Wild About Things

Random notes, thoughts

Cleaning out the notebook and the mind:

* How many wins will it take to make the playoffs? Do the Wild Things have any chance of making the postseason?

Back when the Frontier League played a 96-game schedule and had only four teams make the postseason, the magic number to shoot for was 56 wins. If you win 56 games, then you felt good about your chances of making the playoffs. Anything less than 56 and you were hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

These days, the league has four wild cards (regardless of division) and the two division winners qualifying for the playoffs. That means it will take fewer than 56 wins, but what is the magic number? I did some ciphering, as Jethro Bodine of Beverley Hillbillies fame would say.

The last three years, as it is this season, the FL was been a 14-team league. The team with the sixth-best record in those seasons produced an average of 52.3 wins. During that time, there was a travel team in both 2014 and 2013. That travel team won 29 and 33 games respectively. In 2012, there was the London Rippers, who morphed into a travel team called the Road Warriors for the final month or so of the season. That London/Road Warriors group won 34 games.

Why do I bring up the travel teams? Because they have typically been the league's bottom feeder and boosted the wins total of the other 13 teams. This season, the Greys are much more competitive, having already won 30 games. That means the number of wins the sixth-place team will finish with will likely be less than 52.3, but not by much.

If you're wondering, the sixth-place teams from 2004 (when the league went to a 96-game schedule) through 2011 -- in each of those seasons the league had 12 teams except for 2006, which had 10 -- averaged 49.9 wins. However, more teams means more wins for teams in the top half of the league. Thus, the better playoff number to work with is the 52.3, minus the improved-Greys factor.

So, I'm expecting 51 to be the magic number. If a team can get to 51 wins, then it should have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs.

What does this mean for the Wild Things? With 30 games remaining, Washington must go 22-8 to get to a 51-45 record. In other words, if the Wild Things win every series the rest of the season, taking 2 out of 3 in each, it leaves them with 50 wins. That might get them in the playoffs but they more than likely would have to sweep several series to get there.

It's not impossible for Washington to make the playoffs, especially if there is a gaggle of teams in contention for that final wild-card spot, which would lower the required wins from the magic 51, but it's going to take some vastly improved play from the Wild Things. Washington's longest winning streak all season is five games. It's going to take a couple more of those to get in playoff contention.

* The Wild Things released first baseman Lee Orr on Monday. One of the players with Class AA experience that Washington signed in the offseason, Orr battled a cranky back for much of the season. He was batting only .173 in 41 games.

* Scanning the league statistics this morning, one category that caught my eye was catcher's caught stealing. Washington is dead last in that area, having thrown out only 14.5 percent of opposing basestealers. I would have thought that number would be much better. John Fidanza has a very strong throwing arm and a quick release. Maxx Garrett threw out 23 percent last year and 25 percent in 2013.

But there is more to catcher's caught stealing percentages than just numbers. It's sometimes a skewed statistic. I brought this up to John Massarelli years ago and his reaction was ... basically he thought I was crazy.

Here's my point: Only the best basestealers run against catchers with the best arms. You never saw Willie Stargell trying to steal a base against Johnny Bench, right (I'm showing my age with that reference)? No, you didn't. It was only guys like Omar Moreno, Lou Brock and Dave Lopes who tried to run on Johnny Bench. In other words, catchers with strong arms rarely get to throw out basestealers with average speed, thus their catcher's caught stealing percentage is lower than it should be because only elite basestealaers run against them.

The best statistics to measure a catcher's throwing arm might simply be the number of stolen base attempts against and the number of steals allowed. Doing that, we find that only Traverse City has had fewer runners try to steal against its catchers and has given up fewer stolen bases than Washington. Opponents have attempted more than twice as many stolen bases against the Greys than Washington, while Lake Erie and Southern Illinois are approaching the double number compared to the Wild Things.

* Pitching took the day off Sunday in the Normal-Rockford game, which was won by the CornBelters 24-10. Apparently, both teams have good placekickers.

Normal hit eight home runs. CornBelters shortstop Pat McKenna tied league records by hitting three home runs and driving in nine runs. Aaron Dudley also tied a league record by scoring six runs.

To borrow a phrase from Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, the Rockford pitching staff will have to take a shower and wash that one off.

* It amazes me that the Wild Things have more trouble finding a first baseman who can hit than they do finding players at every other position. First base should be one of the easiest positions to find a decent hitter because almost ever college team has a first baseman who can really hit.

Last year, William Beckwith played more games than any Washington player at first base and he batted only .223 and struck out 50 times in 206 at-bats. In 2013, Mark Samuelson was the first baseman and his season was somewhat respectable at .247 with 12 home runs, but that's still under the line for what you'd expect from a power position.

In 2012, Michael Bando started more games at first base than the 11 others who played the position that year. Bando batted .172 with one home run. Late in the season, he was starting only in road games. In 2011, Ernie Banks was supposed to be the answer at first base but he delivered only a .245 average. Banks did hit nine home runs.

In 2010, first base was split between Adam Amar (first half of the season) and Eric Stephens (second half). Amar hit .233 with two home runs. Stephens did a little better at .241 with six homers but he struck out 60 times in 187 at-bats.

You have to go back to 2009, when Banks played 71 games, to find a first baseman who was an impact hitter. Banks hit 24 home runs, drove in 75 and batted. 353 before being traded to River City.Read full post: Random notes, thoughts

Remember these guys?

Saw an interesting transaction today in the American Association. The Kansas City T-Bones, who are managed by former Wild Things manager John Massarelli, signed former Washington first baseman Ernie Banks.Read full post: Remember these guys?


What do you think?