Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Orange County Flyers - series preview

When previewing the series against Maui, there were a host of unanswered questions: How will the franchise look out of the gate, who are the players to watch, do they have any hitting or pitching… With the exception of only a couple players, the team was very much a mystery. The result against Maui turned out to be as predicted - Victoria took 3 of 5, but the main take-away from the Maui series was that the Warriors were much better than expected. Without some late-inning Seals heroics, Maui could have easily taken 4 of 5 from Victoria.

Next up for the Seals at RAP this season are the Orange County Flyers. This team presents the exact opposite situation - we do know these guys, we know what they can do, and if the first week of the season is any indication, the Flyers might just be THE early season force to be reckoned with.

All the Flyers did last week was completely destroy the St. George Roadrunners opening home stand by outscoring them 49 – 30 and taking all four games. The Flyers have yet to be held to single digits this season, scoring 15, 12, 12, and 10 runs a game. Roadrunner pitching took the full brunt of that storm, with their starters combining for an ERA over 11 for the weekend.

So now the good news… Of the 49 runs against, only 37 of them were earned, pointing to some porous St. George defence. In fact the Flyers collected (only) 57 hits the entire series – that’s just 4 more than the Seals gave up in 5 games against Maui. The difference was clearly in team defense, which saw the Roadrunners give away 12 runs by committing 11 errors. By comparison, the Seals gave up only 31 runs, 27 of them earned on 6 errors.

Run scoring proved to be an issue for Victoria against Maui. Not hitting - the starters hit a respectable .270 - but they could only push across 22 runs in five games. Production like that would usually buy you a losing record in the GBL, but stingy team defence and reasonable pitching prevailed to keep them above ground.

Keys to the series

These seem pretty obvious against OC. Keep the defence solid and don’t give away outs. Pitching is always a key in the GBL, but getting timely hitting to drive runs across will go a long way to ensuring the starting pitchers have chances to win games. I would still expect OC to score 5-8 runs a game, making the late-inning rally less effective if you’re already down by a handful.

Players to watch

It will be a Mariners Alumni reunion of sorts when the Flyers get to town, as OC is managed this season by 11-year MLB veteran Paul Abbott. Abbott and Boone played together in Seattle in 2001, 2002, and 2005. Abbott was with OC’s last year, serving as the team’s pitching coach.

Ten players return to the Flyers from last year, most notably seven key components of last year’s dominant pitching staff. Starters Matt Durkin and Jesse Smith have returned – they finished 1-2 in wins in 2009, and Durkin was the GBL pitcher of the year.

In the bullpen, OC has added former MLB All-Star and World Series champion Byung-Hyun Kim. BK has been providing middle-relief to this point, but given the blow-out scores of previous games, hasn’t been called on to close yet – and he will.

At the plate, the Flyers added more talent in the off season by grabbing ex-Seal Sergio Pedroza from Calgary. Pedroza if you remember was the MVP of the GBL Championship series last year for the Vipers. Sergio has been limited to pinch-hit duty so far this season and has not been a factor. Another new addition is ex-MLB infielder Keith Ginter, who is making a significant impact early for OC, batting .438 over the first 4 games. Outfielder Ben Johnson, who joined the Flyers late last season is leading the team in home runs and RBI. Ginter, Johnson, Steve Boggs, and Jimmy Rohan are all batting over .400 after their first series.

Of the Flyers “starting eight”, six are hitting .333 or better…

The Flyers ex-MLB talent pool: Keith Ginter, BK, and Ben Johnson


On the surface (or by the box scores), it looks like a Flyers sweep might be in the cards - the Seals will be in tough against some solid starting and closing pitching, and the late-inning surges the Seals have banked on to date are less likely against OC.

Digging a bit deeper however, adjusting for the howling Caledonia Express winds, and counting on the Seals to play a more solid defensive game than OC has seen so far this season, I’m predicting a 2-2 split.

One thing is for certain, this will be an excellent early season test for Boone’s boys, and the fans in Victoria should see some excellent baseball this series.

The Seals host Orange County Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:00, and Sunday at 1:30. See you at the park!