Because I haven't been able to give you anything of real substance as of late, I sat back, looked at the numbers, mulled it all over and threw it all up onto the page for you to digest...lord knows I'm still trying to do the same. Here is a look at each team and how things are shaping up as we head towards the most crucial stretch of the baseball season...
Rise of the Planet of the PawSox – Pawtucket is feeling that playoff itch as the PawSox have stormed into the second half of the season winning 5 of 8 since the All-Star break and taking 3 of 4 key games against first place Lehigh Valley to pull within two games of the division leader in the International League's North Division…Lars Anderson has four home runs in the month of July, doubling his season output…Catcher Ryan Lavarnway is the talk of the town as he has been tearing up Triple-A pitching since his call up from Portland a month ago. In 34 games Lavarnway is hitting .377 with 12 home runs and 33 RBI. He has hit 7 home runs over his last 9 games and has knocked 26 out of the park this year between Portland and Pawtucket…In his last seven appearances, reliever Michael Bowden has tossed 9 2/3 scoreless innings, scattering 4 hits, striking out 11 batters and picking up 5 saves…I always thought that the PawSox had a good enough roster to be in contention from the start. If they can continue this momentum and take advantage of the Buffalos and Rochesters of the world, then they should be able to continue to pressure Lehigh Valley. Pawtucket will also get one last shot at the IronPigs when they travel to Lehigh Valley next week for a four-game set.
Ready to Pounce or Catatonic? - The Rock Cats seem to be mired in the Bay of Mediocrity, stuck somewhere between Playoffville and a sub-.500 oblivion. By not taking advantage of the slipping Fisher Cats, New Britain has been surpassed by Reading and are now stuck in fourth place in the E.L.’s Eastern Division, one game back of the RPhils, two back of Trenton and 4 ½ behind New Hampshire…New Britain has lost the services of Liam Hendriks who got promoted to AAA Rochester on Monday where he started against the Durham Bulls and went 6 2/3 innings allowing 2 earned runs on 6 hits…Chris Parmelee is the only Rock Cat to play in all 96 games this season. His 59 RBI are tied for fifth most in the league and his 60 runs scored are tied for third most…Pitcher Tyler Robertson was 4-13 last season as a starter for New Britain. This season, in a relief role, Robertson is 6-3 with 10 saves in 37 appearances…The Rock Cats must jump on the ball now with three more games remaining in a four game set against Western Division cellar dwellers Altoona. Then they can really gain some ground when they host front-running New Hampshire for four games next week. However, the Hendriks loss could be a big one for New Britain.
Patching the Holes - The New Hampshire Fisher Cats have stumbled into the second half of the season and are losing their grip on first place in the Eastern Division of the Eastern League, a spot they’ve held on to since June 16th. The Cats are 7-12 in the month of June, and are 3-6 since the All-Star break. In their last 14 games played versus the two worst teams in the Eastern League (Binghamton and Portland), the Cats are an abysmal 5-9…Centerfielder Anthony Gose has 45 stolen bases, one off the single season team record of 46 set just last season by Darrin Mastroianni. On the flip side, Gose has struck out 96 times this year, most on the team and fourth most in the league…First baseman Mike McDade hit his 34th double of the season on Monday versus Reading, pulling him within one of the team’s single season record of 35 set by David Smith in 2007...Manager Sal Fasano has to get the boys back on a consistent winning track, especially when 31 of their remaining 45 games are against opponents who currently have records over .500. The pitching hasn't been as dominant as it was early on in the season, but with Stewart, Alvarez, Carreno, Jenkins and Beck in the mix, they should be able to bear down and win some key games on the strength of their arms.
Shot of Padron? – The Portland Sea Dogs are 19 games under .500 and have pretty much been out of it since the second month of the season. But they do have the league’s highest team slugging percentage (.431) and second best team batting average (.275). Expect manager Kevin Boles to keep his troops inspired and fighting until the finish in an effort to not finish last in the league…The Sea Dogs have the Eastern League’s highest team ERA at 4.82 and the fewest saves with 13…Chih-Hsien Chiang’s 1.036 OPS is downright ridiculous. His closest competition in the Eastern League is Harrisburg’s Bill Rhinehart with a distant .989...In 10 games since his return, third baseman Will Middlebrooks is batting .361 with 24 RBI…I think I’d like to see Jorge Padron back up with Portland. Now I know I’m not an elite judge of talent by any means, and Padron is probably not destined for great things in the upper levels of baseball nor is he the answer to the Sea Dogs woes in any way, shape or form, but the dude has a little life in his bat and I enjoy watching him out there. He is batting .296 in 20 games with Class-A Salem.
Tiger Blood Is Still Sort of In – The Connecticut Tigers have four players on their team with some blood ties to the organization. Second baseman Colin Kaline is the grandson of Hall of Famer and Tiger great Al Kaline, Detroit manager Jim Leyland’s son Patrick is a catcher, outfielder Bo McClendon is the son of Detroit hitting coach and former Major Leaguer Lloyd, and pitcher Nicholas Avila is the cousin of Detroit’s All-Star catcher Alex Avila…Jason King’s 5 home runs are tied for third most in the New York-Penn League…Reliever Daniel Bennett has allowed only 2 earned runs in 11 innings of work with 6 saves and 13 strikeouts…The Tigers have yet-to-be shutout in 32 games this year…I think the key for Connecticut will be their experienced arms and Brennan Smith might be their best option. The offense has been fairly pedestrian thanks to its youth, but with time they could come around, or they could sink this team.
Swiping the Opportunity - The Lowell Spinners lead the New York-Penn with 31 home runs, which is 8 more than second place Hudson Valley. They have scored double digit runs in five games thus far this season. The team’s 298 offensive strikeouts are second most in the league… Seth Schwindenhammer and Travis Shaw are tied for second in the league with 6 home runs apiece…Outfielder Keury De La Cruz is tied for the league lead with 14 stolen bases, Garin Cecchini is third in the league with 12 steals, Jose Garcia is tied for fifth with 10 and Matty Johnson is tied for sixth with 9…Schwindenhammer leads the league with 54 strikeouts, 16 more than anyone else…Will speed kill the Spinners or can they maintain this pace and use it to their advantage? I think they may be alright if all of their pitching starts coming around and with the likes of Madison Younginer and Jason Garcia leading the way, they are already heading in the right direction. The offense is pretty good shape at this point.
Fe-Fi-Ho-Hum - The Vermont Lake Monsters are the only team in the New York-Penn that has not registered a shutout this season. They have been shutout on two occasions. The Lake Monsters 56 total stolen bases are tied with Lowell for most in the NYPL. Their 47 doubles are the lowest total in the league…Reliever T.J. Walz has only allowed 1 earned run in 16 2/3 innings. He has a 10-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio…Outfielder Chad Oberacker is batting .322 in July and is 6 for 7 in stolen base attempts… The Lake Monsters are seemingly a very undescript team. They don’t do anything great and they don’t do anything terrible, like most of the teams in the Stedler Division. Their bullpen has been their strong point thus far, but can they maintain in first place on their relievers alone? They will need a few players to step up and be leaders on the offensive side of the ball.