Launching Off With The Aeros: 7/10/12 - 7/16/12
By Jim Piascik
July 17, 2012
The Akron Aeros came out of the All-Star break firing on all cylinders, winning four of their five games against the Altoona Curve and Harrisburg Senators and giving their fans plenty to cheer about. Akron won their games behind great pitching (limiting opponents to 11 runs) and just enough offense (Really? Only 16 runs?). The Aeros improved to 56-39 on the year, 0.5 games better than the Trenton Thunder for best record in the Eastern League, 7.0 games better than the Harrisburg Senators for the Western Division lead, and 7.5 games over the Richmond Flying Squirrels for the final playoff spot.
The Aeros will play two more games against Harrisburg Tuesday and Wednesday at home before headed out to Richmond for a four game set. After that, the Aeros will be back at Canal Park for a seven game homestand July 23 through July 29.
On Sunday, SP Giovanni Soto threw the first solo no-hitter in Canal Park’s history against the Altoona Curve. He allowed three walks and one unearned run thanks to the combination of a walk, an error, and a groundout, but his still struck out six and made history. Here’s what Soto had to say Monday about his feat through hitting coach Rouglas Odor, who translated for him:
On when he realized he had a no-hitter going: “In the 7th inning. There was a high chopper over the mound. He knocked the ball down and he got the runner out at first base and he said ‘You know what? I’ve got a chance.’”
On the importance of having veteran catcher Michel Hernandez behind the plate: “He gave him a lot of confidence and the main reason why he threw the no-hitter was because of him, because of the experience he has. There were times where he struggled with his command and he got him right back to the strike zone, so he was a huge help in the game.”
On what he did differently yesterday: “He was using his fastball more than he usually does and he was commanding his fastball pretty good, so that was the reason why he was using it more.”
On the atmosphere in the dugout: “It was different. Nobody said a word to him. Nobody came even close to him. He was concentrating, but he sensed nobody wanted to say anything to him.”
Soto has still had a good but not great season to date (3.73 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 1.26 WHIP, 7.73 SO/9, 3.46 BB/9) and may end up being a Rafael Perez-type reliever out of the bullpen, but days like today give us fans something better to hope for. Maybe relying on his fastball (which is a pretty good cutter) will make him a little more dominant. Maybe he can mix in his other offerings and be a starter long-term. And so on and so forth. The most important thing for Soto over the past week was etching his name in the record books and having an experience few get to have. Regardless of how his career unfolds from here, Soto will always have July 15, 2012.
Well, SP Steven Wright wasn’t able to extend his no-hit bid Friday night into the 7th inning, but he still had a very good game. Wright only allowed one hit and no runs, while striking out four batters. Sure, Wright’s five walks were pretty unsightly, but so it goes with knuckleball pitchers. The most important thing is Wright rebounded after allowing 15 earned runs in his last three starts and hopefully has righted the ship. The knuckleball is a difficult beast to tame, but it seems that Wright is getting more consistent with it day-in and day-out.
In this all-starting pitching edition of the In Orbit section, SP T.J. House is lagging behind Soto and Wright due to his lack of a legitimate no-hit bid (House gave up his first hit in the 2nd inning). Regardless, House turned in a strong effort, getting a no decision despite going 7.2 innings with eight strikeouts, three walks, seven hits, and only two earned runs. Like Wright, House has struggled lately (22 earned runs in his last 28.2 innings pitched), so it was good to see him have a strong outing Thursday night. House still has some potential in the Tribe’s organization and can go a long way toward helping his stock by pitching like this the rest of the way out.
(Honorable Mentions: Shawn Armstrong, Juan Diaz, Preston Guilmet, Thomas Neal, Rafael Perez, Bryan Price, Ryan Rohlinger)
(Previous Winners: Adam Abraham (5/1, 5/8, 6/26), Kyle Bellows (5/22, 5/29), Rob Bryson (6/19, 7/3), Chun Chen (5/15, 5/22, 6/26, 7/10), Jose De La Torre (6/19), Juan Diaz (7/10), Paolo Espino (5/29), Tim Fedroff (4/17, 5/29, 6/5), Jared Goedert (4/17, 4/24), Preston Guilmet (6/19), Kyle Landis (6/5, 6/19), Matt Lawson (7/10), T.J. McFarland (4/17, 5/15, 5/22), Thomas Neal (5/1, 5/15, 6/19, 6/26, 7/3), Roberto Perez (6/12), Bryan Price (6/19), Ryan Rohlinger (6/5), Giovanni Soto (5/1, 5/8), Bryce Stowell (4/24, 6/5, 6/19), Jeremie Tice (7/3), Loek van Mil (6/5, 6/19), Nick Weglarz (6/12, 6/19), Steven Wright (4/24, 5/8, 6/12))
You don’t want to overreact to one week’s worth of statistics, especially when the week only contains five games. You also don’t want to overreact to someone’s struggles as they are starting to work their way back from major knee surgery. That said, OF Jordan Henry had a really bad week, posting a .214/.267/.214 slash line and .201 wOBA. Even more troublesome, Henry struck out four times and only drew one walk in 17 plate appearances. As a slap-hitter who relies on limiting strikeouts and drawing walks, Henry can’t afford those kinds of problems if he wants to be effective. Henry has done a decent job with that in his season so far (10:12 SO:BB in 104 PA), but still needs to hit better if he wants to stick around (.225/.314/.247 slash line, .263 wOBA on the season).
Things simply cannot break right for SP Brett Brach of late. He added another bad “start” (he relieved Rafael Perez after he pitched the 1st inning on a rehab outing) to his list Saturday night, only making it through 3.2 innings, allowing five hits, four walks, and only striking out two. Brach managed to limit the damage, only allowing two runs, but that is not much to hang his hat on. Brach has really struggled in Akron this year (4.70 ERA, 5.00 FIP, 1.82 WHIP, 31:26 SO:BB in 59.1 innings) and would seem to be the guy sent down when the Indians decide that Matt Packer is ready to return to the Akron rotation.
Again, you don’t want to overreact to a short week, but things have been trending downward for 1B/DH Adam Abraham for a while now. This week was another example, as he struggled to a .176/.222/.176 slash line and .241 wOBA in 18 plate appearances. Abraham holds little worth when he doesn’t hit for extra bases and that was the case this week. He’s been dropped in the lineup (he typically hits sixth or seventh now when everybody is healthy), a byproduct of his .234/.289/.378 slash line, .311 wOBA, 20.2 K%, 6.2 BB% since May 15. Considering Abraham’s limiting prospect standing coming into the year and his struggles after the first month or so, it would seem that he could start losing playing time down the stretch if the Aeros find themselves in a roster crunch.
(Dishonorable Mentions: Tyler Holt, Roberto Perez, Davis Stoneburner, Nick Weglarz)
(Previous Losers: Adam Abraham (5/22, 5/29, 6/5, 6/12), Kyle Bellows (4/24, 5/1, 5/8, 6/5), Eric Berger (4/17), Brett Brach (5/15, 6/12, 6/26, 7/10), Rob Bryson (5/15, 5/22, 5/29), Ben Copeland (5/29, 6/19), Jose De La Torre (5/8, 5/15, 6/26), Juan Diaz (4/17, 5/1, 6/19, 7/3), Tim Fedroff (5/22), Preston Guilmet (5/22), Jordan Henry (6/26), T.J. House (6/19), Francisco Jimenez (6/26), Kyle Landis (5/22, 6/26), Toru Murata (5/15, 5/22, 5/29), Thomas Neal (6/12), Roberto Perez (4/17, 4/24), Bryan Price (5/8, 5/22), Mason Radeke (5/22), Ryan Rohlinger (4/24, 5/15), Giovanni Soto (5/15, 6/5, 6/26), Davis Stoneburner (7/3), Bryce Stowell (6/26), Tyler Sturdevant (6/26), Jeremie Tice (7/10), Nick Weglarz (5/1, 5/8), Steven Wright (5/15, 7/3, 7/10))
See full weekly and yearly Aeros stats here.
Only OF/DH Nick Weglarz could find a way to strike out 10 times in a short week. The high volume of strikeouts has been the big problem with Weglarz’s resurgence since he was DFAed on May 12. His .275/.380/.503 slash line, .386 wOBA, and .228 ISO show someone who is hitting well, but his 31.7 K% also points to someone who is still struggling with pitch recognition. It’s nice to have the big-time power back from Weglarz, but with him already at 97 strikeouts on the year, it’s hard to see him making it to the Majors when is being fooled (especially by pitches in the dirt) as frequently as he is.
The Aeros managed four wins in a short week and a lot of the credit for it lies with their great starting pitching. Yet, it would be a mistake to overlook the bullpen’s contribution. Counting RP Rafael Perez’s outing as “relief” and Brett Brach as the “starter,” the Aeros’ bullpen struck out 19 batters and only allowed 11 hits and six walks on their way to a 1.98 FIP and 1.10 ERA in 16.1 innings. These outings from RPs Shawn Armstrong, Rob Bryson, Jose De La Torre, Preston Guilmet, Kyle Landis, Bryan Price, Loek van Mil, and Perez have been par of the course for the Aeros throughout the season, as their version of the Bullpen Mafia has helped them win numerous games and often bailed out struggling starting pitchers. The bullpen depth we writers refer to all the time has without a doubt shone brightly in Akron this season.
INF Ryan Rohlinger wasted no time in making his presence felt after returning to Akron this past week, posting a .375/.545/.625 slash line, .587 wOBA, and 1.170 OPS in 11 plate appearances and taking over the 3B job from Davis Stoneburner while Kyle Bellows remains on the DL. Rohlinger isn’t much of a prospect, but his experience and age allows him to dominate the plate against AA pitchers (37:40 SO:BB) and be someone who will help the Aeros win ballgames. He may just be organizational depth, but Rohlinger is someone who the Aeros can run out every day that will help them as they try to win another Eastern League championship.
Odds & Ends
The enigma that is SS Juan Diaz continued this past week, with a towering home run Saturday night and back-to-back ground rule doubles Monday night, but a .286 OBP, .332 wOBA, and 7:0 SO:BB in 21 plate appearances for the week. He remains someone who can do anything on the field but can’t do it consistently.
OF Thomas Neal has had better week than the .125/.222/.375 slash line and .363 wOBA that he posted last week, but he can consider himself blessed. Neal launched his 7th home run of the year Friday night and avoided major injury Thursday night when he slammed his knee into the wall attempting a sliding catch. Neal was forced to DH a bit this week – presumably as he rested his knee – but he seems better now.
As the only starting pitcher who didn’t make huge waves with his outing, SP Paolo Espino gets his mention here. Espino labored through 5.1 innings Monday night, allowing nine hits, one walk, and three runs while striking out four. It wasn’t an outstanding outing, but he gave the Aeros a chance to win – and they did.
C Michel Hernandez only made it into one game over the past week, but he sure made it count. Hernandez was behind the plate for Giovanni Soto’s no-hitter and drove in one of the two runs the Aeros managed in the 2-1 victory.
It wasn’t a great week for OF Tyler Holt (.200/.273/.350 slash line, .275 wOBA), 2B Matt Lawson (.200/.333/.333 slash line, .359 wOBA), C Roberto Perez (.231/.267/.231 slash line, .228 wOBA), or INF Davis Stoneburner (.091/.091/.091 slash line, .082 wOBA), but it happens. The key – as always – is finding a way not to let your slump drag down the rest of your season.
OF Jeremie Tice joined RP Bryce Stowell and 3B Kyle Bellows on the disabled list this past week with a left elbow strain. That injury could explain at least part of why Tice seemed to be struggling (.176/.222/.235 slash line, .210 wOBA, 33.3 K%, 2.8 BB% in his last 36 plate appearances) after initially hammering Eastern League pitching. Hopefully, this isn’t an injury that will ruin the momentum that the oft-injured Tice had built up in 2012.
1B Chun Chen injured his thumb last week while catching, forcing him to miss the All-Star Game and all five games the Aeros played in this week. While he has not been placed on the DL, it is still worrisome to see the Aeros’ best hitter on the year out for any stretch of time.
RP Toru Murata did not pitch in any games this week, but I don’t know if that was simply a factor of the short week or if he is nursing any injuries. Murata recently spent some time on the DL with a left calf strain, so he is someone to watch on the injury front.
Moves (Like Orbit)
July 12 RP Tyler Sturdevant promoted to AAA Columbus
July 12 RP Shawn Armstrong promoted from High-A Carolina
July 14 RP Bryan Price promoted to AAA Columbus
July 14 INF Ryan Rohlinger demoted from AAA Columbus
July 14 RP Rafael Perez received on Major League Rehab Assignment
July 14 OF Jeremie Tice placed on DL (Left Elbow Strain)
If you want to follow Jim, he’s @DarkestDiamond
If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org