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April ended with the team's record at 10-11 and we all assumed that May would see an improvement, an incorrect assumption as it turns out. Syracuse's May record is 12-18, a huge disappointment for a team put together to be competitive. Their season record of 22-29 puts them eleven games behind the divison leader.

On May 30th Syracuse were last in the IL in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. In scoring 18 runs on 20 hits on May 31st, they improved their batting average to 13th and their SLG to 12th, but that does not mask the issue that the offense has been terrible. The Chiefs pitching is third in the IL in ERA, which is even better when you consider the struggles of Brandon League. At the end of May, Syracuse had scored 206 runs and conceded 217. Obviously the pitching is not the problem, but a team like the Chiefs with a blend of hitting prospects and free agents should be better than last in hitting.

As was the case last month the Chiefs run differential does not match their record, a run differential of -11 would not normally put a team 8 games under .500. The inconsistent hitting has created an imbalance in the results, when the hitting is "on" the team generally wins, and wins big. When the hitting is "off" they lose.

The Hitters

Gabe Gross - .255 BA; .317 OBP; .392 SLG; all stats are year to date

Gabe has not had a hot streak yet this season, he generally picks up a hit per game to keep his average around .250. Gabe hit his first home run of the year just before he was called up to Toronto and his second after he came back. Gross leads the team with 13 doubles. Gabe is not walking as much as last year, which might be a factor in his struggles, although it could be that pitchers are less threatened by him this year. I have no huge insight into his performance, it just seems that he is not getting good swings at the ball.

John Ford Griffin - .271 BA; .373 OBP; .470 SLG

John Ford Griffin has been the most pleasant surprise among the hitters, and his good hitting continued into May. Griffin's May numbers included a .260 batting average with 23 walks (in the month) giving him a .395 OBP and a .450 SLG. Griffin's five May homers, and ten total, both lead the team. Surprisingly Griffin has only 4 doubles for the season, a low number in 15 extra base hits, a sign that Griffin's speed is lacking. Griffin also leads the team in K's with 47 in 181 AB's. As we have seen from other prospects there is no guarantee the walk rate will continue in the big leagues, if you have a weakness major league pitchers will exploit it. Griffin profiles as a DH, maybe even a platoon DH.

Aaron Hill - .301 BA; .339 OBP; .468 SLG

Aaron Hill is now well known to Blue Jay fans, and put up similar numbers with Syracuse. Hill was hitting over .300 for most of the year, showing good power with eleven doubles and five home runs. Hill was drafted in 2003 and turned 23 during spring training and was young for AAA. The only concern about Hill was hit low walk rate, just 4 against 17 strikeouts. I believe Hill's walk rate is a function of his ability to hit pitches in the hitting zone, as opposed to other hitters who might foul off more pitches or take strikes. Hill has demonstrated the ability to talk a walk in previous seasons and he does not look like a free swinger in his brief major league career, but Hill will have to learn to be selective in order to take the next step forward, especially once pitchers start teasing him a little more.

Bryant Nelson - .274 BA; .333 OBP; .351 SLG

Nelson does not have much power so his value is tied up in his average and his ability to get on base. Nelson has hit over .300 in the past and the Chiefs would like him to get back there, and soon. Nelson has eight errors, the most on the team.

Jason Alfaro - .229 BA; .275 OBP; .369 SLG

Alfaro is one of the bigger disappointments on the team. Alfaro is an established .300 hitter in the minor leagues and this year he has been unable to get going, like many of the hitters. All of his numbers are down and for a hitter that was ranked by Baseball America as one of the Jays prospects this off-season.

Julius Matos - .290 BA; .333 OBP; .380 SLG

Matos was Mr. Utility until Aaron Hill was promoted, now he is the shortstop. Like Nelson most of Matos's value is in his BA, and at .290 he is around where he would be expected to be.

Anton French - .251 BA; .302 OBP; .443 SLG

French was a major surprise last year and could have been tabbed as a potential major league fourth outfielder if he had followed with another strong season this year. Unfortunately for French 2005 has not been great as the numbers show and French has lost his lead-off spot, at least for now.

Chad Mottola - .285 BA; .317 OBP; .494 SLG

Mottola is the veteran on the team and he just keeps chugging along with the most extra base hits on the team and a decent batting average. Some nights Mottola was virtually the only offense for the Chiefs.


Here is a list of hitters who are exceeding expectations:

  • John Ford Griffin
  • Aaron Hill

Hitters performing below Expectations

  • Gabe Gross
  • Anton French
  • Jason Alfaro
  • Bryant Nelson
  • Eric Crozier

The Pitchers

Brandon League - 7.15 ERA; 1.91 WHIP; 22:12 K:BB ratio; 13% K/BFP

Poor on every level, League is being hit hard and he is not striking out as many as he should. In 2004 League's biggest asset was the movement on his pitches, the hitters might not strike out, but they were hitting a lot of routine ground balls. This year League's pitches are up in the zone and the hitters are dumping the ball into the outfield or over the fences. Can any of the Jays coaches help fix the control issues? I am sure that issue is being debated regularly at Blue Jay HQ. League has made seven starts for the Chiefs and has pitched five innings four times; he pitched six innings once. Only once in those four, five inning starts, did League allow less than four runs. The concern is that League shows no signs of getting better.

Chad Gaudin - 2.48. ERA; 1.04 WHIP; 47:14 K:BB ratio; 18% K/BFP

The Chiefs most consistent pitcher and well deserving of his promotion. In contrast to Brandon League Gaudin has made ten starts, all of them at least five innings long. Gaudin never allowed more than four runs and in eight of his ten starts Gaudin allowed two earned runs or less. Gaudin's best start was his complete game one-hitter on May 16th.

Francisco Rosario - 3.02 ERA; 1.12 WHIP; 48:20 K:BB ratio; 20% K/BFP

Rosario's last start was his worst of the month, five earned runs on ten hits in seven innings. Without that start his May numbers were showing a 2.48 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. Chiefs manager Mary Pevey was upset with Rosario after that start suggesting he was not prepared enough. Rosario is almost ready for the big leagues, a few more months of refining his control should do it, although he first start in June was not good either. There has been some suggestion that Rosario's maturity or dedication might not be what it should be, a topic to watch for over the next few months.

Jason Arnold - 2.57 ERA; 0.76 WHIP; 17:4 K:BB ratio; 21% K/BFP

Excellent numbers out of the bullpen, a very good WHIP and K rate. May was not as good as April, a 3.37 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP but the numbers are still encouraging.

Chris Baker - 4.63 ERA; 1.37 WHIP; 24:15 K:BB ratio; 16% K/BFP

Baker had his usual mixed month, at times he was excellent and at other times not so good. Baker is a jack of all trades for the Chiefs, a spot starter or a long reliever, or a short reliever. Baker's K rate is low and sometimes he gets hit hard but in his four starts Baker's ERA is 2.14.

Spike Lundberg - 1.83 ERA; 1.37 WHIP; 25:9 K:BB ratio; 17% K/BFP

Spike has a 0.00 ERA in April and the only way to go was up. In May Lundberg had an ERA of 3.20 and a WHIP of 1.68, helping Spike to lose three games in the month. His true abilities lie somewhere in between.

The Rest of the Bullpen

Matt Whiteside is splitting closing with Arnold, at least when he is not in Toronto. After a great year in 2004 Whiteside is not as sharp this year with an ERA of 4.66. The two lefties are poles apart, Adrian Burnside has an ERA under 2.00 and a WHIP under 1.00 while Jesse Carlson has an ERA of almost 5.00 and a WHIP over 2.00. Mike Nannini's May ERA was over 9. Best WHIP in May? Matt Duff, finally off the phantom DL, four hits and four walks in 12 innings. The worst? Jesse Carlson, a 2.13 WHIP.

Pitching Summary

Gaudin, Rosario, and Scott Downs provided excellent starts while Arnold, Burnisde, Duff et al. delivered good relief. Shaun Marcum and David Bush are now in the rotation and hopefully some of their intensity, and in Bush's case, experience, will rub off on Rosario and League to move their performances forward. As June comes look for more good pitching from the Chiefs.


If the Chiefs are to get back to .500 the offense needs to get going. There is no obvious help coming from New Hampshire so Gross, Nelson, French, etc. need to get into form and carry the team back to .500.

Syracuse May Review | 12 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
C. Oliver - Friday, June 03 2005 @ 12:27 PM EDT (#118525) #
Sad to hear about the rough start for Anton French. Saw him play in Buffalo several times last year as a SkyChief and he was quite a catalyst. He was Syracuse's best player in August 2004. Look for a good June from Anton!

As for Matt Whiteside, it was too bad that he had only one outing for the Jays. He has been a "4A" closer-type for several years both in the International League and the PCL.

Last year, Glenn Williams was another one of these "4A" guys. I spoke to J.P. on "Jays Talk" last August and asked about the status of French and Williams. He said that he hoped that Williams would get a shot elsewhere and that Fench was an "organizational player" and not a porspect--not exactly a ringing endorsement.

It has to be difficult to be tweener types such as these guys, although sometimes a "4A" players busts out to be an above-average major leaguer (Geronimo Berroa comes to mind). But you you never know what may happen, I guess--someone from Japan might be watching...

fozzy - Friday, June 03 2005 @ 12:33 PM EDT (#118526) #
nice analysis Gerry; good read :)

I wonder if it's time to end the experiment with Brandon League: starter. His raw power just seems to scream ace reliever, and he seems to be struggling both with stamina and on his secondary pitches. IMHO, annoint him the closer, hand him the ball four times a week with instructions to 'let er rip'.
R Billie - Friday, June 03 2005 @ 01:50 PM EDT (#118537) #
League's struggles have nothing to do with starting. He was bad in spring training as a reliever. He was bad in the regular season as a reliever. He was bad upon his return to Syracuse as a starter but is slowly starting to make improvements.

Last year it was when he joined the AA starting rotation that he really started to find some consistency and success which poised him for a big stretch run as the Fishercats ace reliever and a decent 5 or so innings in Toronto.

Right now he's struggling with his mechanics and consistency. He's throwing flat pitches and very seldom putting the ball where he wants. He needs repetition, regular work and regular side sessions in between starts with the pitching coach to work out his difficulties.

Even if you make him a closer that's not going to change the fact that he still needs some semblance of command with his fastball and some semblance of command with one other pitch. If he doesn't fix his delivery he won't be of much use to the Jays in any role.
Ron - Friday, June 03 2005 @ 02:14 PM EDT (#118543) #
Is anybody else getting worried about League flaming out like Adam Peterson?

I haven't seen him pitch in AAA but I wonder how he could be so good at AA and then get smashed around at AAA. If League doesn't improve I would be tempted to move him down to AA. Either way I hope League turns it around because he has closer type stuff. And to think the Jays brass thought in ST League had nothing to prove in AAA.....

fozzy - Friday, June 03 2005 @ 02:18 PM EDT (#118545) #
i still have to disagree with you R Billie. I don't think it's fair to label 5 appearances at the start of the season as being "bad" in the regular season.

I don't know if the base stats tell the whole story; he had a 17:6 groundball:flyball ratio and a 2:1 K:BB ratio. Aside from the two homers and too many hits (small sample size), most of which happened in his first two appearances (7 of the 13 hits, 4 of the 7 ER) he wasn't that bad, per say. Looking at his numbers, he was getting better as he season went on before his demotion.

I agree that he's struggling with his consistency, but I also wonder to what extent it's being caused by stretching back into the starter's role, having to lay off some of that raw power, and working mainly on his secondary pitches.

When I watch him, it really looks like he's trying to be fine and picky with his location, something that I think is a disservice to his stuff. His stuff is good enough where a catcher should be able to put the glove near the middle of the plate and let the pitch do the work (IIRC, I remember that was how Justin Miller got a lot of his success), and relief is where he's almost certainly going to end up with the number of serviceable arms already slated for the rotation.

Frankly, I'd much rather see Brad Arnsberg working with him than not to settle him down, and work him in the 12th reliever, Pete-Walker-type role, much like they did for Speier when he was pitching poorly. Call me stubborn, I guess.
R Billie - Friday, June 03 2005 @ 02:25 PM EDT (#118547) #
I also think that trading League would be exactly the wrong thing to do (unless they get a great return for him). He's only 22. What if Gord Ash had traded Halladay before he rebuilt himself? Halladay also never struck out as many as he should and had very questionable command. He was beaten in the big leagues as much as someone can be beaten. And now he's on his way to another Cy Young if he stays healthy.

League has the power and the movement and the makeup to be downright nasty. What he needs is the patience and coaching to get him through this rough patch. He could spend all of this year and next in Syracuse and still be younger than David Bush is right now.
R Billie - Friday, June 03 2005 @ 02:46 PM EDT (#118549) #
I don't know if the base stats tell the whole story; he had a 17:6 groundball:flyball ratio and a 2:1 K:BB ratio. Aside from the two homers and too many hits (small sample size), most of which happened in his first two appearances (7 of the 13 hits, 4 of the 7 ER) he wasn't that bad, per say. Looking at his numbers, he was getting better as he season went on before his demotion.

I don't know if those base stats tell the entire story. 4 walks in 9 innings is not good. Those 4 walks are kind to him because of the number of three ball counts he had. 2 homeruns is not good. Neither is averaging nearly 18 pitches per inning. League was allowing an opponent OPS over .900, over 1.000 against lefthanded hitters.

Believe me I'm not basing this only on numbers. I saw him pitch and struggle terribly. He was not anywhere near the same pitcher he was in September. He had exactly one appearance where he looked good and that was an extended three inning stint against Texas. Once he lost the confidence of Gibbons to use him regularly there was no way he should have stayed up. Waiting to use him in blowout games would have done no good because the Jays seldom play those kinds of games.

Starting is not a problem for League. He's spent most of his time in the minors doing that. Maybe switching to starting now is a problem because he started the year relieving (which I think should never have happened). But he is making progress. His start last night saw him strike out 6 against 2 walks and ground out 8 against 3 flyouts. I'm not concerned about his hits and runs as long as those numbers start staying consistent from outing to outing.

And I think it would be doing a disservice to him to allow him to throw with maximum effort. He's been TRYING to throw to the middle of the plate all year. He can't get anywhere near the catcher's glove on half his pitches no matter where he sets up. To learn to pitch you have to learn to throw 90% so that you don't overthrow and lose command and movement. Trying to hump up and throw the ball clean through the catchers glove is exactly the tendancy they have to discourage from a young power pitcher.

Escobar found consistency as a starting pitcher once Gil Patterson convinced him to throw 93-94 mph instead of 96-97. And he had to keep verbally reminding him to ease up during the game from the dugout. That's because no-one kicked Escobar's butt enough when he was 21 to snap him out of those bad habits. League is a much more coachable kid from my impression. The idea isn't for him to be perfect. It's to be consistent and throw 70% strikes instead of closer to 50%.

Ducey - Friday, June 03 2005 @ 03:12 PM EDT (#118552) #
I agree with you 100% RBillie. League will be the same age as most college guys drafted next week. There is no need to rush him. If it takes him 2 years and he can develop a second and third pitch and be a starter or at least develop his control he will be a lot more useful in the long run than using him sporadically now in a ML bullpen.
CaramonLS - Friday, June 03 2005 @ 03:41 PM EDT (#118555) #
If you compare League to how he was doing in september of last season... the difference is phenonmenal.

I remember watching him last season, the ball would literally die, and I mean die off the end of the bats and those groundballs were absolutely perfect to the Infielders. You couldn't have asked for anything more from his 2 seamer.

He isn't the same pitcher as he was last september and something is wrong with him.

I really don't think confidence is the issue hear, considering he only has 1 pitch which he throws 90% of the time, its not like hes getting iffy with his pitch selection, something just isn't right with his mechanics.
Magpie - Friday, June 03 2005 @ 04:46 PM EDT (#118567) #
His stuff is good enough where a catcher should be able to put the glove near the middle of the plate and let the pitch do the work

Funny you should mention that - the one time this year I was paying attention to where the catcher was setting up, that's exactly what Zaun did with League on the mound. After spending five innings moving on every pitch for Dave Bush.

I think you're absolutely right with just about everything you've said about League, and I second the notion that he's only 22, and you should expect there to be bumps along the way. It's way way way too early to give up on an arm like that. It's too early to even get discouraged...

Wildrose - Friday, June 03 2005 @ 09:13 PM EDT (#118584) #
Managed to see League a few weeks ago pitch for Syracuse. The bad news was that his fastball was elevated, poorly controlled and hit all over the place. The good news was that his secondary stuff was actually quite solid. His slider was hard (88-90) with an unhittable break. He also thew an 82 mile hour change-up that he never seemed to have confidence in at the MLB level, which was an out pitch for him in this game. The announcers mentioned he has really trying to rework his arm angle to be lower.

He'll get his mechanics straightened around on the fastball then look out.
jgadfly - Sunday, June 05 2005 @ 12:20 PM EDT (#118680) #
2 observations from afar...the Skychief pitching has been better than average especially when you take into consideration who they have been throwing much for the Bull Durham prototype (young inexperienced strong arms throwing to experienced crafty veterans)...granted there was alot of unfortunate luck hitting the BJ organization catching ranks at one time but to be caught without an experienced AAA catcher under contract is hard to believe in an organization that is so numbers oriented...
the Skychief hitting has been as bad as the weather...I recall my surprise upon reading an online Syracuse newspaper article (late April or early May) which appeared to outline a differing approach to the organizational philosophy of "working the pitcher" and to one of advocating 1st pitch swinging...thus the declining BB and OBP rates...obviously this "rogue" approach is not working and the BJ organization seems to have Batting Coach problems at more than one level...just MHO...4WIW
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