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Spokane, We Hardly Know Ya

The title of this post is, of course, a bit of a non sequitur, as the Vancouver Canadians and Spokane Indians know each other all too well. Having battled throughout the first half only to come up all even, the C’s were able to clinch the second half flag at home over their North Division rivals on Sunday.  So, with the C’s sweeping Spokane to end the season, can we expect any different come playoff time?  Here’s my preview.

Before I get to the Canadians, I want to quickly touch on the Indians.  Talking to Spokane’s radio play by play man Mike Boyle the Indians disappointing second half couldn’t be attributed to any one factor but he did mention the promotions (loss) of middle order bats Zach Cone and Marcus Greene.  Both were having excellent season in Spokane before getting the call from Hickory, with Cone actually leading the NWL, at the time, with eight home runs.

The C’s, in comparison, didn’t lose any key members of their lineup all season.  They did lose two important members of their starting staff, but you can argue those spots were more than ably replaced by call-ups from Bluefield.

Both teams may see a few promotions prior to tonights game but with the C’s having already mined Bluefield’s best players and the Texas Rangers only having an Arizona League team below Spokane, I’d be very suprised.  So let’s just deal with what we know.  Below is my current guess for the C’s lineup come playoff time and how they’ve been faring for the past 10 games.  Kind of a hot or not game:

Name Avg OBP SLG ISO BB SO
C Mike Reeves 0.207 0.361 0.241 0.034 7 6
1B Ryan McBroom 0.211 0.262 0.447 0.236 3 9
2B Richard Urena* 0.242 0.297 0.364 0.122 3 5
3B Alexis Maldonado 0.303 0.303 0.333 0.03 0 10
SS Franklin Barreto 0.282 0.349 0.359 0.077 4 6
LF Jonathan Davis** 0 0.143 0 0 1 0
CF Roemon Fields 0.381 0.409 0.548 0.167 2 6
RF Chris Carlson 0.289 0.372 0.395 0.106 5 7
DH Tim Locastro 0.385 0.442 0.385 0.000 0 4
Bench Gunnar Heidt 0.125 0.200 0.25 0.125 3 11
Bench Boomer Collins 0.128 0.150 0.154 0.026 1 5

 

Of course, there are more bench players than Gunnar and Boomer, but those are the two best names, and I don’t have all day.

*Urena has only played 9 games for Vancouver since his promotion from Bluefield but, as a top tier prospect, no way does he not play in these playoffs

**Davis has only played three games since returning from broken hamate bone but based on first two games against Spokane this weekend, am guessing he gets the call come Tuesday.

Not exactly a group firing on all cylinders.

The top of the order have been getting it done for the Canadians of late with leadoff hitter Fields easily the most valuable offensive contributor over the last couple of weeks.  Five of his 16 hits have gone for extra bases while he’s been his usual menace on the basepaths, swiping eight in nine attempts.

With a .444 BABIP I might usually say luck has also been involved, but with Fields speed, the BABIP statistic isn’t as relevant as say when discussing Tim Locastro.  The C’s DH is the only other one with half way decent numbers.  Unfortunately he hasn’t been as valuable.  All his 15 hits have been singles with a .429 BABIP.  There’s a possibility that normalizes in the next week.  He also hasn’t taken a walk in the last 10 games (although he has augmented his OBP in his usual manner, but getting plunked four times).

As for the rest of the proposed lineup, nobody has been setting the world alight.  Richard Urena has been good over his past five games, so am not too worried about him.

I am worried about the middle of the order though.  Franklin Barreto has only had one extra base hit in his past 51 plate appearances while cleanup hitter Ryan McBroom has seen his OPS dip from .954 in 12 June games to .866 in July and finally .773 in August.  A tiring trend.

Manager John Schneider was quite aggressive at the games I saw versus Spokane Saturday and Sunday, calling two straight hit and runs at one point, and, of course, the steal of home Sunday which accounted for the game winning run.

Whenever I did the C’s hitting stats I always noted that despite the optics Vancouver were in the upper half of the league in slugging percentage so were hitting with some power.  That did change over the last month or so of the season though, as they finished sixth in the league with a .366 mark.  Over the past 10 games, the slugging numbers have been awful, down at .322 with only 18 of their 91 hits going for extra bases.

If that trend continues Schneider will need to continue looking for extra bases when he can.

Off the top of my head, the bullpen of late has been excellent.  If I find the time I’ll try and look at them in a bit more detail.  For now, let’s take a quick look at the four who should get the ball from the start:

Name G GS K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA FIP
Ryan Borucki 5 4 8.37 1.14 0.68 1.9 3.02
Chase Mallard 6 5 9.2 2.97 1.12 3.26 3.72
Jairo Labourt 5 5 10.73 2.93 1.08 0.65 2.52
Matt Smoral 5 3 8.55 6.75 1.45 2.7 4.47

 

I narrowed the parameters to appearances in August to see what these four have been doing for us lately.  Well, if the hitters struggles had people wondering how the C’s closed the season winning eight of nine, above is your answer.  The starters have been excellent.

They are missing bats, with Ryan Borucki’s 8.37 K/9 the lowest of the four.  Borucki offsets that with a stingy 1.14 BB/9 for an excellent 7.33 K/BB ratio.  Combined with the 13 hits allowed in his 23 and two thirds August innings, the left-hander is just not allowing any baserunners.

The rest of the staff aren’t slouching in the WHIP department either although Smoral’s numbers, especially over the last few games have been slightly worrisome.  I went into quite a bit of detail on Smoral after charting his last start so won’t repeat myself too much.  But if he’s going to be successful going forward, he’ll need to establish his fastball early and command it to both sides of the plate.  Something he didn’t do Sunday.  Once he can do that with consistency, his plus slider will be an absolute wipeout pitch.

The Indians have some very good hitters, with two of the top five qualified wOBA leaders in the NWL and another, Eduard Pinto, who led the league in average.

I still think Vancouver, top to bottom, has the better offence but the middle order bats need to get going again.  Pitching won’t be a problem for the C’s and they easily outdistance anything Spokane can counter with.

I’m not one for making predictions, but if I were a betting man?  Vancouver will be back at the Nat on Saturday taking on the Hillsboro Hops in their 4th straight Northwest League final.

(Update: I’ve just got word that Rowdy Tellez — the same one I questioned the decision to send to Lansing in the first place — is going to play for the C’s in the playoffs after all.  I haven’t had official confirmation that he’ll be in the lineup tonight but let’s assume he is.  I’d guess that moves Urena to third so Locastro can play second.  Freeing up the DH spot for either Tellez or McBroom — my money is on the latter.  This is exciting news to say the  least.  Tellez is a genuine power threat from the left side, something the C’s lack.  I’d heard that players moving down for a playoff series would need league approval but am guessing Tellez’ short tenure in Lansing made it easier to swallow.)

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