Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chico Outlaws - series preview 2.0

You probably remember the last time the Outlaws came to town - it was all about Eri Yoshida and her first Canadian start, and the series itself took a back seat. Chico took two of three, including a wild 19-16 opening game, and a shutdown 8-5 win in game three. The Seals only victory was the Eri game, a 12-6 romp thanks in part to Charlie Strandlund's grand slam off the princess.
Fondly remembering the Strandlund Grand Slam off Eri Yoshida

This time there will be no Eri on the mound, it's just two teams struggling to keep pace in a tough race for the Northern division second-half title. Coming into this series, Chico trails Victoria by a half-game, the Seals trail red-hot Calgary by a full four games. Neither team can afford losses at this point in the season, and no doubt manager Kip Gross has made that point clear. Lose these games, and we're likely out of the hunt.

The Outlaws have proven to be a very streaky team this year. After they left Victoria at the end of July, they went into Calgary and swept them - Calgary's first visiting team sweep in franchise history. They then returned to Chico off that high and were promptly swept at home by the same Calgary squad. This week, they were in Edmonton where they won the first 3 games before Edmonton finally bested them in game 4 last night.

Lets hope the team biorhythm stays on a low this series, and the Seals can make some distance on them in the standings.

Tale of the Tape

Victoria 14-12 (2nd place), .281 team BA (8th), 4.82 team ERA (6th)
Chico 12-11 (3rd place), .315 team BA (1st), 3.83 team ERA (2nd)

Shown the numbers (Chico leads the North division in both hitting and ERA), you would assume they would have a better record than they do. The issue however, has been inconsistent pitching. The second half has seen some lapses in quality pitching, giving up more than ten runs six times. Their ERA doesn't suffer because they turn around the next game and shut down a team.

The Seals are 3-3 against the Outlaws this year.

Who's Hot - Chico

Chico picked up a cleanup hitter in the Yuma yard sale a couple weeks ago in first baseman Mark Samuelson. He's been on fire as an Outlaw, hitting .442 with 17 RBI in his first 13 games with the team. Another relative newcomer to the Outlaws is shortstop Anthony Manuel (who's Dad is NY Mets manager Jerry Manuel). Anthony has had a good roadtrip, going 8-18 in Alberta. Outfielder JJ Sherrill lead the team in HRs, but has only hit 2 in his last 15 games. He is still third in the GBL, tied with T-Mac and Arhart with 14.

Chico is home to three of the top pitchers in the GBL right now. Demetrius Banks, Garret Holleran, and Kris Honel are in the top 6 in all pitching categories. Banks went last night in Edmonton, but we will likely see Holleran and Honel this weekend, along with ex-Astro Mark McLemore and probably the newly acquired (and ex St. George) Reed Dickert.

Who's Hot - Seals

Lets hope everyone. The team has had a real lack-luster feel to them these past couple of weeks that started around the time Strandlund was inactivated, Jerry Madueno was installed at second, and Dale Swinford was benched. Rumors abound of clubhouse unhappiness, questioning of on-field moves, players not buying in. Even watching the team take the field these days it's easy to see this is not the same Seals team that came together back in early June to turn the first half around. Hopefully the distraction of Wilver's stolen base record is behind the team and the task at hand of putting some wins together to make the playoffs becomes the focus.

Has the releases of Swinford and Van Rossum, the addition of Henry Calderon, and the reactivation of Strandlund done anything for team chemistry? That will be seen this weekend.

And how about pinch-hitter extraordinaire Isaac Hess. Finally a bat off the bench for the late innings! Tim Rodriguez looks like he's hit his stride as a Seal as well, going 6 for 18 this past week with 4 home runs. The Seals really need the return of Josh Arhart though, and he's going to miss at least a couple games is my guess...

Series Prediction

Tough one. Typically when the best pitching team take on a team with the lowest hitting numbers it's not a good sign for the latter. Given that the Seals will see possibly three top pitchers this weekend, I think expecting more than a split would be optimistic. I'm going to call a 2-2 split (sorry Tyler).

As important as this series is, is how the new Roadrunner team fares in Calgary this weekend. A split will leave the Seals and Outlaws exactly where they are in the standings, but St. George needs to help out by giving the Vipers a hard time. If Calgary sweeps the four game series, it won't matter much what happens here in Victoria.