Week 15 Splitsville – Deja Vu All Over Again for Hillsboro Hops
Week 15 with the Eugene Emeralds can run both ways. An exciting chance to gain ground on a long time competitor or the loss of opportunity when you see them dash your chances. For these two teams, it always seems to be in the middle ground. This is the fourth series this year that the two teams have split. The Hops cannot gain on the Emeralds nor can the Emeralds distance themselves from the Hops.
That held true this time around as well. For the fourth weekly series this season, the two teams split the series 3-3. Playing .500 ball means the Hops started in fourth place and ended up in fourth place at the end.
Week 15 at Bat
In general, the bats let the Hops down a bit. Batting average fell from .257 to .216, a drop of .041 percentage points. That is the biggest change from week to week this season.
Some players managed to get hot at the plate. Jorge Barrosa led the way going 8 for 19 and .421 at the plate. Cam Coursey hit 6 for 17 and .352 to up his average. And newcomer AJ Vukovich connected on 6 of 19 for a .315 average. From there, it drops down to .250 for two different players.
Where last week there was a large drop in runs (34 to 23 back to 35) and RBIs (30 to 19 and back to 30), this week seemed to recover. But, the hitting fell from 53 to 43. So, where did the runs come from? Two answers this week. The number of walks increased as well and the hits they did hit went for more bases. In fact, total bases increased from 79 to 85 and that is with a loss of ten hits from last week.
Week 15 Home Run Derbies
The power at the plate shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who watched or listened to a game this week. Especially for games 3 and 4 where both teams combined for eleven home runs. Impressively, Eduardo Diaz had only four hits until Sunday’s single. But, those first four hits were all home runs. And they happened on four consecutive days, falling one short of the franchise record of five set by Trevor Mitsui.
The increase in power also shows in doubles and home runs for the team. Doubles almost doubled going from six to ten this week. Home runs went from four to ten. Those two categories alone account for an increase of 32 extra total bases.
Triples decreased from two to one this week. But, after two weeks prior to that of not having any triples, one still feels good.
Week 15 on the Mound
Week 15 Starters
Since the series split this week, wins and losses are pretty equal. This week’s winners are Mailon Arroyo, Marcos Tineo and Brandon Pfaadt. Brandon continues his hot streak and now leads the team in wins this season with five. Mailon also appeared on the lost list along with Wesley Rodriguez and Justin Vernia.
Runs against the Hops went from 18 to a surprising 34. While the Hops increased their run total by twelve runs, the opponent increased theirs by 16. So, it should not be a surprise that the ERA more than doubled for Hops’ pitchers. Last week, it was 3.11 but this week, 6.50 is the new ERA. That includes a shutout win under Pfaadt’s start.
Week 15 Relievers
This week, only three relievers went without giving up a run: Denson Hull, Nick Snyder and Gerald Ogando. For the starters, Brandon Pfaadt led the way with a 0.00 ERA since he pitched that shutout. Kyler Stout came in second with 2.22 but his start was part of a bullpen day and he only went two innings.
Shumpei Yoshikawa led the Hops in total strikeouts with seven. Denson Hull led relievers with a 2.50 K/IP. Gerald Ogando was right behind with a 2.00. Starters were led by Shumpei with a 1.40.
Overall, we saw a big gain in power at the plate though a big drop in batting average. From the mound, we saw an increase in ERA that canceled out any gain in power, especially in the later innings where the Hops were strong.
Now, for our weekly look at each game.
Any walk-off is about as exciting as a baseball game can get. This one was no different. There were home runs (Ems’ Franklin Labour 2-run and Hops’ Eduardo Diaz solo). There were dazzling plays, especially Ems’ second baseman Tyler Fitzgerald who was combining several moves slowly in one motion all game. In fact, he made moves I don’t think most major league second baseman can make.
But, it all boiled down to two short plays to end the game. First, Mailon Arroyo came in and struck out the only batter he faced. That set him up as the winner if the Hops could score in the bottom of the ninth. Score, they did. Tristin English socks a sac fly to center with Jorge “do-everything” Barrosa on third. Jorge had no problem beating the throw for the walk-off.
Hops lead series 1-0.
What’s big, green and goes around smashing things? Besides the Hulk? This time, the Hops and the Ems wore green and smashed a lot of things. Like balls flying over the fence. Balls bouncing over the fence. Balls bouncing off the fence. In the end, the Hulkin’ Hops out smashed the Incredible Ems for the win. Hops lead series 2-0.
First thing people will remember is Tyler Fitzgerald’s grand slam in the tenth to win. They won’t remember Sean Roby scoring the go ahead run four batters previously.
It was also a game of what ifs? What if the Ems had not committed two errors to allow the Hops to tie the game and send it into extra innings. Or, what if the Hops’ Andy Yerzy realized Logan Wyatt had already tagged first on a caught fly and needed to be tagged instead of being a force out, That allowed the Ems’ inning to continue and score three more runs to tie the game.
Overshadowed was the second home run derby in two days. Six more home runs tonight making it eleven taters in two days.
Brandon Pfaadt had another great start and is the closest starting pitcher the Hops have for a sure thing. He went another seven innings holding the Ems to two hits on the night. Denson Hull closed the ninth and allowed a third hit. Gerald Ogando held the Ems hitless. Along the way, Pfaadt also took the team lead in wins (5) and now stands alone on top.
After eleven home runs the two nights before, two home runs tonight seem like a paucity. Good thing both were by the Hops. Blaze Alexander hit his second home run of the week. Eduardo Diaz hit a home run the last four nights in a row. In fact, Diaz only has four hits so far this week and they are all home runs.
Most of the runs came in the last two innings. In fact, the score was 3-2, Eugene, until the seventh when the Ems scored one more run. But, when the Hops got something going to make a game of it, the visitors hopped and skipped to a bigger lead. The final blow came when the Hops scored four runs to draw within two runs in the eighth. Then, the Ems shot ahead again with three more runs in the top of the ninth to make it 11-6 and the final score. Hops lead series 3-2.
The game started out with a string of zeroes across the board with one exception: Jorge Barrosa led off the first inning and sent the fourth pitch over the right field fence. That solo shot ruled the game while the starters ruled the mound. When the starters went home for the night, the relief couldn’t make it stand. Three runs here and two runs there and a home run by the Ems Sean Roby took complete control from the mound and put it back on the plate. Series ends tied: 3-3.
Week 15: the Season so Far
It is always fun to see the records being chased. While the records can also show us weaknesses and strengths, it is the record we are looking for. This year, there will be a lot of new season records for the Hops for one simple reason. This year, the Hops are playing 119 games where all of those past records are from 76 game seasons. Because of that, I will wait until the end of the season to do a comparison between the past and the present.
But, so far, this is how it is shaping up.
From the Plate
Batting average sees a new leader. Nick Dalesandro had led the team for the past few weeks but he has dropped down to .250 and two other players have passed him by. Cam Coursey used his 6 for 17 week to jump to the top of active players and now sits at a .257 average. Jorge Barrosa snuck in right behind with a .252 average.
Eduardo Diaz took a strong command of the lead in RBIs and home runs. Blaze Alexander had been on top of RBIs for a while but Diaz’ hitting streak passed him this week. Eduardo now has the lead with 36 while Blaze remain close by with 34.
It may be a while before someone catches up to Eduardo in the home run department. Especially if he keeps hitting like this. This week alone, Diaz hit four home runs in a row and now has a total of 14 for the season. Second place? Spencer Brickhouse and Andy Yerzy with nine each. The old season record was ten set by Trevor Mitsui back in 2015. At this rate, Eduardo could challenge for the league lead. He is only three behind leader Michael Toglia and Toglia is now up in AA. Next step down is Tyler Fitzgerald whom we have been seeing all week with the Emeralds. He is only two home runs ahead of Eduardo. With five weeks and 30 games left in the season, plenty can still happen.
Blaze Alexander: Leader with the Most
As to the other categories, we have Blaze Alexander who leads more categories than anyone else. This week, his leading totals are: games (71), At Bats (260), runs (42), walks (33), strikeouts (87) and LOB (112). This week, Blaze (11) lost the lead in doubles to Jorge Barrosa (13) But, he also regained the lead in hits (52) from Axel Andueza (49). Tristin English (51) took over second and both he and Blaze remained in a tight race.
Eduardo Diaz has a third category he is leading in: totals bases (98). With four home runs and a single, he easily increased his lead over Blaze (87).
Finally, Andy Yerzy continues to lead in OPS with a .750 average. But, two others are close on his heels: Jorge Barrosa (.747) and Eduardo Diaz (.741).
On to the Mound
Brandon Pfaadt continues to impress and now leads the team in wins (5). Several are close behind with four. Brandon also leads in ERA with 2.48 that is steadily shrinking with the shutouts. Finally, he leads in the third category that makes up the triple crown for pitchers: strikeouts (67). Enjoy this lad while he is still here. Numbers like this can easily get the attention of those above him– if not already.
(Note: the day after I wrote this section, Brandon Pfaadt was promoted to the AA Amarillo Sod Poodles. You can read more about that under Transactions below)
Nick Snyder (holds) and Yaramil Hiraldo (saves) both increased their totals to seven this week.
Week 15 Transactions:
Nine transactions filled up week 15. That means we said four hellos to new team members, goodbye to four others and saw one go to the injured list.
8/14 3B Alexander Hernandez released
Alexander spent most of his time in a Hops uniform at the beginning of the season. His stats were respectable considering he had 18 career home runs and a career batting average of .249 but Alexander has been bouncing around the Dbacks organization since they signed him back in 2016. At 22 years of age, he is still young enough to maybe get a chance with another organization.
8/14 RHP Austin Pope promoted to Hillsboro Hops from Visalia Rawhide
Drafted in 2019 (15th round, 452 overall) out of Fairfield University in Connecticut. Austin started out the season with the Visalia Rawhide where he struggled with ERA (8.71) allowing 77 runs over 72 innings. His strength is strikeouts. He struck out 84 batters over those same 72 innings. Started more games than not. Austin debuted in the sixth game against Eugene this week.
8/15 LF Danny Oriente placed on the 7-day injured list
No reason has been given at this time.
8/16 SS Roman Ruiz released by the Hillsboro Hops
Ruiz was signed as a free agent in 2017 and spent the next two years in the rookie leagues. After the pandemic shut the minor leagues down for 2020, Roman found himself starting the season out with the Visalia Rawhide. While there, he batted .163 with seven RBI and one home run in 14 games. In June, he got the promotion to the Hillsboro Hops.
With the Hops, Roman improved to a .227 average with 6 RBI and no home runs in 25 games. While he was able to improve his averages, his cumulative stats took a hit at the higher level.
Roman was only 16 years old when he signed his first contract with the Diamondbacks. He is a native of Venezuela.
8/16 RHP Collin Sullivan promoted to the Hillsboro Hops from the Visalia Rawhide
Originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 2021 draft (29th round, 864th overall). Signed as a free agent by the Arizona Diamondbacks in July of this year and assigned to the Visalia Rawhide on 8/5/2021. Eleven days later, Sullivan is promoted to the Hillsboro Hops.
At Visalia, he pitched over nine innings without allowing a run. He also struck out eight batters. He appeared in two games, starting one and has a 1-0 record.
8/16 1B Elian Miranda promoted to the Hillsboro Hops from the Visalia Rawhide
Native of Nicaragua, Elian was named league MVP of the 2019 Professional Nicaraguan League with a .357 average and seven home runs over one month. Signed with the Diamondbacks as a free agent in January, 2020. Started 2021 with Visalia.
Playing in 56 games with Visalia, Elian showed more home run power. Hitting nine more home runs to go with 16 doubles and a triple, he also averaged .251 at the plate with 20 walks and 41 RBI. Elian can also play 3B and DH when needed.
8/16 2B Ronny Simon promoted to the Hillsboro Hops from the Visalia Rawhide
From the Dominican Republic, Ronny was originally signed by the Chicago Cubs in 2018. He spent all of 2018 in the Dominican Summer League (DSL). In November of 2020, Ronny was traded to the Arizona DIamondbacks in the Andrew Chafin trade.
Starting the 2021 season with the Visalia Rawhide, Ronny gathered 75 hits in 77 games. Almost half of those hits were for extra bases consisting of 15 home runs, 17 doubles and three triples. He not only has power at the plate but speed on the bases as well, stealing 13 bases (caught three times).
8/16 RHP Brandon Pfaadt promoted to the Amarillo Sod Poodles from the Hillsboro Hops
In his last game, Brandon led a team shutout. In his nine games as a Hop (all starts), the 5th round 2020 pick had become a dependable win in the last 2-3 months. His 2.48 was among the team’s leaders. His 67 strikeouts in 58 IP is among the league leaders.
Started the season with Visalia. There he started seven games with a 3.12 ERA. He also amassed 57 strikeouts in 40 IP. His promotion coincides with the promotion of former Hops Julio Frias to the AAA Reno Aces.
8/16 CF Eduardo Diaz promoted to the Amarillo Sod Poodles from the Hillsboro Hops
This is Eduardo’s seventh year with the Diamondbacks organization. His travels within the farm system has taken all over the place except for two spots: The Short Season A version of the Hillsboro Hops and the Jackson Generals when they were the AA team for the Dbacks. Rectifying the first one when he came to the new and improved High A Hillsboro Hops in late May of this year, he is now rectifying the second one by being promoted to the AA Amarillo Sod Poodles, this week.
He came to the Hops from the Rawhide and set a new Hops season record for home runs (14) breaking the old one (10). Last week, he hit home runs in four consecutive games. Throw in his seven doubles and 100 total bases, he will be a big void in the lineup to fill.
Eduardo’s promotion coincides with CF Alek Thomas’ promotion to the AAA Reno Aces.
Week 16… What’s next?
The season is starting to near the end. The Hops have already played 89 games and have 30 left to play. Right now, they sit in fourth place, just a few games behind Spokane who is in third. Spokane is the Hops’ opponent for week 16. If the Hops can win five or six games, the Hops will pass Spokane and take third for themselves. There will still be chances afterward but it is always easier if you take advantage of face to face matchups. Every win the Hops can grab will mean a loss for Spokane. But, the opposite is true as well.
It is time to get into your playoffs frame of mind. But, don’t go for Everett or Eugene yet. Take it a step at a time. First catch Spokane.