League Leaders (Top Ten)


Curt Smith has most likely won the Appy League batting title this year.  Smith has 193 at bats which are above the minimum of 184 at bats needed by the end of year to qualify for the batting title.   Fellow Appy League All-Star Juan Fuentes of the Pulaski Mariners is the only player that appears to have an outside chance of catching Smith.  Smith leads Fuentes .378 to .343 but Fuentes would have to go twelve for twelve or better in his last three games to move his average above .378.


Curt Smith – first in batting average (.378), on-base percentage (.418), and RBIs (49); second in on-base plus slugging percentage (1.004); third in slugging percentage (.585); fifth in hits (73); seventh in total bases (113); ninth in doubles (14) and home runs (8).


Alex Castellanos – second in stolen bases (20); third in runs (42); sixth in triples (4); eighth in slugging percentage (.536); ninth in doubles (14); tenth in on-base plus slugging percentage (.889).


Niko Vasquez – second in on-base percentage (.416); third in walks (29) and runs (42); sixth in doubles (16); ninth in hits (66); tenth in batting average (.317).


Osvaldo Morales – fourth in home runs (12) and slugging percentage (.579); sixth in on-base plus slugging percentage (.924).


Travis Mitchell – sixth in stolen bases (13).


Jose Mateo – first in holds (5) and sixth in games (19).


Jorge Rondon – second in games (21) and seventh in saves (6).


Matt Frevert – third in games (20).


Samuel Freeman – third in games (20) and seventh in holds (2). 


Joel Pichardo – sixth in games (19). 


Randy Santos – seventh in holds (2).


Game Notes


The Johnson City Cardinals have clinched an above .500 record for the first time in twelve years. The 1996 Johnson City Cardinals (42-26) were the last team to finish with an above .500 record and as high as second place in the division. 


Johnson City leads the Appy League in road wins (20).  The Appy League East Division Champion Pulaski Mariners are the only team with a chance for more road victories than the Cardinals. 


Edgar Lara, normally a right fielder, played first base for only the third time this year on Saturday (Game 65). 


Right fielder Ryde Rodriguez was hit by a pitch in the sixth inning of Saturday's game (Game 65) and was removed from the game prior to his next at bat. 


Catchers Jack Cawley, Rickey Noland, and Ivan Castro had twenty five percent of the team's hits this week while posting a .333/.388/.533/.921 line. 


Saturday's game (Game 65) was the second longest game of the year at four hours and fourteen minutes.  The fifteen inning win took almost as long to win as the fifteen inning marathon on July 11 (Game 24) that lasted four hours and thirty minutes.


Every pitcher had at least one strikeout this week and every hitter had at least one hit.  


Guillermo Toribio led the team in walks this week with five.  Toribio was just two for twenty-one this week (.095 batting average).  


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 first time this year, is Jack Cawley.  The pitcher of the week, also for the first time this year, is Santo Maertz (right).


The six relievers combined for a 4.69 ERA and 1.11 WHIP while the ten starters combined for a 2.27 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.  There was one reliever (Santo Maertz) and seven starters (Eric Fornataro, Mike Blazek, Randy Santos, Brett Zawacki, Scott McGregor, Miguel Flores, and Kevin Thomas) that threw four or more innings this week.  Six of those eight pitchers had a walks plus innings pitched (WHIP) of 1.0 or less (Eric Fornataro – 0.50, Mike Blazek – 0.75, Randy Santos – 0.83, Santo Maertz – 0.88, Brett Zawacki – 0.92, and Scott McGregor – 1.00). 


Of the six, Maertz had the best strike out per nine innings pitched (11.1), the most wins (1), and the most strikeouts (7).  Fornataro had the lowest WHIP (0.50) and ERA (0.00) while allowing no runs, no hits, and just two walks in one save appearance.  The other six had noteworthy performances as well but Santo wins the award in a close competition based on his relief performance in Princeton Saturday.  It also helped when he gave me the best answer at the beginning of the year to the question about what kind of fastball he threw.  With a serious look and voice, Maertz responded, "A REALLY FAST fastball!"   


The offense this week was down quite a bit.  That should be expected with the loss of all the best offensive performers from earlier in the year.  The team has lost 290 of their 611 hits (47 percent), 62 of their 122 doubles (51 percent), 9 of their 15 triples (60 percent), and 35 of their 53 home runs (66 percent).  Despite the loss of all the offense, the pitching has improved, the team has kept winning, and the offense has produced well enough to be successful. 


The hitters posted a line of .254/.313/.352/.664 this week.  Eleven of the sixteen hitters had ten or more at bats and but only two of the eleven (Edgar Lara and Jack Cawley - right) had batting averages above .300 for the week. 


Edgar Lara led the team in home runs (1) and was second on the team in batting average (.370).  Rickey Noland, who posted the third best batting average on the team (.286), led the team in slugging percentage (.571).  Jack Cawley led the team in runs (5), hits (10), doubles (3), triples (1), total bases (15), and runs batted in (5) while posting team leads this week in all the hitting averages except slugging:  .370/.433/.556/.989.  Jack Cawley was an easy winner this week of the Player of the Week award.


The "Short" Week Ahead


Game 67 (Monday):  Mike Blazek followed by bullpen* – vs. Bluefield Orioles.

Game 68 (Tuesday):  Brett Zawacki followed by Eric Fornataro – vs. Bluefield Orioles.


* Jon Bravo is resting with a "tired arm"


Roster Update


After this article was submitted, we learned that Scott McGregor was pulled from his Sunday start and promoted to Quad Cities, where he may be starting on Monday night. Best of luck to Scott!



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