Even though the Reno Aces finished with a record of 69-74, the team did not quit on able manager Brett Butler. On the contrary, the Aces went 33-18 over their final 51 games to end the season on a high note.
Pitching was chief among the Aces' problems, as their team ERA of 5.44 cannot be explained away by their playing in a hitter's park. Indeed, the 548 walks they issued ranked third in the Pacific Coast League; it's hard to blame the ballpark for those. And considering their ballpark was a favorable one in which to hit, their team batting average of .277 (7th in the league) appears rather pedestrian.
FutureBacks.com Pitcher of the Year - Matt Torra
After narrowly being beaten by Barry Enright for BayBears Pitcher of the Year last season, Torra finally gets his due with the Aces. Always a workhorse, Torra led the Pacific Coast League with 178 innings even though two pitchers each made two more starts in the league. That innings total made Torra's 34 walks that much more impressive; a half dozen of his teammates walked more batters despite the disparity in innings.
Torra did lead the league with 224 hits allowed, but he did a good job of stranding those runners. With the bases empty, opponents batted .335 against Torra, but he held them to a .285 average with runners on and a .286 clip in scoring position. Only four PCL pitchers eclipsed Torra's 11 wins, and none of his teammates managed more than seven. He was also the only Ace to toss a complete game this year. Torra actually began the season in Mobile, tossing five shutout innings before landing in Triple-A and accomplishing all that he did.
Other Notable Pitchers
The only pitcher who totaled more than 65 innings for the Aces and had a lower ERA than Torra's mark of 4.55 was Zach Kroenke. Kroenke was one of a handful of upper-level pitching prospects that began the year in the bullpen, switched to the rotation, and then excelled. Just 2-2 with a 5.23 ERA in 53.1 innings as a reliever, Kroenke went 5-1 with a 1.43 ERA in 44 innings as a starter. His overall ERA of 3.51 was exceptional given the league and park he pitched in, and earned him a September callup to Arizona.
Carlos Rosa and Jordan Norberto also spent time in the majors when they weren't busy being the most effective Aces relievers. In 25 games with Reno, Rosa had a 1.63 ERA and saved a team-best 13 contests. Norberto went 3-0 with four saves, a 3.07 ERA, and 38 strikeouts in 29.1 innings. Both pitchers struggled with their control during their time with Arizona, though.
Jason Urquidez also had a solid year in relief, averaging a strikeout per inning, saving five games, and leading the club with 14 holds. Kevin Mulvey led the team with 109 strikeouts, but it was his low total of 11 homers allowed in 156.2 innings that led to his relatively low ERA of 4.65.
FutureBacks.com Position Player of the Year - 1B/LF Brandon Allen
At the end of May, Brandon Allen had only appeared in 24 games, was hitting .200, and was slugging under .400. Not many people would have predicted that he would go on to become Reno's best player. Allen went a ridiculous .329/.487/.659 in June. Combined June through August, he smashed 22 homers, scored 62 times, walked 73 times, and drove in 74. That's a pretty solid three months.
So despite the fact that he was injured and ineffective for the first two months of the season and got promoted to the majors on September 1, Allen was the Aces' leader in on-base percentage (.405), slugging (.528), walks (83), homers (25), and RBI (86). He ranked second in steals and third in both runs scored and total bases. His OBP ranked 4th in the PCL, plus he ranked 7th in RBI and tied for 9th in homers despite all the missed time.
One underrated aspect of Allen's season was his seamless transition from first base to left field. He made just one error in 31 outfield games with the Aces and made a couple of spectacular catches during his brief left field audition with the Arizona Diamondbacks. This was Allen's first action in the outfield since he was a first-year pro in 2004.
Other Notable Position Players
Catcher John Hester actually paced the team in every rate stat (.370/.440/.667), but spent most of the year backing up either Chris Snyder or Miguel Montero in the majors. There were a number of other solid-to-good offensive performances from Jeff Bailey, Carlos Corporan, Doug Deeds, Cole Gillespie, Chris Rahl, and Ryan Roberts, but nothing approaching what Allen accomplished. Rahl committed only one error in 85 outfield games between Reno and Mobile, marking his second straight season with just one outfield miscue. Yunesky Sanchez had a dazzling .975 fielding percentage across three infield positions and was decent with the bat, but the 26-year-old Cuban was nevertheless released in November.
The Aces return Butler and his coaching staff again in 2011, and the organization has brought in several interesting veterans who figure to spend most of the season with Reno, including Seam Burroughs, Wily Mo Pena, Cody Ransom, Andy Tracy, and David Winfree. More overall depth at the major league level could also mean that the Aces' best players get to spend more time in Reno. It is difficult to speculate on playoff berths in the PCL since they do not use Wild Cards (the three best records were all found in the North division last year), but it is safe to say that the Aces will improve upon their 69 wins from 2010.
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