soft hands.

from btf's notes in a minor key:
Don’t Look Back, Something Might Be Gaining On You

On April 17, the Trenton Thunder (EL) defeated the Altoona Curve, 9-0, as Steven White and T.J. Beam combined on a four-hit shutout. This game was noteworthy for two reasons:

1. It was Trenton’s first victory of 2006, following a club-record 10-game losing streak to start the season, and
2. Immediately after the game, the Thunder put out a press release announcing that 2006 postseason tickets were on sale.

The Thunder responded to the announcement by losing their next three games, to drop to 1-13 overall. Then things started looking up a bit; the team won seven of its next eight, top prospect Philip Hughes arrived on May 4, and, amazingly, by May 29 the Thunder had made it back to .500. The next three weeks saw Trenton win a couple, then lose a couple and oscillate around the .500 mark - as late as June 20 the Thunder were still 35-35 - but the team then went on a second extended streak of excellence. As I write this, the Thunder stand at 54-43, one game behind first-place Portland in the Eastern League’s Northern Division, and 6 1/2 games ahead of third-place Harrisburg in the postseason race (the top two teams in the division make it).

What happened? A couple of things:

1. In the 10-game losing streak at the start of the season, Trenton scored a total of 20 runs. Since then, the Thunder have scored more runs than any other team in the EL other than Portland, led by minor-league vet Randy Ruiz, prospect Eric Duncan - who finally seems to be living up to the hype - and OF Vince Faison. Duncan’s recovery, after a particularly difficult start at AAA, has re-established him on the prospect map; he is still just 21, and living up to some of the promise that has earned him the title of #1 Yankee prospect.
2. The pitching, which had its peaks and valleys, has been solidified with the arrival of Hughes, a return to form by Tyler Clippard - who has put together a string of solid starts recently - and the outstanding bullpen work of J. Brent Cox and Justin Pope. Trenton’s pitchers have allowed fewer runs than any other team in the EL.

Hughes’s numbers over his last seven starts are simply overwhelming: 42 2/3 IP, 19 hits, 3 ER, 12 BB, 54 K, 0.63 ERA. He’s 4-1 with two no-decisions (both of which Trenton won) in that span. The only issue with Hughes is that he’s thrown a lot of pitches, even though the Yankees are being cautious with the just-turned-20-YO’s arm; he has been removed on three occasions before reaching the sisth inning, even though he has been pitching well, because of pitch count concerns.

Trenton looks like the best team in the EL at this point. Who’da thunk it back on April 17 - other than Thunder management, that is?

Labels: ,

2:06 PM :: ::
Post a Comment
<< Home

lupe! :: permalink