Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Italian pro team in 7th place despite Terrence McClain's hitting

As we reported three months ago, former Victoria Seal Terrence "T-Mac" McClain is playing baseball in Italy this summer. Although McClain is leading the North East Knights in just about every offensive category, his team has staggered out of the gate and posted a dismal 4-11 record.
In T-Mac's 48 at-bats, he has racked up a .313 batting average with one homer and five RBIs. Surprisingly, his early-season statistics are lagging the numbers that he posted with Victoria in the GBL last year. In 2010, McClain's OPS was a stellar .915 mark, but up to this point his OPS is a lukewarm .751. Clearly, the caliber of play in the Italian First Division is pretty darn good. It will be interesting to see how T-Mac fares over the rest of the season. It must be a difficult adjustment on a number of levels. For instance, I would expect it to be difficult to only play three games per week, since North American ballplayers are used to playing 6 or 7 per week.

It must also be a challenge to play in front of so few fans. According to the Italian Baseball League website, the North East Knights are only averaging 103 fans per game for their home games. Initially, I thought it might be related to the team's poor showing (7th place in an 8-team league), but the first place Bologna squad only averages 245 fans per game.

One cultural difference between Italian and North American baseball seems to be the prevalency of stolen bases. Based on the statistics that I have seen, Italian managers are hesitant to send runners. For instance, T-Mac has one stolen base (in only one attempt) in his 14 games with the Knights after racking up 19 steals in 85 games with Victoria last season. The entire North East Knights squad has only stolen 5 bases in 10 attempts in their 15 games. Their opponents have only swiped 11 bases in 22 attempts -- also for a dismal 50% success rate. By comparison, the Victoria Seals stole 145 bases in 88 games last year. Either the runners are slow in the Italian Baseball League or the catchers have rocket launchers for arms.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • In a news story that will not make Victoria baseball fans happy, it was recently announced that Fort McMurray is in the Request for Proposals stage to build a new 3,500 seat ballpark. The city is hoping to land a North American Baseball League or Western Major Baseball League team for the 2013 season. It's sad that a Canadian city with less than 80,000 people is about to build a new ballpark, yet the citizens of Victoria are stuck with a decrepit Royal Athletic Park.