October 2005

Shortstops can hit

Back after a day away atoning for my sins. Amazing what a 24-hour fast does for one’s perspective.

But I digress. Good to see our now regular ATM Blog subject B-Wood back on the homer list. He’s now just three off the AFL record. But I wanted to look a little more closely at another shortstop tearing it up in the desert: Stephen Drew. The guy had just 250 professional at-bats under his belt entiring the Fall League season, but he’s hitting like he’s been around for a couple of years (Yes, you can make a very good argument that his lack of experience is his own — or his representation’s — fault, but that’s an issue for another day.).

Drew, whose Phoenix Desert Dogs are now 6-2 just like Wood’s Surprise Scorpions, has been out of his head at the plate. After three doubles on Thursday, he’s got 30 total bases in six games for a 1.154 slugging percentage (second to Wood). His .600 OBP leads the league, which makes sense since he also is atop the leaderboard with a .538 batting average (14-for-26). For those of you not good at math, that gives him a 1.754 OPS, which is illegal in 12 states.

He’s second in runs scored, third in hits and he saved two kittens from a tree in the third inning of Thursday’s game (OK, I made that last part up). But you get the point. It’s beginning to look like the long, painful negotiations to get Drew signed may pay off — and pretty soon — for the Diamondbacks.

Drew and Wood aren’t the only shortstops hitting well in the AFL thus far, though they are clearly head and shoulders above the rest. But here are a few others — more speed and average guys than power — who are showing that short is not just for glove men anymore:

Robert Andino (Marlins), Rafters: .333
Donnie Kelly (Tigers), Solar Sox: .304
Robert Valido (White Sox), Saguaros: .303

OK, onto the update of the league-wide numbers. I’m sure you were going through withrdawl on Thursday.

All-time batting average record: .292 (2004)
2005 average: .316

All-time worst ERA: 5.32 (2004)
2005 ERA: 6.35

They can pitch there too

With all this talk of offense, it might seem like no one can get anyone out in the first week and change of AFL games. While the overall league is still tilted heavily in the hitter’s advantage (see update on league average and ERA at the end of this post), there certainly are some terrific pitching prospects in Arizona and a few have even found a way to retire a few hitters.

You have to tip your cap to the Twins’ Glen Perkins. The lefty not only went four scoreless and struck out six on Tuesday, yielding just two hits, he did it against the juggernaut Scorpions (who, it was pointed out to me, are now in Surprise, not Scottsdale as I blogged yesterday). Grand Canyon went on to win that game 8-2 thanks to two homers from Eric Duncan, who’s now hitting .522 with five homers. And our friend B-Wood was at it again, with homer No. 8, which would’ve tied him for the league title a year ago.

Oops, how’d I get back on offense again? My bad. While Perkins earned AFL Star of the Day honors for his efforts, a big honorable mention should go to Giants southpaw Brian Burres (Tuesday is evidently lefty day in the AFL). Burres went five scoreless, allowing three hits and whiffing eight as his Solar Sox beat the Javelinas, 9-2. Phillies hurler Scott Mathieson also deserves some kudos. He’s taken the hill twice and has struck out 13 in 7 1/3 IP. Jered Weaver has 10 K’s against no walks in 5 IP, though he did get hit a little on Tuesday, while a few relievers (at least they are in the AFL so far) like Jeremy Hill and Wes Littleton are off to good starts. Their performances deserve extra attention as a contrast to the hitting landscape that has been painted so far.

Here’s where the league totals are through Tuesday’s games:

All-time batting average record: .292 (2004)
2005 average: .312

All-time worst ERA: 5.32 (2004)
2005 ERA: 6.76 (coming down slowly?)

How much Wood would a Brandon Wood

Man, oh man. Maybe the Angels should try to find a way to bring Brandon Wood up to the big leagues for the ALCS. Four homers on Monday. Are you kidding me? WoodThat gives him seven in five games, along with 15 RBIs. He’s done all of this — including a 1.348 slugging percentage — in just 23 at-bats. The AFL record for homers in a season is 12, set by Tagg Bozied in 2002. Think that’s safe? Wood is just one homer away from tying the mark that led  the AFL last year and he’s almost half-way to the 2004 RBI total.

Meanwhile, his Scottsdale Scorpions continue to look unbeatable. Another 20 runs gives them a 66-15 run differential in their 5-0 start. That looks more like one of those college football scores when Florida State plays St. Mary’s School of the Blind to pad their schedule, doesn’t it? Thirteen total AFL players are over .400 — seven of them are Scorpions. That doesn’t include Michael Bourn, who was hitting ninth in that lineup on Monday, but is hitting .385. They’re hitting .400 and slugging .685 as a club while also leading the league in ERA at 2.00.

As promised, an update on the overall totals of the league:

All-time batting average record: .292 (2004)
2005 average: .312

All-time worst ERA: 5.32 (2004)
2005 ERA: 6.91

ATM goes AFL

Hey everyone. We’re back. And from now until just before Thanksgiving, this blog is going to be all-AFL, all the time. So be sure to check us out again as we go behind the scenes and give cutting edge analysis — well, analysis — on what’s going on in the elite Fall League.

And so far, what’s going on is offense…Take a look at the league leaders. Fourteen players are hitting over .400 or higher so far. Six players have more than one homer. Ten players have slugging percentages .800 or better. I know, it’s only four games in, but jeez. Suffice it to say the league batting average of .292, set last year, is in serious jeopardy.  So far, AFL hitters are off to a .311 start.

The flip side, of course, is the league ERA. Last year’s 5.32 mark is the worst in the league 13-year history. So far in 2005: 7.12. We’ll continue to track both numbers as the sample size gets bigger.

TAflhe other number that looks to get bigger is the win total for the Scottsdale Scorpions. I know it’s early, but it’s hard to see any AFL team matching the Scorpions’ talent.

More as the league unfolds…

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