Erie MLN: Kibler and Scram show promise

This was not the best week we've had in SeaWolves City, but it could have been worse. After starting things off by sweeping Reading, they dropped four of five against Bowie, but there is still plenty to be excited about in Erie.

First and foremost, Bowie has appeared on the schedule for the last time until June thanks to the ridiculous uneven scheduling that the Eastern League employs. The Baysox have absolutely owned the SeaWolves in the early going, winning 10 of 15 games in the season series.

It should also be noted here that Bowie is 7-13 against all other opponents.

There are advantages to the way the schedules are generated in the Eastern League in terms of traveling and costs, but competitively things become quite unbalanced because of it. How can the playoffs or the division crown mean anything when teams aren't playing each other the same number of times? It also makes it very hard on pitchers who are forced to face the same teams over and over.

Saturday's start marked the fourth time that Jon Kibler faced the Bowie lineup in 30 days. By that point any mystery surrounding him was completely gone. They had already seen everything he had.

"Oh, thank god this is the last time [we have to face Bowie]. It makes it hard having to face the same lineup over and over. It's part of the game, you have to pitch through it, but I'll be happy to get someone else in here," Kibler said. This works both ways, though. Typically the batters' get the upper-hand after being exposed to the same pitcher multiple times, but it worked in reverse for Kibler, as he actually fared better as time went on. Take a look at the numbers:

April 15: 5 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 6 ER, 2 walks, 3 SO

April 21: 2 innings, 4 hits, 2 ER, 1 walk, 0 SO

April 28: 6 innings, 7 hits, 4 ER, 3 walks, 1 SO

May 16: 7 innings, 5 hits, 2 ER, 2 walks, 2 SO

This makes three solid starts in a row for Kibler after getting lit up in his first four, which raises the question: is Kibler back to his 2008 form which garnered him the organization's minor league pitcher of the year award?

The easy answer, on the surface, would be yes. In his last three starts he went a combined 20 2/3 innings, allowed 15 hits, three earned runs, struck out ten and walked seven. Those aren't awe-inspiring numbers, but they are solid.

The real answer: not yet. Kibler's drop in strikeouts is to be expected to some extent since he advanced a level, but the discrepancy here is quite alarming. In 2008 he averaged 7.35 K/9, this year he's at 2.58. This tells you that his command isn't quite there yet. This suspicion is confirmed when you look at his walk totals. In 2008 he was at 1.87 walks per nine innings, this year that figure stands at a robust 4.46. Tallied all together he has a 0.58 K/BB ratio.

Some other alarming figures: He's allowing a home run almost every nine innings (0.94), hitters currently have a .265 average against him - the highest figure of his professional career, and his WHIP is a ghastly 1.51- last season it was at 0.87 and in 2007 it was at 0.97.

It is promising that he has more strike outs than walks in this most recent stretch, but the margin between the two is still rather close.

Scram is Turning Himself into a Player

Earlier this season when Glenn Ezell was in Erie he spoke about Deik Scram and mentioned that he was ‘turning himself into a player.' At the time, I kind of disregarded this comment. Casper Wells had just fallen victim to the disabled list and, from what I had seen, I was completely unimpressed with Scram.

Don't get me wrong. He looked like a solid player, but nothing about him screamed out major league prospect to me. He was coming off a season in which he hit .253/.335/.400 and struck out 26.3% of the time he came to the plate.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Scram is making himself into a player and has pretty much glazed over the loss of Wells for the SeaWolves. Over the last 28 days he's hit .324/.434/.706 with six homers.

"That's usually what happens with a player when they get to repeat a level," Brookens explained of Scrams' emergence. "He's been huge for us and is a big reason that we haven't been hurt by these injuries."

This last week Scram made a strong case to be named the EL Player of the Week by hitting .357/.471/1.071 with three homers and eight RBI, but lost out to Akron's Nick Weglarz who hit .458 with three doubles, one home run, eight RBI, and a .708 slugging percentage.

This turn around can probably attributed, in large part, to Scram's new found patience at the plate. He has struck out in 25% of his plate appearances, which is still a little high, but he's now walking in 16.1% of plate appearances, up from 10.6% a year ago. As a result, his OBP has risen from .335 to .408, and his OPS has jumped more than 200 points from .735 to .995.

Dirks proving that he belongs

Andy Dirks made his debut with the SeaWolves last week after Jeff Frazier was called up to Toledo. At first it looked like the transition from Lakeland to Erie was proving to be a little more drastic than anticipated after he went hitless in his first two games. After settling in, though, he is quickly proving that he was worthy of the promotion.

After the slow start Dirks hit .344 in his next eight games raising his average for the season to .278.

The New Bird? Everyone loved the late Mark Fidryrch for his crazy antics on the mound. Well, the Tigers' organization might have the second coming of him developing in their farm system with Zach Simons.

Simons doesn't get on his hands and knees and manicure the mound before his starts or talk to the baseball. He's just probably the most superstitious person in the organization.

After getting pounded in back-to-back outings against Harrisburg and Bowie for three runs in 2 2/3 innings, he decided it was time for a change. While sitting at his locker, still in uniform long after his teammates had departed, he decided that it was his number that was bringing him bad luck.

"I'm weird. Everyone would say that. I'm a crazy guy -a different personality. It kind of makes me stand out a little bit," Simons said.

So Simons did what anyone else in his position would do and requested that his uniform be changed from 21 to 62.

Simons rode the number 21 all through high school and college, but he decided that it just wasn't cutting it at the professional level.

In his three appearances after retiring the 21 jersey he shut down Reading for two innings, thre a scoreless inning against Bowie, and the held Harrisburg at bay for three.

"I'm a superstitious person. Everyone probably says that because I'm doing bad I want to switch everything around. They're probably right," Simons said. "This pro ball it's just not doing to good. We're going to retire the 21 and stick with 62."

Maybe he's on to something.

Notes:

-Don't look now, but Cody Satterwhite is struggling pretty badly. In his last 10 2/3 innings he's given up six runs and picked up two losses. He's striking out guys like crazy, and walking very few, so there's still signs of promise, he just needs to stop allowing so many hits.

-Erie's pitching staff has a 3.74 ERA, good enough for sixth overall.

-The SeaWolves lead the league with 42 homers. Harrisburg ranks second with 30.

-Scott Sizemore is tied for the league lead with 43 hits and is fourth in runs scored with 24. His 18 extra-base hits rank third.

-Strieby still leads the league with 10 homers. He went 3-for-14 on their recent road trip to Bowie and recorded only a single RBI. He also leads the league in RBI (30) and runs scored (31).

- Ryan Strieby reached the 10 home run mark in 31 games. It took former SeaWolf power hitter Jeff Larish 51 games to reach the 10 HR mark in 2007 on the way to 28 long balls which ranks third all-time.

-Michael Hollimon's rehab continues. He is progressing well and is expected to make it back in about 10 days.

What's Next:

Erie will start out the week with a series against Harrisburg. They are 5-2 against the Senators this season. Then, after an off day on Thursday, they will head to Akron to close out the week.


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