As Wednesday rolled into Thursday, losses finally hit most of the Giants' minor league system. Perhaps it was only the rain that prevented Augusta from joining the ranks of defeated teams, but the way the GreenJackets have played, that's unlikely.
The way the GreenJackets have played is Manager Roberto Kelly's way. Kelly, a longtime major league player, was a successful base stealer in his day. Now he imparts a similar philosophy on his team.
Is it a coincidence that the players he has had have fit his style perfectly? The Giants have focused more and more on acquiring "athletes" as position players, resulting in a large number of speed players. For 2006, Kelly's second year in the season, his team was second in the South Atlantic League in stolen bases with 144. He had four players with more than 30 steals, including all three outfielders.
This year has not been much different. The team has Marcus Sanders back, who stole 57 bases for Augusta in 2005. In addition, the team has speedy outfielders like Joey Dyche Michael McBryde, and Tyler Graham, along with players like Bobby Felmy and Sharlon Schoop who have speed potential. And Brian Bocock, who had only six steals in 39 games in Salem-Keizer, already has eight on the season, good for the league lead. The team leads the South Atlantic League with 15 steals on the young season.
"Speed never slumps" is a longtime saying in baseball, but it's become an unpopular one in baseball circles. As mathematical circles have grown in influence in baseball, the thoughts of using a limited resource like outs to gain single runs has fallen out of favor. Risking outs on stolen base attempts and sacrifice bunts seem to fly in the face of such assertions. And in the majors, stolen bases have dropped by nearly 20 percent since 1999.
Despite that, Kelly continues to teach the small ball aspects, and the team has excelled. The team won the second-half title with a 53-16 record, and went to the SAL Championship Series. So far, the team has a 6-0 record to boast about this season, the only undefeated team left in the South Atlantic League.
The past two teams have had other qualities as well, including spectacular pitching, with all five starters who finished 2006 with ERAs under 3.65. This year's team has a 1.00 ERA in the first six games. The nearest team ERA is Charelston's 2.13.
Still, whatever happens on the mound, the team will continue to pressure their opponents' batteries with speed of their own.
Player of the Week: Brian Bocock
Bocock has surprised this year, coming on strong early to lead the league in stolen bases and be amongst the league leaders in hitting. His eight stolen bases already outnumber his professional total from last year, and his .385 batting average is more than 150 points higher than his 2006 total.
By The Numbers: 1 in 24
The bullpen has turned in a spectacular outing so far. Only Jared Cranston has allowed a run in 10 combined appearances by bullpen pitchers.
Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on…even the Athletics. She's a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 24th season of fandom. Love/hate mail can be sent to email@example.com, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.
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