Fort Wayne Wizards 2006 Pitcher of the Year

Glue, in the world of baseball, is associated with the player or players that keep a team together through the tough times. A look at the Fort Wayne Wizards showed several masters of adhesion.

The bullpen was mighty and had several contributors that stuck out. But it was in the starting rotation that the seams were being held together – Steve Delabar, the only starter to begin and end the year in that role for the Wizards.

"Oh yea, thank you very much," Delabar said when he was informed of his Pitcher of the Year honor. "I think it was a pretty good year. I kind of got tired towards the end. I started leaving the ball up and that is when I started giving up more home runs."

Conniff Confidential:

Steve Delabar was the horse for the Wizards this year, leading the team in innings pitched [145], strikeouts [118] to go along with an 8-9 record and a 3.14 ERA.

Delabar out of Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, Tennessee is the type of big [6-foot-4, 220-pounds] hard-throwing pitcher that the Padres are trying to develop. Delabar can bring it around 88-92 mph, but the big thing with him is developing his fastball and staying away from going deep into the count.

Josh Geer had a good year in Fort Wayne, going 6-2 with a 3.10 ERA before being promoted to Lake Elsinore in July. The ex-Rice star doesn't have the greatest peripheral statistics or stuff, but seems to always figure out a way to win in the end. Being right-handed and not having the biggest score on the speed gun, Geer is going to have to constantly prove to everyone that he can pitch at each level that he is promoted to. So far he has.

Wade LeBlanc, along with David Freese, provided a big infusion of talent at the end of the year from the 2006 draft. The left-hander from Alabama, in many ways similar to his former college teammate and Padres' farmhand Brent Carter, went 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA in seven starts. He didn't post great K/BB ratios [27/10] or dominate in the hits to innings pitched [31/32.2] but he did excel in the most important stat, he won. He has about the same profile as Carter, good changeup, average fastball and a breaking pitch that needs some work. He's going to really have to develop that third pitch to have success in the Cal League next year.

Closer John Madden did his best in the limited opportunities provided to him this year, saving 20 games out of 24 opportunities. Madden only allowed 39 hits in 51 innings, while posting a very good K/BB ratio of 48/19. Madden is the new prototype of the type of relief pitcher that the Padres are developing, someone who throws low and hard – this after seemingly trying to recreate Trevor Hoffman clones with great change-ups.

The Savage File:

In a word – consistent. Steve Delabar was consistent from his first start to his next to last. In the first five months of the season his ERA never went above 3.74 and went as low as 2.48. The right-hander continually challenged hitters to beat him, mixing in his fastball and slider and keeping it down in the zone.

Now, if he could throw strikes more consistently it would have been a landslide victory. His walk totals were definitely high – averaging 4.00 per nine innings – but he didn't let it affect him. The opposition was limited to a .222 average with runners in scoring position.

In 27 starts, Delabar was tagged for four earned runs or more in five games. That equates to 22 starts where his team had a chance to win. In 16 of his first 20 starts he yielded two earned runs or less. Without him and the losses of several starters along the way, the rotation may have never survived.

With some of the starting rotation in disarray, the bullpen had to be formidable – and it was. They rivaled any pen in the system with their effectiveness. When they got the ball and the lead, seldom did they turn it away.

Alfredo Fernandez led the team in holds and remained consistent throughout the year. Brandon Higelin prevented so many runs from scoring you would think he was an NHL goalie. John Madden never turned down a save opportunity. Nathan Staggs bailed out the starters when they needed some rest.

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