Friday, August 14, 2009
Observations of questionable import: the Cape Cod League Championship SeriesPosted by Carson Cistulli
Recently, in these electronic pages, Mr. Adam Guttridge wrote an interesting article about a Florida State League game he’d attended with Kiley McDaniel of Baseball Prospectus. In said piece — itself a picture of journalistic elegance — Guttridge provides sabermetric- and scouting-type analysis of some prospects of interest to the THT reader — in this case, Minnesota farmhands Ben Revere, Chris Parmelee, and Joe Benson. In his evaluation, terms like “gait” and “loft” and “plate coverage” are used ably.
Where Guttridge offers readers technical know-how, the present author possesses only a vaguely 19th century prose style. That said, I have one thing going for me: I happened to be in attendance at the second and final game of the Cape Cod Baseball League Championship Series between the Braves of Bourne and Kettleers of Cotuit this past Wednesday night.
Bourne won the game 5-1 and many of the salient details are ably reported by Ms. Nicole Auerbach of the Cape Cod Times. Furthermore, the box score provides another important perspective.
Of course, those are merely the superficial “facts." Ms. Auerbach undoubtedly omits certain details of great import to the true Baseballing Enthusiast. So as a special service to the THT reader, I offer my attempt at some scout-type analysis.
First, to give you a sense of the deflated offensive environment that is the CCBL, consider the team slash stats of the two finalists. On the season, Bourne batted .239/.330/.348 and Cotuit posted a line of .239/.322/.332. While I’m no scientist (rocket or otherwise), I assume this has a lot to do with the substitution of wood for metal bats. In many cases, the CCBL represents the first time that many of the league's participants are using wood bats — or so I’m led to believe by the internet — and the numbers attest to that fact.
With all that as backdrop, Bourne masher (and some time first baseman) Kyle Roller’s line of .342/.449/.644 is all the more impressive. Roller, who batted .336/.445/.578 this year as a junior for East Carolina University, was also drafted by Oakland in the 47th round of the recent June draft. According to Baseball America’s Draft Database, Roller is unsigned as of now, which seems amazing considering that he was both the regular season and playoff MVP of the CCBL. As Greg Schimmel notes on his excellent Cape Cod League Blog, Roller lacks a position and scared many teams who thought he might be relegated to DH duties. Regardless, the dude can hit the ball hard and often, using a physical, if not entirely athletic, frame and a great whipping action with his bat to generate power.
Bourne center fielder, Coastal Carolina sophomore Scott Woodward demonstrated remarkable guile in his second at-bat, attempting to coax a hit-by-pitch call out of home plate umpire Brian Troupe on a pitch that may or may not have grazed his right shoulder. Though it didn’t impress the Cotuit fans (one of whom demonstrated his extensive knowledge of the game by shouting, “Whaddya wanna do, get on first base or hit?”), the instinct for getting on base is of some benefit to Woodward, who was 28-of-32 on stolen base attempts in Cape Cod League action. Woodward was one of the few players in the CCBL to post a BB:K rate near 1:1, walking 29 times against 30 strikeouts. Woodward batted .284/.445/.351 this past college season, which highlights both his main virtue (plate discipline) and flaw (lack of strength). Woodward netted only four extra base hits in 118 ABs for Cotuit and only six in 134 ABs with the aluminum bat this year at CCU.
Woodward’s Coastal Carolina teammate, Cotuit second baseman Rico Noel was impressive, going 3-for-3 with a double despite a rather pedestrian line of .233/.336/.302 coming into play. Noel also displayed fine defensive range while attempting to field a Roller single between first and second base and showed quick, competent hands in starting a 4-6-3 double play. Greg Schimmel noted earlier this summer on his blog that, despite his diminutive size (5’9”, 165), Noel has an exciting power/speed package. He put up a line of .315/.427/.500 at CCU in 63 games as a sophomore, going 48-for-51 on stolen base attempts.
Kettleer and University of Texas catcher Cameron Rupp had the most impressive contact of the night, sending the aforementioned Woodward (who showed good range on this and also another catch) back all the way to the wall in left-center for the put-out. Rupp led Texas in home runs (11) this past season in only his sophomore year, posting an overall line of .292/.387/.505. His CCBL line of .317/.406/.567 came in only 60 ABs but included four home runs and three doubles.
Cotuit’s Daniel Tillman, a relief pitcher from Florida Southern, flashed probably the best stuff of the night, striking out two of the three batters he faced and showing a pretty nasty slider. Tillman pitched 22 scoreless inning in the Cape this summer, striking out 31 while only walking seven. His college numbers this past spring weren’t quite as dominant (54.1 IP, 62 K, 21 BB) but still pretty good considering it was against aluminum.
Cotuit submariner, Virginia Tech’s Ben Rowen was an interesting case. He recorded two strikeouts in his two innings, both of them (i.e. the strikeouts) coming against Bourne lefties, whom one would assume might have an advantage against the righthander. Schimmel, again on his blog, says that, despite velocity that rarely gets above the mid-80s, Rowen produces a lot of movement on his pitches and fools hitters with his deceptive delivery. Whether such deception works on more advanced batters remains to be seen.
Carson Cistulli contributes to FanGraphs and RotoSynthesis and teaches writing in Portland, Ore. Feel free to email him.