Week 18: Same Story
Week 18: Despite how it seems, I am not cutting and pasting the column from their last time these two teams met. Or the time before that. Or before that…
Week 18: Evenly Matched
The Hillsboro Hops split their week with the Eugene Emeralds. That makes five of the six weekly meetings this season divided up with the wisdom of Solomon: split equally down the middle.
The disappointing part for the Hops is that they were up 3-1 in the series. Two games remained in which the Hops could have their first series win against the Ems this season. The silver lining? It is a testament to these two teams for their competitive spirit that refuses to let the other win.
For now, let’s look at the games: (click on Game# for box scores or “Hops” for daily game recap)
Week 18 Game#1 Hops lose 5-6
This was the Hops game to lose and lose they did. Leading most of the way 5-3, Eugene used the top of the ninth to claw back and take the lead. And in doing so, seemed unstoppable. The Hops lose another close one. Eugene leads the series 1-0
Week 18 Game#2 Hops win 7-2
The feel good story in this one is seeing Collin Sullivan break through and control the game for a solid five innings. Handing the 5-1 lead over to the bullpen is also another feel good story. Instead of using the four point lead to weather the storm of a comeback, the lead actually increased to 7-2. Meanwhile, Ronny Simon hit doubles in back to back innings and AJ Vukovich hit his second Hops home run. The offense is becoming unstoppable in their own way. The Hops tie the series 1-1.
Week 18 Game#3 Hops win 6-5
Not your average game. Jorge Barrosa bouncing off the wall and breaking said wall. Both wall and Barrosa stayed in the game. Kyle Backhus made his Hops debut and did fine until the fifth. Mailon Arroyo earned his 4th save. Jairo “Thorn in the side of the Hops” Pomares hits another home run. Axel Andueza puts on a fielding clinic at first base. Oh, and it all came with a ball game.
Eugene’s reputation of comeback wins in the ninth was tarnished when they failed to make up the one run deficit. Hops lead series 2-1
Week 18 Game#4 Hops win 7-4
This game was filled with errors, passed balls, wild pitches and miscues from beginning to end. How much did it affect the Game? Not much. Everything was equal in the end. Both teams suffered surrendering two unearned runs.
AJ Vukovich went 3 for 4 though his night lacked power. Jorge Barrosa was the only Hops to have an extra base hit and it was a double. Pitcher Josh McMinn, after a rough start in the season, persevered himself into a winning record (2-1). Hops lead series 3-1
Week 18 Game#5 Hops lose 1-2
Game#5 became game#6a when the lights went out. The power shortage turned the Hops’ last home game into a last minute double header. But, that wasn’t the biggest problem. That lay in the wood carried up to the plate. That wood rarely connected with the baseball. The Hops scored one run. The Ems didn’t do much better but they did do better. Hops lead the series 3-2.
Week 18 Game#6 Hops lose 1-6
In the last home game of the 2021 season, things became worse. The Hops still scored only one run but the Ems found the solution to the problem of hitting the ball and scored six runs. A week that started out with plenty of wood, ended with a severe shortage of the same. Eugene ties the series 3-3.
Week 18: A look back at the week:
At the Plate
In general, the offense retreated back to normal from the high of the week before. After batting .317 last week, the Hops fell to Earth and batted .265 for the week. That is still higher than their season average of .240, good for fifth in the league. Axel Andueza (8 for 16) and Leodany Perez (6 for 12) both batted .500 for the week to lead the team. Nick Dalesandro is heating back up after leading the team in average earlier this season. He went 6 for 15, good for .400. And, the new guy, AJ Vukovich, not only went 9 for 23 (.391), he also leads the team in active season batting average (.305).
The drop in runs and RBIs, both 45 to 27, looks like the Hops were cut in half but 27 is actually closer to what the team is for the season. It just looks like a precipitous drop in comparison. Hits took a small “hit” going from 66 to 51. The larger drop was in power across the board: doubles (-2), triples (no change), home runs (-3) and total bases (-34). Singles actually went up (39 to 61).
On the Mound
With the split, we have three winners this week: Blake Walston, Gerald Ogando and Josh McMinn. For Blake and Josh, it was their second win. Gerald earned his first win as a Hop. All three wins also earned a save, evenly spread among three of the top closers on the team: Liu Fuenmayor, Mailon Arroyo and Yaramil Hiraldo. The three wins also produced four holds, again spread evenly among: Austin Pope, Denson Hull, Nick Snyder and Kai-Wei Lin.
The Hops had a pleasant increase in the number of pitchers (9) who did not allow a run this week: Pope, Fuenmayor, Kyler Stout, Ogando, Arroyo, Shumpei Yoshikawa, McMinn, Hiraldo and Justin Vernia. Leaders in ERA this week are the previous ten (0.00 ERA) and Wesley Rodriguez (3.00 ERA). Strikeouts were down slightly (-5) with seven K’s by Collin Sullivan leading the total for the week and Rodriguez (for relievers) leading K/IP with a perfect 3.00 rating. Nick Snyder (2.50) came in second. Josh McMinn (2.30) took third.
Week 18: Season so Far:
Blaze Leads Six
Blaze Alexander continues to lead the Hops in six categories: games (88), AB (324), runs (57), hits (72), walks(42) and total bases (122). With twelve games left in the season, Blaze has a chance to end with an even 100 games played. He has already set the new record for the season and reaching triple digits would be nice. He is the only one to have a chance. Leodany Perez is the next active player at 13 games behind. Not enough games to catch Blaze. The only chance is if Tristin English can get back in the lineup no later than Thursday and Blaze doesn’t play anymore games.
The next active player in plate appearances is Axel Andueza sitting 62 appearances behind Blaze. The most I have seen a player have in one week this season is 26. If Axel could average that over the last two weeks, that would put him at 314 or ten appearances short. Again, if Blaze did not play any more games. Tristin is only 41 PAs away but he would still need to get back on the roster.
Is Two Weeks Enough?
In runs, Jorge Barrosa (40) is 17 runs behind Blaze. The most I have seen by a Hops player in a two week period is around twelve which would result in five runs short. Axel Andueza (69) is only three hits short which is makeable. He has a chance even with both active. Nick Dalesandro (30) is twelve walks short of catching up. That is about the most I have seen a player have over a two week period which makes it unlikely he will overtake Blaze.
Finally, Jorge Barrosa sits at 93 total bases or 29 behind Blaze. Most I have seen in one week is 19 total bases but that amount is rare. Ten to twelve is to be more expected which would leave him far short.
Six Titles or Seven?
So it looks like, with the exception of hits, that Blaze has five titles sewed up with Barrosa the only one with a reasonable chance to catch Blaze in any one category.
Other categories not dominated by Blaze are RBIs (Tristin English-46), batting average (AJ Vukovich-.305), OPS (active, Jorge Barrosa-.788), doubles (Barrosa-17), triples (Cam Coursey-5) and home runs (English & Alexander-10).
The closest anyone is to Tristin is Blaze with 38. As long as Tristin continues to miss games, that is a very easy reach for Blaze. Which means Blaze could end up with seven titles if everything works out right. Seven and a half if you count the two way tie in home runs.
Batting average is a different story. Records based on percentages usually have minimum requirements such as number of games played or plate appearances. Plus, with percentages, numbers can go down as well as up making it a lot easier for someone to catch up. So with that caveat in mind, the current batting average leader for current players is AJ Vukovich (.305) with 26 games and 105 plate appearances. Add a potential twelve games and 50 plate appearances and his totals would be near 38 games and 155 plate appearances. Will that be enough? I can’t go by old minimums because they were for 76 game seasons. I have yet to see what the final minimum will be for this season but I doubt that would be enough.
Next batter in line is Axel Andueza (.263) with 74 games and 262 plate appearances. Even without the extra twelve games and 50 plate appearances, it appears that current totals would be enough already. However, Nick Dalesandro (.262) is nipping at his heels with similar minimum numbers. Throw in Cam Coursey (.258) and Jorge Barrosa (.257) or Tristin English (.251) and it seems like a photo finish.
Switching Current to Overall
Now, for the final caveat. I have been saying current players. I’ve kept the weekly stats look to those players still here or not lost for the season or promoted to higher up because those numbers are still live and changeable. That way, you still have a competition for who can be the best.
Top of the list is Corben Carroll with a .435 average but only seven games and 23 PAs. Next in line is Buddy Kennedy with .315 with 30 games and 111 PAs. Now, we’re getting closer but is it enough? Then Vukovich comes in third with his .305 average but not much more minimums than Kennedy if he continues to play. Dom Canzone is the last former Hops I would add to the list. He sits with a .263 batting average and 44 games with 171 PAs. That might be enough to become a factor.
OPS – Grading on a Curve?
Very similar to batting average is On base Plus Slugging percentage (OPS). Keeping the parameters for batting average in mind, we have the following: Corbin Carroll with an insane 1.465 OPS but still not enough minimums. Buddy Kennedy comes in second and is currently with the Sod Poodles. His numbers, .881 OPS/30 games/111 plate appearances, still seem too low on minimums to me but I won’t count them out yet.
Third on the list is Andy Yerzy (.828 OPS). His numbers seem closer but would 50% of the season (61 games, 205 PAs) be enough to qualify? It might depend on what they choose to mean the season. If they go by the 120 games scheduled, it would be around 50%. But, looking at Blaze possibly reaching 100 games, it would make Andy’s numbers around 60%.
Danny Oriente (.822) comes in next but he only played ten games. Dom Canzone (.805) is still questionable on minimums for me. Ahh, but the next one might be the one to make it. Jorge Barrosa (.744) is a little below on minimums (57 games, 222 PAs) but the next two weeks may bump him high enough to qualify (69 games, 272 PAs).
But, remember, numbers change up and down. All of this may be tossed out the window at the end of the season.
Doubles should be fun to watch. Jorge leads with 17 but Blaze is right behind with 16. Tristin English is next closest with 14 but we are still waiting for him to come back.
Cam Coursey may have the triples title in hand. The only one close enough to catch him is Jorge Barrosa with three. If Cam can hit three triples in one week, Jorge can as well. Cam might come back next week to find himself in a hot race with Jorge for the triples crown.
Home runs look pretty much settled. Both Andy Yerzy and Eduardo Diaz are tied with 14 homers on the year. But, they are both playing for the Sod Poodles now. Blaze and Tristin are within reach at ten apiece. Can either one of them hit two home runs per week to catch up? Blaze might but it is Tristin who recently hit two homers in one week. And he isn’t back in the lineup yet.
On the Mound
Justin Vernia is the current leader in wins (3). The overall leader is Brandon Pfaadt (5). With two weeks left, that leaves enough for Justin to win twice and tie Brandon for the top – but not pass. Ryne Nelson (4, Sod Poodles) and Slade Cecconi (4, injured list) stand in between as hurdles.
Mitchell Stumpo played in five games for Hillsboro from late May to late June of this year. Mitchell is on a fast track. Graduating from college in 2018, signing with the Diamondbacks in 2019, he spent his first pro year with rookie leagues. 2021 is only his second pro year. During that short time, Mitchel has played for Visalia, Hillsboro, Amarillo and is now pitching for Reno at the AAA level. He has an ERA of 1.08 during his time in Hillsboro and so far 2.94 for his career. However, eight innings in five games may not be enough for him to meet minimums.
Austin Pope is right behind with a 1.84 ERA. He has six games in his pocket and a chance to pitch two more. That could push his innings (14) to 24. It’s a little more but not sure if a little is enough. Liu Fuenmayor is very close with a 1.88 ERA. His 14 innings in nine games could grow to 11 games and 24 innings. But, either two could have a bad game and shoot their ERA sky high.
With the temporary nature of the minor leagues, seasons aren’t always spent with just one team in a season. Minimums could extend low enough to allow one of these three to qualify.
Finally, strikeouts. Blake Walston is the active leader with 57. Drey Jameson, now with Amarillo, is the overall leader with 77. Blake could get two more games but he would need to average ten strikeouts per appearance. While within the realm of possibility, it may not reside in the realm of probability.
That wraps up this week at the team so far. I look at the team records later on in the looking forward to week 19 section.
Week 18 Transactions
9/1 Hops transferred RF Danny Oriente from 7-day injured list to 60-day.
Danny first went on the injured list on August 15th. After coming up from Visalia almost a month previous, Danny played in ten games and had a knack of reaching base (OPS .822). With the end of the season only 14 games and 17 days away, Danny will not be active before the end of the season.
9/4 SS Jose Curpa promoted to the Hops from the ACL Dbacks
Jose was originally signed as a free agent by the Arizona Diamondbacks way back in 2016. Since then, Jose has played in the ACL, rookie leagues, Low A, double AA and triple AAA. Every level except the Hops at High A. But, now he completes the set of playing for every farm team in the system.
Mainly a singles hitter, Jose’s strength is getting on base and, more importantly, scoring. He’s also a base stealer.
9/4 2B Cam Coursey placed on the 7-day injured list
Word has it as a hamstring issue. Expected back for the last week of the season.
9/7 RHP Marcos Tineo placed on 7-day injured list
No word on what the issue is yet.
Unofficially, Tristin English is also experiencing lower back strain and is being held out temporarily. It is hoped he will be back for the last week of the season. That he is not put on the 7-day injured list is a good sign that he might be back earlier.
Looking forward to Week 19
Two weeks left. 13 games out of first and twelves games left doesn’t really offer much chance of taking the top spot in the league. And, with second place Eugene being 14 games ahead of Hillsboro in the win column, the playoffs aren’t possible either. The best the Hops can hope for, mathematically speaking, is to tie third place Everett. However, while possible, not probable.
But, there is still a chance to overtake Vancouver for fourth or… fall below Tri City for sixth. And, Hillsboro’s last two weeks are spent with Tri City (week 19) and Vancouver (week 20). Plenty of wiggle room for anything to happen.
Note: being a day late gave me the advantage to see how normal is affected in week 19. I knew when I wrote the above that Tri City ended their week 18 under Covid-19 protocols but how it might affect week 19 was still up in the air. We now know that Tuesday and Wednesday for Tri City and Hillsboro have been cancelled. Not postponed. Cancelled as in not being made up. That leaves both teams with only ten games left and shrinking.
Week 20 is still alive with Vancouver and with only three games separating the two, one week is enough to make it a race for fourth place. But, Tri City may be stuck with sixth place. Five and a half games behind the Hops means they would have to win all six games in week 20 while the Hops lose all six of their games against Vancouver. That is why the games in week 19 between Hillsboro and Tri City were so important. Games against each other can affect standings no matter what because both teams can’t win the same game. Or lose it. These are valuable games for Tri City.
So far, the teams have only lost two scheduled games with four left to play. For right now, Thursday is still on the schedule.