Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Farm Report: Oh, Canada 

Oh, Canada … There is a lot of history with minor league baseball in the Great White North. Jackie Robinson cut his teeth in 1946 with the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate in Montreal. The Toronto Maple Leafs were the Philadelphia Phillies affiliate from 1948 to 1950 and saw many future stars pass through on their way to play with the Wiz Kids in Philadelphia.

Today the Phillies Triple-A team is the Ottawa Lynx, the sole team based in Canada in the International League (IL). The IL will get a lot less international in 2008 when the Lynx move from Ottawa – where the team has difficulty attracting fans – to Allentown (well, technically Lehigh Valley) where the team will be renamed the Iron Pigs. The relocation will mean that many of the Phillies minor league teams are going to geographically close to the Phillies: Reading, Allentown, Williamsport, Lakewood.

Let’s hope the move to Allentown will reinvigorate this team. The Lynx are playing objectively terrible baseball in 2007. Let’s start with the fact that the Lynx have the worst record in the IL at 44-72 and sit dead-last in the IL North Division, a whopping twenty-one games out of first place. First place, incidentally, is occupied by the Scranton Red Barons, the Phillies former Triple-A team (now the Yankees top farm team), who are cruising to the playoffs with a 64-50 record.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
WHIP – Walks plus hits by innings pitched: (BB + H) / IP = WHIP
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
HR/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.

What are the Lynx doing wrong? Well, they rank dead-last in the IL in runs scored (of fourteen teams), in slugging percentage, in stolen bases and in home runs. The Lynx rank tenth in On-Base Percentage. So are they any better in terms of pitching? Nope. The Lynx rank dead-last in the IL in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP, and thirteenth in home runs allowed and tenth in walks allowed.

This team is terrible on both sides of the ball. If the Lynx play is any indication of the Phillies future, then the future is bleak.

The sole bright spot here is the Lynx first baseman, Gary Burnham. Burnham, a 22nd round pick in the 1997 draft, has been fighting his way through the Phillies system for years. Burnham turns 33 in October, so his long-term major league prospects are virtually nil. That said, Burnham is hitting well: 9 Home Runs, 28 Doubles, 65 RBI. Impressively, Burnham has the fourth-highest OBP in the IL at .388. For a power-hitting first baseman, Burnham shows nice bat control at the plate, having drawn 54 walks to 57 strikeouts.

So Burnham is doing pretty well. The rest of the Lynx are a mixed bag. The best pro prospect on the Lynx roster in terms of position players are probably Brennan King, the Lynx third baseman, and Jason Jaramillo, the Lynx catcher. King is a 26-year old third baseman with ten home runs and twelve doubles. King has an OBP of .333. Like Burnham, I don’t think King’s pro prospects are bright.

Jaramillo, the Phillies second round pick (62nd overall) in the 2004 Draft, is a decent pro prospect, especially given that I think the Phillies will probably need a backup to Carlos Ruiz in 2008 at catcher. Jaramillo was a mid-season All-Star this year. Jaramillo doesn’t have much power at the plate – just six home runs – but he’s pretty decent at getting on base (.340 OBP) and catchers are always important for the intangible skills they bring to the team, namely their ability to manage their pitchers.

Speaking of which … what meager talent the Lynx have on their roster right now is located on the mound.

We’ll start with Zach Segovia. The injuries to the Phillies starting pitching has decimated the team and forced the promotion of minor leaguers J.D. Durbin and Kyle Kendrick. Segovia, earlier in the season when Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber were absent, had to start a game for the Phillies against the Florida Marlins and got rocked for five runs in five innings of work. The Phillies moved Segovia back to Reading, where he went 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA before promoting him to Ottawa.

To say that Segovia has struggled a little in Ottawa is an understatement: 1-9, 6.05 ERA. Yikes. The numbers here are simply awful to contemplate:

HR/9: 0.93
BB/9: 3.27
K/9: 2.57

Segovia’s K/BB ratio is 0.78, which is astonishing given that most pitchers manage a 2-to-1 (2.00) ratio or better. IL batters are hitting .315 against Segovia, which is pretty horrifying to think about. Was Segovia’s turn in the rotation a major psychological blow that has screwed him up? Well, consider the differences in Segovia’s numbers in Reading from 2006 to 2007:

2006 / 2007
W-L: 11-5 / 4-2
ERA: 3.11 / 4.50
HR/9: 0.67 / 0.75
BB/9: 2.01 / 3.00
K/9: 6.30 / 4.31

Given Segovia’s struggles, his career seems to have hit a snag. Segovia is still a talented pitcher whom the Phillies will want to give a chance, but Segovia’s struggles have probably precluded him from joining the Phillies pitching staff in 2008. Looks like fans in Allentown will get to see a lot of Zach Segovia in 2008.

Had J.A. Happ not been injured earlier in the season he might have gotten promoted to the Phillies rotation instead of Kyle Kendrick, the Double-A hurler got the call when Segovia, Happ and J.D. Durbin weren’t ready. Happ did get one start – a June 30 hammering at the hands of the New York Mets that saw Happ surrender five runs in four innings of work – before returning to Ottawa.

Happ has enormous talent and will probably figure in the Phillies 2008 plans in terms of pitchers. He jumped quickly from Advanced Single-A Clearwater to Scranton in 2006, an impressive rise. I really like the way that Happ is pitching:

W-L: 4-5
ERA: 4.91
HR/9: 0.81
BB/9: 5.31
K/9: 9.10

Yeah, he needs to work on his control and get those walk totals down, but he’s getting a lot of strikeouts on the mound and seems like he'd be a possible candidate for a spot on the Phillies pitching staff in 2008.

So that's it for the Lynx. Tomorrow, back to the Phillies and their quest for the playoffs.

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