Tuesday, September 18, 2007

We Are the Champions: San Jose Giants and Salem-Keizer Volcanoes

Sorry, been busy with outplacement and "selling myself", so I didn't follow the SJ Giants story along the way, but all's well that ends well: they won the California League championship. Lenn Sakata did it again! It is his second championship in three seasons, having won in 2005.

They were actually only one game away from elimination after losing the first two games on the road, but then came home and swept to win the championship. Giants minor league sensation Henry Sosa combined with three relievers (including normal starter Adam Cowart - didn't matter, after all, it was the last game of the season, throw all your best pitcher out there) to shut down Lake Elsinore and kept them to only two hits with one run scored, recording 11 strikeouts. Which is fitting since the Giants led the league in ERA.

The Giant had the long ball to thank. 3B Mark Minicozzi hit a 2nd inning homer to tie the game at 1-1 and held a slim 2-1 lead before closing it down with the long-ball. Brian Bocock hit a three-run homer in the 4th (all the more amazing since he was 1 for 19 coming into the game) and Travis Ishikawa, who has been rejuvenated with San Jose, hit a two-run homer in the 8th.

Mark Minicozzi was named the series MVP. He batted .526 with 10 hits in the series. He also had the aforementioned homer. It was a nice end to a season marred by injuries. He noted, "I don't know how to explain it, but I hit really well in pressure situations," he said. "I love being in big games with the crowds. I want to be the guy that helps the team win the game."

The pitchers, as noted, were formidable. Sosa started and went 4 innings, giving up the 2 hits and 1 BB, and the only run, while striking out 3. Cowart came in and gave up nothing in 3 innings, striking out 4, and getting credit for the win. Then the usual end of game guys - Jason Waddell and Sergio Romo - came in for an inning apiece, both striking out 2 and giving up nothing. I got my news account from the MiLB.

Pablo!

I would also like to add a note about Pablo Sandoval. He was a hotshot prospect not a season ago but a very disappointing 2006 playing 3B dropped him off the radar. However, he returned to his previous position, catching, this year and he had a good season for San Jose.

The 21-year-old catcher hit .287/.312/.476/.788 during the season with 11 homers in 401 AB and 52 RBIs, then hit .267 during the playoffs and is tied for the team lead with seven postseason RBIs. Despite his poor ability to take a walk, as evidenced by his low OBP despite a high batting average, he had good bat discipline, striking out only 13% of the time, leading to a 87% contact rate, which is what you want to see from a hitter, a mark over 85%. And he had a good contact rate of 83% in 2006, so that was a sign that perhaps his poor performance was just a bad luck year for him.

Unfortunately, he should end up at Connecticut for the 2008 season and, as I've documented with stats previously, anyone who relies on power as large part of their offensive production will be frustrated by playing at Dodd Stadium until that field is fixed. Hopefully they will fix it this off-season, but I'm not holding my breath, the GM there actually thinks that the players should just chug out doubles when the ball is hit in the gap, which is fine if you are a punch and judy hitter with no power, but if you are not much of a runner, that's like telling the tortoise it's his fault for not running out that hit.

Volcanoes Erupt

The Giants seven minor league affiliates had a combined .575 winning percentage in 2007, going 441-326, and the Salem-Volcanoes contributed mightily to that by going 57-19, which not only was the league-best, but by pummelling their division so soundly, they were the only .500 team in the division. The ended up finishing 19.5 games ahead of second place Vancouver in the West Division. And their .750 winning percentage led the minor leagues. Plus they clinched with 16 games left to play, in a 86 game season. That's like clinching in the majors with 30 games left to play, or sometime late in August.

There was a lot of notable performances this season. Starters Thomas Brewer (round 35, 2007 draft) and Andrew de la Garza shared the league lead in wins with nine apiece. And Brewer had the third best ERA at 3.05. Daniel Otero (round 21, 2007 draft) lead the league with 19 saves. Matthew Downs (round 36, 2006 draft) hit .367, good for 2nd in the league, and led the league with 68 runs scored in 73 games. Garrett Baker led the league with 64 RBI. And Downs and Baker finished 1-2 in extra-base hits. Both of them were named to the NWL All-Star team and Downs was named co-MVP for his good performance.

With that as prologue, the Volcanoes won the Northwest Championship again, for the second time in a row behind manager (and long-time Giants fan favorite) Steve Decker, and for the fourth time in ten years. Which is all the more amazing because only one of the regulars were drafted in the first ten round (catcher Jackson Williams). Like the San Jose Giants, they also lost their first game but then won the next three and the championship.

4 comments:

  1. I've been in San Jose for three game fives in the last three years. Two championships after a 0-2 deficit, amazing.

    These kids had heart. They didn't have the dominant bats that we had in 2005. But they had strong pitching and a desire to win at home. It showed.

    Congrats to the team and good luck as you move up. We will see more than a few of them in SF.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Tom for your first hand observations, much appreciated.

    When I went to a San Jose Giants game a couple of years ago, it was Travis Ishikawa who stood out for me, because of a huge homer he bombed over the right field screen, quite a prodigious blast. Which players stood out for you? Who impressed you the most? Any memories you can share from this season? Thanks either way.

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  3. Martin, I saw 2 SJ games when they came down to play Rancho and San Bernardino. I was impressed w/ Kylie Haynes (sp?), who really hustled and was into the game. I was also impressed with Witter, who bats LH, runs real well, and has some power; I have no opinion of his defense. I, personally, and it was only 2 games, was disappointed in A Richardson. Not only is he small, but he didn't do much but strike out in the games I saw. SAndoval was productive each game, but I had a hard time getting over my prejudice based on his body type.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks allfrank! I think it's Kyle Haines; I'll put him on my radar. What position does he play?

    Yeah, Witter seems like a nice bat, great power, for two seasons now, and at catcher. Seems like at worse he could be an option at 1B down the line if the defense doesn't hold up (plus I assume they are hoping that Jackson Williams is their long term solution at C).

    That's too bad about Antoan. Hopefully it's just small sample effect and you just caught him at a bad time, even Bonds have his off days. Small is OK if his main asset is getting on base and stealing 2nd.

    Yeah, Sandoval is a chunky boy, isn't he? That's probably why he moved back from 3B to C, but at least his hitting returned. Can you think of any major leaguers he reminds you of?

    ReplyDelete

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