Record: 26-7; First place in the Southern Division (2. 1/2 games ahead of Asheville)
Things have been rosy in the land of green outerwear this season, with a record-winning streak to open the season and an early lead in the South Atlantic League Southern Division. But can they stay that way?
Augusta's lost a few in recent weeks, most often when abandoned by their offense. The pitching staff has been far and away the best in the league, with a 2.03 ERA (only one other team, Columbus at 2.75, has an ERA under three). The team has given up the least hits, walks, and tied for the least home runs given up. But the offense has been another story.
Augusta's 171 runs is tied for fourth most in the league, but they have not been a strong all-around team. They get on base at a solid rate at .349 (fourth in the league), but they haven't paired it with slugging, slugging just .369 (11th in the league). They have the fourth most doubles in the league (63), but are tied with four teams for just the 10th most triples (7), and have the least home runs (9).
At least part of those poor slugging numbers can be attributed to the large park the GreenJackets play in, but not entirely. A lot can also be put on the Giants making the draft choices, who eschewed power hitters in the last draft. And then there's that the Giants promoted the top power hitter out of last year's class all the way to San Jose.
But what does that leave the GreenJackets with?
To be sure, they've won without power so far. The team does have one offensive attribute: speed. They lead the league in stolen bases, and that matches well with an above average ability to get on base. But unlike the 2006 team which went on a monster run late in the season, the speed has not been as spread out. Brian Bocock leads the world with 23 steals, but only one other player has more than ten (the injured Tyler Graham with 12). There's speed elsewhere, but Sanders doesn't play everyday, and McBryde has been an offensive disappointment so far.
The good news is that the team got an infusion of power in late April with Bobby Felmy joining the team off of an injury. Felmy already leads the team in home runs with three despite playing only 19 games. He also brings a respectable amount of speed to the middle of the lineup, with six stolen bases already on the season. But one player isn't going to be enough. The other slugging leaders are minor league vet Dayton Buller, who splits time in a three-way jam at catcher, and the unlikeliest of unlikely, Marcus Sanders. Only two other active members of the team are over .400, and the rest of the squad isn't just below a .400 slugging, but are under .350.
This doesn't bode well for Augusta. The team will have to rely on its pitching to keep winning, and the pitching has shown signs of dropping off recently, with some of the team's top April performers in Adam Cowart and Ben Snyder already suffering some very poor games.
The GreenJackets haven't built much of a cushion in their hot April. They lead Asheville by a slim 2 1/2 game lead, with nearly two months to go before the first half ends, and one playoff spot is decided. They aren't likely to gain any power from players left back in extended spring training, either. They can only develop more from the players they have. There's room for improvement, but not much.
The GreenJackets may need all they can get.
Player of the Week: Bobby Felmy
Felmy has been a welcome addition to the team, and now has a ten game hitting streak in just his 19 games played. Four of those games have had more than one hit, and it's included two home runs. Felmy is quickly becoming the centerpiece of the Augusta offense.
By The Numbers: 7
Seven is the number of times the GreenJackets and second place Asheville Tourists play between June 2 and June 13. They will be the only meetings between the two Southern Division powerhouses before the first half ends on June 17. While Augusta can't afford to look ahead too much, they should try and put as much space between them and Asheville as possible. A big test for both teams will depend on who can handle the Northern Division leaders West Virginia; both Augusta and Asheville have Mid-May series against them.
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