Need Strong Finish
By DOUG KIMSEY
Paints Boosters Club President
smogs… Kimsey’s Korner stays old school, keeping it real.
Burning Questions” to ponder at the All-Star Break.
Are the Paints a .435 Team?!
That’s easy. A big fat “No” if you know anything about
this club’s history, can recognize the talent assembled in this
clubhouse and can appreciate the “Big Picture” of Paints baseball.
Manager Mark Mason’s Paints have under-achieved by
going 20-26 in the first half and have something to prove over the
final 50 games as they try to make the 15th season one to
remember. And not just a disappointment.
2.) What Will It Take To Make
the Playoffs A Third Straight Year?
A fantastic finish is what it will take.
Catching Washington and winning the East will not be
easy. Truth be told, catching the Wild Things is highly improbable,
barring the unforeseen such as the Paints going on a tear – say,
playing .800 ball – or the Things hitting the skids. Of those two
scenarios, the former is a long-shot, given the Paints’ road
struggles (7-19), while the latter is completely speculative.
Making up nine games in the loss column and erasing an
8 ½-game deficit while also dealing with a very good Florence
Freedom team will require a quick and remarkable turn-around by the
Paints. But at the same time, stranger things have happened.
With 50 games to play – 28 at VA Memorial – here’s a
look at a few possible outcomes.
To end the season playing .600 ball (like last
finish with a sizzle… the club needs 38 wins in 50 games, a .760
clip, putting Chillicothe 58-38 (.604) at the wire, which most
likely would earn the Wild Card, if not the Divisional crown. Think
back to the 2005 club when, after the Josh Ury historic walk-off
grand slam on July 26, the Paints went 26-6, including a 22-5 month
of August. That was an .813 clip. Those kinds of finishes don’t
often happen, but you have to keep the faith.
With FL history as your guide, you can get a decent
feel for what it will take to win the 2007 Wild Card in a crowded
field of eight contenders – sorry Slippery Rock, wait’ll next year.
look at the Mid-Season Wild Card Standings:
Standings (At the All-Star Break)
(8 Contenders – 50 Games To Play – 1 Wild Card Spot)
23-23 .500 -1
23-23 .500 -1
21-25 .457 -3
PAINTS 20-26 .435
20-26 .435 -4
18-28 .391 -6
18-28 .391 -6
Slippery Rock 10-35
.222 -13 ½
To end the season
needs 36 wins in 50 games, a .720 pace, which would, with recent FL
history again as our barometer, make the Paints a Wild Card threat.
A look at the New Millennium’s FL Wild Card entries…
Paints 58-37 .611
Grizzlies 56-38 .596
Wild Things 54-34 .614
Roosters 53-31 .631
Crocodiles 47-37 .560
Otters 45-38 .542
To end the season 54-42 (.563)…
needs 34 wins in 50 games, a .680 pace. Of the three scenarios
presented here, this one may be the most likely and should get the
team to within striking distance of a postseason berth.
To win 54
games this season, the Paints will need to at least play .500 ball
on the road (11-11) and go 23-5 at VA. Put that way, and with trips
to Gateway and Kalamazoo, wiggle room is just about gone
3.) Is the Chillicothe offense a “sleeping giant” ready
to that is – let’s sure hope so.
Much was made of the Paints’ batting woes last season.
In fact, last year’s .250 team batting average was the lowest in the
15-year history of the team. This season, at .252, the collective
team batting slump continues. Is this the new “Dead Ball
Era” of Paints’ baseball? Can the FieldTurf really impact offensive
stats that dramatically?
Perhaps the arrival of batting coach Joe Charboneau
Through 46 games this season, the Paints are
next-to-last in the FL in runs scored – 210, or 4.6 runs scored per
game. Last year’s team averaged 4.4 runs scored per game, yet
finished 21 games above .500 and advanced to the FL Cup Finals.
The difference? That’s easy. Pitching.
Paints’ hurlers allowed only 3.5 runs per game, the
lowest in the FL and the lowest in team history. A 2.84 team Earned
Run Average was the lowest E-V-E-R in the FL, a record that should
stand for years.
This year’s Paints’ Earned Run Average is 4.32, good
enough for fifth in a league that has witnessed an offensive surge –
run production is up 19 percent FL-wide to 10.6 runs per
game, compared to 8.9 runs per game league-wide in 2006.
Put another way, the Paints’ scoring production is up
from 4.4 runs per game last season to 4.6 runs per game this season,
yet the 2006 club stood 30-16 at this point, a 10-game difference.
Career seasons by Perry
a year ago and by the now-departed
Kurt Hartfelder, Luke Palmer,
The hitting heart of the Paints --
Paul Rutgers, Travis Garcia,
John Poterson and Adrian Cantu
-- collectively are batting .274, accounting for the bulk of the
Paints’ offense. Rutgers (.262, 4 HR, 26 RBI), Poterson (.247-6-34)
and Cantu (.282-5-30) have flattened out since solid starts while
Garcia (.304-6-31, 14 doubles) has been fairly steady. Newcomer
(.316-1-3) shows promise and is versatile.
A .321 batter while hitting right-handed with three
HR’s and 12 RBI in 56 at bats and a .215 hitter with 30 strikeouts
in 130 at bats hitting lefty, perhaps Poterson should consider
dropping his switch-hitting status.
Clearly, if the team is to put more runs on the board
down the stretch, the heart of the order
produce at higher levels.
The return to health of table-setter
(.304, 14 steals, 27 runs, .439 on-base pct.) and the continued
hot-hitting of Dan
(.333-1-9) is key as well. Also, the Paints must find another stick
in the outfield where
(.205-2-12), J.T. Thomas
(.250-0-4), Josh Miller
(.222-0-2) and Dustin
(.171-0-2) are battling for playing time.
(.295-5-8) may be lost to the team until late August with a hand
injury. Infielder Evan
(.182-0-5) contributes with his glove, but needs to hit to play
4.) Where has all the pitching gone?
Starters Cunningham, Hartfelder and Palmer combined to
win 23 games last season, but my, oh my, how things have changed.
5.37 ERA) is struggling to regain his proven form. And sent packing
after slow starts were Hartfelder and Palmer, effectively handing
over the bulk of the starting rotation to untested rookies.
The most impressive “rook” to answer the call is lefty
(5-2, 4.68) who finished the first half with a string of 13.2
innings of scoreless ball. Johnson, who appears to be settling
nicely into his role, is vital to a Paints’ race for the pennant.
Another southpaw rookie,
(1-2, 3.90), is coming off two strong starts as the second half
opens. Marshall is the twin brother of Chicago Cubs’ lefty Sean
(1-1, 1.82, 4 saves) has excelled in every role given to him,
fanning 27 and walking only nine in 34.2 innings. He’s capable of
five or six second-half wins.
(3-1, 1.56, 20 appearances, 2 walks, 34.2 IP) and
(1-2, 2.61, 7 saves, 43 K’s, 38 IP) put pressure on opponents in the
late innings. Both righties are hitting their peak as the second
half begins. The key will be to get to the seventh or eighth
innings with a lead to let them close things out.
who arrived just before the All-Star Break, along with
(1.35 ERA), Marty Wiesler
(3.21 ERA) and Justin
(1-2, 5.40) round out a bullpen that needs to stay strong and steady
for the Paints’ stretch drive.
5.) Where do we go from here?
Clearly, the high expectations this ball club
brought into the 2007 season remain unfulfilled. Baseball is, and
will continue to be, a game of inches with the difference between
success and failure often separated by the thinnest of margins.
Consider, for example, that nearly one-third of the
Paints’ losses – eight – have been by a single run. Taken
further, of the team’s 26 losses, 14 have been by two or fewer
When it comes to close games, and especially when it comes to
getting the big hit in the right situation, the Paints have fallen
It has been said that past effort is no predictor of
future performance. Still, Paints’ teams through the years have put
together good-hitting teams and found ways to put runs on the
board. Not since 2005 when Chillicothe was near the top of the
league in offense has a Paints team consistently swung big bats.
When looked out year-by-year, the offensive slumber that began last
season is startling. Here are the Paints’ yearly batting averages
and runs per game since the birth of the FL in 1993:
Team Avg. Runs/Game
.281 5.4 Runs Per Game
A look at
where the Paints stood at the All-Star Break in recent years:
.435 3rd - 8 ½ GB
.636 2nd - 1 GB
.489 5th - 6 GB
.412 5th -11 GB
.644 1st --
.447 3rd - 6 ½ GB
.641 1st --
.595 1st --
.615 1st --
.595 1st --
20-20 .500 3rd -5 GB
** -- Marks the last time
VA Memorial was the site of the FL All-Star Game, July 23, 1997
(Doug Kimsey is a recovering newspaper journalist and
former TV voice of the Chillicothe Paints)