Syracuse: May Review

Thursday, June 08 2006 @ 11:54 AM EDT

Contributed by: Gerry

The first half of May was good for the Chiefs, 8 wins and 4 losses, but then they hit the skids faster than the KC Royals and they went 4-13 the rest of the month.  For the full month the record was 12-17 and after two months their record is 22-30. 


The Chiefs were firing on few cylinders in May, the hitting was below average and the Chiefs were tenth in the league in hitting.  The pitching went from best in the league at the end of April to ninth in the league by the end of May and, through May, the Chiefs have allowed 47 unearned runs, the highest in IL.

The Hitters

Do you know which hitter had the best OPS for Syracuse in May?  It was Russ Adams but that was in limited at-bats, the highest among regulars, by far, was Kevin Barker at 1056.  The next best was Wayne Lydon at 785.  When your second best hitter has an OPS of 785 you know your team is not hitting well.

Jason Phillips came to the Chiefs as an experienced major league hitter so it must be considered a disappointment when Philips hit .266 in May.  Philips walks a little, 8 in May, giving him an OBP of .327, and 2 home runs leading to SLG of .383.  Those numbers don't have major league teams lining up to pick him up and those who are advocating calling him up to the Jays should think twice.

Kevin Barker was the best hitter for the Chiefs in the month and the big question for him is will someone give him another shot at the major leagues.  Barker was the Chiefs best hitter last season and hit .330 in May with a .437 OBP and a .619 SLG.

Ryan Roberts hit much better in May, hitting .274 compared to .215.  As a reward Russ Adams bumped him off second when he was sent down.  Roberts still strikes out a lot, 21 times in the month in 84 AB's, and his power has not shown yet this season, just two home runs.  Roberts has a shot at a utility role in the majors but might take another year to get there.

Sergio Santos' bat warmed up in May.  Santos told me in April he had never played in cold weather and his hitting has improved with the weather.  Santos average jumped to .268 in May from .212 in April.  Santos also had 10 doubles in the month for a .423 SLG.  Santos K rate is OK, 16 in May in 97 AB's but he doesn't walk, just 1 in May, the same number as April.  Santos is still 22 and his May is very promising after struggling at the plate last season for Arizona.  Even though the Jays have had shortstop issues Santos probably needs a full season in Syracuse to re-establish his credentials.  Last season he was described as being lost at the plate by BA.  He has obviously made corrections but his eye now needs to improve too.

John Hattig had 58 at-bats in May, he registered 14 hits and 21 K's.  Hattig is not hitting enough to get to Toronto.  In addition Hattig has only two home runs this season, both in May.  Hattig's SLG in May was .397, not enough for a below average fielder.

Rob Cosby hasn't shown major league numbers yet either, he hit .239 in May after hitting .270 in April.  Cosby hit 3 home runs in May but an OPS of .632 in the month doesn't excite anyone.

Wayne Lydon had a good May after a poor April.  Lydon hit .308 in May with a .785 OPS.  Lydon does hit the ball on the ground, 29 groundballs in May, compared to 34 hits of all other kinds, and he can use his speed to get on.

John Ford Griffin hit .221 in May after hitting .218 in April.  Griffin is now out of the lineup with an injury, it is not known if the injury impacted his hitting this season.

Chad Mottola is the experienced hand but he usually doesn't warm up until the weather does.  Mottola hit .252 in May with a .737 OPS.  Look for better output in June.

The Pitchers

The pitching was poor in May, 1.49 WHIP and a .282 batting average allowed.  McGowan, Banks and Purcey struggled some in May and the Chiefs two best April pitchers, Casey Janssen and Ty Taubenheim were in Toronto.

Dustin McGowan made four starts in May, and has made five in total since being sent down and returning to the rotation.  Of those five only one was very good.  McGowan's first start was curtailed by rain, he only pitched 1.1 innings.  In Dustin's second start he went two innings plus, threw 59 pitches, only 46% for strikes, and put 6 runners on base.  In his third start he built up to 4.2 innings but still allowed nine base runners.  His fourth start was excellent, six shutout innings one hit, three walks, but his first start of June was again poor.  I think McGowan needs to be left in Syracuse for the season to settle down and just pitch on a regular schedule and get back into the rhythm of starting.  McGowan's biggest issue is control, in his five starts only once has he thrown 60% of his pitches for strikes.

Josh Banks had a good start to the season, through his first 7 starts he had an ERA of 2.63.  In his last five starts he has an ERA of 10.73, so what happened?  One thing that happened is his home run rate jumped from 1.5 per 9IP to 3.3.  In addition hitters hit .301 off Banks in May versus .234 in April.  Banks did allow a lot more ground balls in May so he could be unlucky but Banks doesn't have the "put them away" pitch.  His pitches are average, but none appear to be way above average.

David Purcey was almost unhittable in April, batters hit .121 off him.  But that jumped to .299 in May and when you add in his penchant for walking hitters, 15 in 21 May innings, too many men are getting on base.  Purcey's May ERA was 6.43 and working on his control is his biggest challenge.

Ty Taubenheim made just three May starts, a couple shortened due to his "standby" status.  In those three starts he only allowed one run in 9.1 innings.

Shaun Marcum made a couple of May starts, spent time with the Blue Jays, but mostly pitched out of the bullpen.  Marcum this year has not been at his sharpest, although the promotions and demotions might have something to do with that.  Marcum has struck out more than a hitter per inning but his WHIP is 1.35, and that is mostly hits.  Again, Marcum probably needs regular work to get into a groove.

Jamie Vermilyea made 5 May starts and sported a very good ERA of 2.82.  Vermilyea is in the Josh Towers mode of pitchers, sinkers, sliders, lots of hits and lots of runners left on base.  In 22 May innings Vermilyea allowed 29 hits and 4 walks, but lots of double plays and ground balls keep the runs down.  As a sinker/slider pitcher Vermilyea has been helped by not allowing a home run in AAA this season.  Vermilyea has also been helped by hitters hitting .269 with runners on versus .397 with no-one on.  Lefties are also hitting well off him.

The bullpen was hurt by some injuries, Adrian Burnside and Lee Gronkiewicz both are on the DL.  Vinny Chulk pitched very well in May, batters hit .175 off him.  Brandon League gave up 26 hits in 19 innings, although his stats look worse thanks to 7 hits allowed in .2 innings on May 30th.  League had 15 K's in those 19 innings and an increasing number of K's will be the best sign that League is ready for a promotion.  League, like Vermilyea, allows a lot of ground balls and few home runs.

Ryan Houston deserves a shout out for allowing only 17 hits in 20.1 innings with 20 K's.  Houston's Achilles heel is the 15 walks he allowed.  Like Purcey, if the gets the walks under control he should get a shot in the big leagues.