Laredo Lemurs Evolve into Real Playoff Contenders: Lemurs Line
What does having the third best batting average and the third best ERA in the American Association earn the Laredo Lemurs these days? Well, naturally it earns the third best record overall. The problem is the team with the best ERA and the best batting average also have the best record, and that team happens to be in the same division as the Lemurs – the Wichita Wingnuts.
So what does all that add up to? A whole lot of disrespect and disregard. In fact, it probably wouldn’t be too much to say that the Lemurs are an afterthought in many analysts’ opinions. They don’t have the splashy 73-win season. In fact, they lost 7 of their last 8 games to the Wingnuts, and most think that the Lemurs may be good, just not good enough.
If anyone thinks that Laredo is going to be concerned about others opinions of them they are kidding themselves. This is the team that has been seen as the step-child of the division, despite the fact that they would have won the Central Division had they been there. They led the league in home runs, by a significant margin, and they were second in runs scored. They don’t just have a good team, they have a powerful one too.
The Lemurs have one of the most potent lineups in the league, and it begins at the top of the order with All-Star center fielder Nick Van Stratten. Van Stratten hit .349 on the year and added 81 runs and 49 RBI. He also stole 19 bases and got on base nearly 40 percent of the time to give his teammates a chance to drive him home. That is what they did too.
Denis Phipps, Travis Denker and John Alonso followed Van Stratten in the lineup. The three combined for 188 runs scored and 198 runs driven in. Denker was the biggest bat of the three, scoring 78 runs, driving home 85 and hitting 25 home runs, second most in the league. He also had a .408 OBP, ranked 13th in the league. The first four hitters proved to be as good as any in the league, adding 63 total homers between them.
The hitting does not end at the No. 4 spot however. Shortstop Devin Goodwin hit .288 and had 17 home runs and 68 RBI. He also scored 77 runs, the third player on the team with at least 77 runs scored. JP Ramirez hit .304, slugged 11 home runs and knocked in 60. In their first six hitters in their lineup, every one of them had at least 57 runs scored, 47 RBI and the lowest average was .288. That is not just good, that is a nightmare for opposing pitchers.
The team’s success went far beyond the batting order however. Their starting staff is five deep, and may be the best group in the league. Cesar Carrillo is the staff ace. Don’t be fooled by him having just 8 wins. He led the American Association with a 2.80 ERA and the team won 10 of his 18 starts. In none of his first three starts did he last more than five innings, but in the last 15 he had 11 quality starts and he won 4 of his last 5 decisions.
Right behind Carrillo is Jeremy Strawn. He started the season in the bullpen, making four relief appearances, but since then he has started 10 games and the Lemurs have won all 10. He is 9-0 himself with an outstanding 2.45 ERA, and he has actually beaten Wichita this season, although he got roughed up in the win.
Closing out their rotation are Tyler Pearson, Casey Harman and Josh Strawn who have combined to make 47 starts, all have ERAs below the league average (4.61) and they have won 19 games total. These guys eat up innings and keep the Lemurs in games.
Their starting five is a solid group that can hold teams down, and give their hitters a chance to takeover. That is what they have done, and they are a crucial reason why this team has 58 wins.
If there is an Achilles heel to this team it is their bullpen, and more specifically the back end of their relief corps. Scott Weismann is one of the top five setup men in the league, and may be called upon to close games. He has a 1.80 ERA in 18 appearances and has yielded just 16 total base runners in 20 innings pitched. Michael Suk was a key member of this pen, but has been called upon to start recently and he may remain in the rotation during the playoffs. That hurts the depth of their bullpen greatly as he had a 2.60 ERA in relief. Caleb Graham can fill a variety of roles in relief, including closing out games. He has two saves, and a respectable 3.51 ERA. He has also shown he can throw the heat, striking out 53 batters in 41 innings.
After that is where it has gotten dicey for the team. Closer Chad Povich has saved 15 games, but he has also lost five and has an ERA of 4.32. He has not actually given up a lot of base runners and has given up just one home run in 41.2 innings of work. His problem is that when he struggles he can’t stop the tide against him, and this has happened a lot lately where he has been scored upon in 7 of his last 13 appearances.
The Laredo Lemurs are a very good baseball team that has every chance to go all the way. They have the hitting and power to score a large amount of runs, and they have a solid rotation that can give them leads. It has been the bullpen that has needed to come through, and they can be counted on. They have shown they can have some success, and if Povich can put it back together they will be very tough to beat.
The Lemurs are a team that has had to continually evolve as the season has gone on. They lost their two big hitting catchers, but still produced a large amount of runs. They had to make some major adjustments to their rotation, but still continue to win. They have seen their bullpen struggle, but still win. These Laredo Lemurs win games, now they just have to prove they can do so against their arch-nemesis. These Lemurs have not had much success against Wichita. Time to evolve?
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA