The BayBears were one of many businesses hit hard by recent economic events, as their revenues in 2009 and 2010 were down about 25% from their usual haul. The opening of the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum on park grounds this spring did not help matters as anticipated. With attendance among the lowest in the Southern League, the BayBears are now nearly a million dollars in debt to the city of Mobile due to back rent.
Those who did go to Hank Aaron Stadium for baseball in 2010 had to be impressed by the product, however. Mobile had the best team ERA in the Southern League, the lowest number of walks for pitchers, the highest number of walks for hitters, and 141 stolen bases, six shy of ranking second in the league. In terms of tools and talent, the BayBears' roster was nothing special. In terms of heart, hustle, and execution, they were among the best around.
FutureBacks.com Position Player of the Year - C Konrad Schmidt
Schmidt, an undrafted free agent, embodied the spirit of the team in many ways. After signing in 2007, he quickly developed a reputation as a fine defensive catcher, then his bat started to come around before really taking off in 2010. While guiding his pitching staff to the best ERA in the league, Schmidt also led the BayBears in batting average (.315), slugging (.490), and on-base plus slugging (.863). He ranked second on the team in doubles, RBI, home runs, and total bases. Schmidty's superlative performance earned him a cup of coffee with the big league club as well as a selection as a Diamondbacks representative in the Arizona Fall League.
Other Notable Position Players
Besides Schmidt, Collin Cowgill was the only other slugger on the team. But in addition to his team-leading 34 doubles, 16 homers, 83 RBI, and 233 total bases, Cowgill also walked 57 times, scored 89 runs, and swiped 25 bases, displaying a full skill set. Walks, runs, and stolen bases were the mode of operation for the rest of the offense, with Jacob Elmore, Evan Frey, and Ollie Linton each doing whatever they could to get on base and then make life miserable for the opposing battery. Of those three, Linton had the best year with the bat, hitting .304 and reaching base over 41% of the time. Frey led the way with 34 steals in 47 attempts, and formed the best defensive outfield in the league along with Linton and Cowgill.
FutureBacks.com Pitcher of the Year - Tom Layne
Layne almost gets this award by default, as he tossed 30 more innings than any other BayBears pitcher and was one of only two BayBears to make 15 or more starts. While several Mobile hurlers were more dominant in fewer starts, Layne's combination of success and durability stand out - particularly since he had virtually no offseason, having played in fall and winter leagues as well as getting an invite to major league spring training. He finished second in the Southern League with three complete games and third with both 12 wins and 149.1 innings. Despite the workload, 20 pitchers in the SL allowed more homers than Layne did. Layne's 2.22 ground outs to air outs ratio indicates just what a great sinkerballer he is, a trait that should serve him well at homer-happy Chase Field.
Promotions and Additions
Barry Enright went 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 14 starts before getting the call to the big leagues and having unparalleled success in his first dozen starts with the D-backs. Wes Roemer had a 2.39 ERA over eight starts before a promotion to Reno, where he struggled. Mobile was the stop at which Josh Collmenter enjoyed his greatest success. Collmenter went 8-3 with a 1.82 ERA over two Double-A stints, but also spent time with Visalia and Reno in 2010. Similarly, Daniel Stange spent time at three different levels, but did his best work as a BayBear, leading the team with 13 saves and a 1.69 ERA over 30 games.
Wade Miley joined the BayBears mid-season and pitched the best ball of his professional career. He went 5-2 with a 1.98 ERA in 13 starts, generating a K/BB ratio of 2.25 and a groundout/flyout ratio of 2.63. Ryan Wheeler got promoted for the final three weeks of the season, hitting three home runs and playing solid hot corner defense while in Mobile.
The BayBears figure to make the playoffs for a second straight year in 2011, as they will enjoy an influx of talent from the lower levels and retain many of their stars from 2010 with the Diamondbacks having signed several veteran fillers for the Triple-A roster. Hopefully a tradition of winning will bring the fans in Mobile back to the ballpark. As it is, the city of Mobile is negotiating a compromise to absolve the BayBears of their debt and the team's player development contract with the Diamondbacks runs through 2012.
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