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July 12, 2007
 

 

KIMSEY'S KORNER

’07 Paints Need Strong Finish

By DOUG KIMSEY
Paints Boosters Club President

 

Blogs, smogs… Kimsey’s Korner stays old school, keeping it real.

Top “Five Burning Questions” to ponder at the All-Star Break.

1.)    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 season) and 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.
    

First, a look at the Mid-Season Wild Card Standings:

Wild Card Standings (At the All-Star Break)

(8 Contenders – 50 Games To Play – 1 Wild Card Spot)

Team                             W-L               Pct.                  GB
Kalamazoo                   24-22               .522                 --

Florence                       23-23               .500                 -1

So. Illinois                    23-23               .500                 -1

Rockford                      21-25               .457                 -3

PAINTS                      20-26               .435                 -4

Evansville                     20-26               .435                 -4

Traverse City                18-28               .391                 -6

River City                     18-28               .391                 -6

Slippery Rock              10-35               .222                 -13 ½

     To end the season 56-40 (.583)… the club 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… 

2006    Paints              58-37               .611

2005    Paints               53-42               .558

2004    Grizzlies           56-38               .596

2003    Wild Things      54-34               .614

2002    Roosters          53-31               .631

2001    Crocodiles       47-37               .560

2000    Otters                45-38               .542

To end the season 54-42 (.563)… the club 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 erupt
    
The answer 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 will help.
     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 Cunningham a year ago and by the now-departed Kurt Hartfelder, Luke Palmer, Nick Cavanaugh and Marshall Plouffe made all the difference.
     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 Lance Koenig (.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
MUST produce at higher levels.
     The return to health of table-setter
Gavin Ng (.304, 14 steals, 27 runs, .439 on-base pct.) and the continued hot-hitting of Dan Cummins (.333-1-9) is key as well.  Also, the Paints must find another stick in the outfield where Travis Storrer (.205-2-12), J.T. Thomas (.250-0-4), Josh Miller (.222-0-2) and Dustin Richardson (.171-0-2) are battling for playing time.
     Unfortunately,
Jaziel Mendoza (.295-5-8) may be lost to the team until late August with a hand injury.  Infielder Evan Sobel (.182-0-5) contributes with his glove, but needs to hit to play more.


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.  Veteran
Cunningham (3-4 W-L, 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
Bryan Johnson (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,
Brian Marshall (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 Marshall.
     Reliever-turned-starter
Darryl Arreola (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.
     All-star relievers
Ryan Flanigan (3-1, 1.56, 20 appearances, 2 walks, 34.2 IP) and Eric Teall (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.
     Submarining
Brian McCullough, who arrived just before the All-Star Break, along with Tim Gray (1.35 ERA), Marty Wiesler (3.21 ERA) and Justin Drabek (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 runs.  When it comes to close games, and especially when it comes to getting the big hit in the right situation, the Paints have fallen far short.
     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

2007 --                                    .252                               4.6

2006 --                                    .250                               4.4

2005 --                                    .293                               5.6

2004 --                                    .285                               5.1

2003 --                                    .271                               5.5

2002 --                                    .286                               5.2

2001 --                                    .286                               5.9

2000 --                                    .287                               5.5

1999 --                                    .282                               6.1

1998 --                                    .294                               6.8

1997 --                                    .291                               5.8

1996 --                                    .297                               5.9

1995 --                                    .256                               4.0

1994 --                                    .281                               5.1

1993 --                                    .259                               4.7

TOTALS                                 .281                              5.4 Runs Per Game

A look at where the Paints stood at the All-Star Break in recent years:

2007 --                                20-26               .435                 3rd        - 8 ½ GB

2006 --                                28-16               .636                 2nd        - 1 GB

2005 --                                22-23               .489                 5th        - 6 GB

2004 --                                21-30               .412                 5th        -11 GB

2003 --                                29-16               .644                 1st        --

2002 --                                17-21               .447                 3rd        - 6 ½ GB

2001 --                                25-14               .641                 1st        --

2000 --                                22-15               .595                 1st        --

1999 --                                24-15               .615                 1st        --

1998 --                                25-17               .595                 1st        --

**1997 --                                 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)

© 2005 Chillicothe Paints Professional Baseball