Syracuse May Review

Friday, June 03 2005 @ 12:03 PM EDT

Contributed by: Gerry

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:

Hitters performing below Expectations

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.