Winnipeg Goldeyes Envisioned a Championship Season from the Start: Goldeyes Gazette
They may be from Canada, but the Winnipeg Goldeyes have continuously proven that they are quite adept at America’s past-time. They have been in the playoffs 17 times in their 21 year history, and won the American Association championship in 2012. They play baseball well and they play well in all facets of the game. This season was no exception, as the Goldeyes knew they had a championship team from the very start.
The Goldeyes ranked second in the league in ERA, batting average and fielding percentage. They had a winning record every month, with their most successful month being June when they were 11 games over .500 at 19-8. Even in their “least” successful month they were still three games above .500, and proved that no matter who the opponent was they were winners.
The Goldeyes have proven to be winners in all facets of the game. They finished 30-20 at home and were 33-17 on the road. They won 17 of the 29 series they played, tying three others. They swept eight series, were 10 games over .500 against left-handed starters, 17 over vs. right-handers, and had a winning record against every division in the league. It was a performance that showed that when opponents saw Winnipeg on the schedule, they needed to know that they better bring their “A” game if they expected to win.
What makes this team so good is that they thrive in every aspect of the game. It begins with a dominant lineup led by shortstop Tyler Kuhn and first baseman Casey Haerther. Kuhn is one of the two best shortstops in the league, both in the field and at the plate. He finished with a .360 batting average, tied for second in the American Association with Haerther. He scored 70 runs and drove in 56 more and added 37 extra-base hits. He has shown himself to be one of the most dangerous hitters in the league, and is a perfect No. 3 hitter for this team.
Following Kuhn in the order is Haerther, who also hit .360. He scored 49 runs, but drove home 72 others and hit 13 home runs. The big right-handed hitter slumped a bit down the stretch, but still put together a season that made him one of the most fearsome hitters in the league to face.
While these two have had excellent seasons, there is a solid group of six other players that make this one of the most difficult lineups in the league to face. Brock Bond hit .326 and scored 53 runs in just 64 games. Jake Blackwood has a .321 average with 50 runs and 49 RBI in 83 games. Reggie Abercrombie, the team’s No. 5 hitter, led the team in home runs and RBI, clubbing 19 homers, and also led the team in runs and RBI, scoring 73 and plating 74. Josh Mazzola hit 16 home runs this season, including four in the last six games of the year, and Donnie Webb scored 60 runs and drove in 50 others in 99 games. Add to this the play of catcher Luis Alen, who drove in 50 runs and batted .292 in 96 games, and it is easy to see why they are so potent.
These eight hitters had a combined total of 79 home runs, 445 runs scored and drove in 419. This group is so good that often times the DH of this team will bat ninth, just because there is no reason to disrupt the flow of this group of eight.
The lineup alone made this a formidable team in itself, but what really stood out about this club is the pitching staff. Both the bullpen and the starting rotation proved to be one of the best in the league.
The starting rotation is led by Nick Hernandez who went 12-2 this season, and may have been the best pitcher in the league this year. The 6-4, 215 pound lefty won his first five decisions of the season, then lost two in a row, before closing out the year with seven straight victories. In four of his last six appearances he did not allow a run.
While Hernandez has had an incredible year, what makes the Goldeyes so great is the depth of their starting staff. Chris Salamida, Ethan Hollingsworth and Matthew Jackson helped to form what is arguably the best starting rotation in the league. To understand how good this group was, consider these stats.
In May the starters had decisions in all but four of the games. In those four they kept the team close enough that they won each of those games. Starting June 27 the team won 10 games in a row. The starters got the win in all but one of those games, and made nine quality starts during the streak. Heading down the stretch of the season, August 16 began a stretch where the team won eight games in a row, and that starters got the decision in all eight. In four of those games the starting pitcher gave up no runs at all. Their big four went 38-14, the best record of any starting four outside of Wichita.
This is a group that won games, and did it by keeping their team in the contests with quality starts. They were not winning games simply because their team scored a lot of runs. They were winning because they out-pitched opponents on virtually every night.
The bullpen was just as unhittable. The combination of Brendan Lafferty, Taylor Sewitt, Chris Kissock, Gabe Aguilar and Taylor Bratton were absolutely lights out when the ball was handed to them. This group all had ERAs under 3.37, but it did not start out as a dominant group.
Kirk Bellamy began as the co-closer, and even had five saves, but he also had a 7.64 ERA, and had not lasted even one full inning in his last four appearances. Kissock was sharing the duties with Bellamy and he was totally in command early on. As Kissock took over the role full-time, the rest of the relief corps was coming into their own, especially Lafferty, whose ERA was 3.00 on June 1, but would never reach three again.
Together the bullpen and starting staff worked well, and got the job done. Add to it the potency of this lineup and it made for an absolutely awesome ball club. From the start of the season to the end this team won, and did it by playing all facets of the game exceptionally well. They knew from the start that they had a great team that could go all the way; they saw a champion, and now are two playoff series from making that vision a reality.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA