Why Fresno Is Off To A Hot Start

After a difficult 2011 season for the Fresno Grizzlies, the 2012 team has started off on a strong note. The team has already amassed three separate three-game wins streaks en route to a 16-5 record through 21 games.

Offensive power

Fresno finished the 2011 season in the bottom five for the majority of offensive categories. However, hot hitting has been one of the big reasons for the team's early season success.

Entering play Friday, the Grizzlies sit in second place in the Pacific Coast League with a .307 batting average. They also lead the league with a .483 slugging percent and are tied for the league lead with 135 runs scored.

Leading the way offensively for the Grizzlies has been right fielder Roger Kieschnick, a first-timer at triple-A. He leads Fresno with five home runs, three triples and is second on the team with eight doubles.

His .357 batting average is third on the team. His .702 slugging percent is second on the team, and his eight walks are tied for second on the team.

Newcomer Skyler Stromsmoe has also been a strong force for Fresno at shortstop. Signing as an undrafted free agent with the Giants back in 2007, he is getting his first real chance at triple-A this year.

While playing only seven games this year, he is hitting .318 with two home runs and a team-leading 1.192 OPS.

Also having a strong start for the Grizzlies is 32-year-old left fielder Justin Christian. He is leading the team with a .420 batting average, while posting 14 extra-base hits. He has also shown great plate discipline, walking nine times, versus 10 strikeouts.

Pitching prowess

Additionally, the Grizzlies have a league-best 3.01 ERA. This includes a league-high three shutouts. The team is second in the league with a collective team WHIP of 1.27.

Eleven of the 14 pitchers who have appeared in a game for Fresno this season have an ERA under 3.40, led by Travis Blackley.

Blackley, who did not pitch in 2011, has been fantastic through four appearances -- three starts -- this season. He has allowed only one run in 23 1/3 innings pitched this season, good for a 0.39 ERA. He has struck out 19 batters, while walking only three.

After starting 28 games for Fresno last season, Shane Loux has made a seamless transition to the bullpen this season. Through seven appearances, he has allowed only one run in 11 1/3 innings, good for a 0.79 ERA. Opponents are hitting only .139 against him.

Also pitching well out of the starting rotation for Fresno have been Eric Hacker and Andrew Kown. Hacker is 4-0 through four starts with a 2.19 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. Kown is 2-0 through four starts with a 2.95 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP.

Out of the bullpen, closer Heath Hembree has shown why many people in the organization are excited about his future. He has recorded three saves this season in seven appearances. He has posted a 2.57 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. Opponents are also batting only .185 against him.

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