The purpose of "Beyond the Box Score" is to take a look back at the month that was in the Minor Leagues, highlighting some of the many curious and absurd incidents that have taken place. Enjoy, and please don't hesitate to get in touch with suggestions for future editions of this column.
Home-Field Advantage: On Aug. 13, Mauricio Robles of the West Michigan Whitecaps allowed a run at home -- for the first time all season. Prior to this, the 19-year-old southpaw had gone a remarkable 39 1/3 consecutive innings without allowing a run in the confines of West Michigan's Fifth Third Ballpark. This was the longest home or away consecutive innings streak since Will Inman of the West Virginia Power hurled 46 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings on the road in 2006. Robles finished the year with an 0.18 ERA at home, after allowing just one run over 51 innings. He was far more hittable on the road, however, compiling a 5.80 ERA over 40 1/3 innings pitched.
A Platinum Sombrero?: On Aug. 6, the Daytona Cubs defeated the Jupiter Hammerheads by a score of 6-5 in 10 innings. Rehabbing Florida Marlins outfielder Brett Carroll played center field for Jupiter in the ballgame and went 0-for-6 ... with six strikeouts!
All-Star Irregularity: In the seventh inning of the New York-Penn League All-Star Game, Hudson Valley's Joseph Tweedy laced an RBI single to right field that tied the game at 1-1. This, in itself, wasn't notable. What was notable is that Tweedy started the game for the American League All-Stars batting second. But, when he hit the game-tying single, he was batting fifth. In order to explain this confusing situation, I shall quote MLB.com associate reporter Nick Cammarota, who covered the game for MiLB.com:
"Because of an injury sustained by Staten Island's Addison Maruszak (the league's leading vote-getter in online fan All-Star balloting), the American League squad was left with only one shortstop (Brandon Douglas) on the roster ... In an effort to get each player on the roster the maximum number of at-bats while still ensuring that manager Pat McMahon (Staten Island) had enough players to cover all the infield positions, league president Ben Hayes allowed McMahon to move Tweedy down three spots in the lineup. Tweedy later shifted from third to short as well."
Let's Get Out of Here!: The last day of the Minor League season featured some remarkably short ballgames, with the only plausible explanation being that the players were all in agreement that the 2008 campaign should end as soon as possible. In the Texas League, for example, Arkansas defeated Springfield in a crisp one-hour and 46-minute contest. The proceedings were even swifter in Triple-A, however. Helped along by Charlie Haeger's 88-pitch complete game, Charlotte knocked off Durham in a span of one-hour and 41 minutes. But the grandmasters of brevity were the Albuquerque Isotopes and Round Rock Express, who needed just 95 minutes to complete nine innings. The Isotopes eked out a 1-0 win, in a contest that featured just 189 total pitches.
Must Be the Name: Jhoulys Chacin led the Minor Leagues with 18 wins this season, as the 20-year-old right-hander went 10-1 with Class A Asheville and 8-2 with Class A Advanced Modesto. Coincidentally enough, the last player in the Minor Leagues to win that many games was also named Chacin, as hairless cologne namesake Gustavo Chacin accomplished the feat in 2004.
Better Late Than Never: Okay, this happened in late July, and therefore should have been included in last month's column, but I'm invoking my editorial privilege and mentioning it now. After all, July 28th's 18-inning game between the Lowell Spinners and the Vermont Lake Monsters went on so long it practically stretched into August. Vermont won this five-hour and 31-minute monstrosity, which featured 11 pitchers teaming up to issue 27 (!) walks. The Spinners' staff issued 18 free passes, including five to Lake Monsters designated hitter Derek Norris. Is it any wonder that Norris leads the New York-Penn League in on-base percentage?
26 Hits, 26 Walks, and 38 Men Left On Base: Games don't get much more grueling than Tacoma's 6-5, 14-inning win over Las Vegas on August 13. Not only did the two clubs combine to go an anemic 6-for-36 with runners in scoring position while leaving 38 runners on base, but every single one of the game's 11 pitchers walked at least one batter. Las Vegas' pitching staff was particularly lacking on this forgettable day, as the club's six hurlers combined to issue 16 free passes.
Turning Three Twice, Pt. II: While it may not be quite as impressive as the Missoula Ospreys turning two triple plays in the span of four days (which happened earlier this season), the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes nonetheless pulled off a rare feat this month when they executed their second triple play of the season. On Aug. 5, Inland Empire had Jamie Pedroza on third and Christian Lara on first with no outs. Esteban Lopez then hit a ground ball to Efren Navarro, who stepped on first before throwing home. Rehabbing Angels catcher Mike Napoli tagged out Pedroza, then fired the ball to third in time to nail Lara. For those scoring at home, that's 3-2-5. The Quakes' first triple play of the season was turned on June 7, and also came against the 66ers.
The War of 18-16: In a previous edition of this column, I mentioned that Albuquerque's 18-16 win over Las Vegas on April 30 paled in comparison to the Phillies' famous 18-16 win over the Cubs in April of 1976. Well, on Aug. 6, another 18-16 game took place, eager to earn consideration as perhaps the greatest 18-16 game of all time. In this particular contest, Tennessee defeated Chattanooga. Jake Fox of the Smokies and Dan Dorn of the Lookouts each hit two home runs in the contest, and Marco Carrillo earned his first Double-A win after allowing nine runs over five innings. Verdict: This was definitely not the greatest 18-16 game of all time. Thanks for trying, guys.
Four-Play: In the aforementioned Phillies' 18-16 over the Cubs, Mike Schmidt hit home runs in four consecutive at-bats. On Aug. 10, Micah Hoffpauir accomplished the same feat in the Iowa Cubs' 15-3 win over Round Rock. The 28-year-old first baseman homered in the first, third, sixth and eighth frames, becoming just the third player in the long history of the Pacific Coast League to homer in back-to-back-to-back-to-back at-bats.
Getting Better All the Time: The stats of Augusta's Madison Bumgarner after his first three starts of the season: 1-2, 7.71 ERA. The stats of Augusta's Madison Bumgarner over his remaining 21 starts: 14-1, 0.90. The 19-year-old phenom finished the season with a 15-3 record and 1.46 ERA, winning the South Atlantic League Triple Crown in the process.
Tough-Luck Loss, Personified: On Aug. 8, Great Lakes' Justin Miller pitched eight no-hit innings against West Michigan. He struck out the first batter he faced in the ninth, but then allowed a single and a walk before being removed from the game. Robert Blevins came on in relief, and, with two outs in the ninth, allowed Chris Carlson's three-run homer. It was the game's deciding blow, as the Whitecaps won by a score of 3-2.
A Thoroughly Confusing Situation: Austin Hinkle of the Columbus Catfish compiled a mediocre 4.21 ERA over 25 2/3 innings pitched at home, but a microscopic 0.43 ERA over 21 innings pitched on the road. Yet, his record at home was 3-1, while on the road he went 0-3.
Oh, Snap: On Aug. 11, the Vero Beach Devil Rays went into their game against Brevard County in the midst of a 12-game losing streak. Taking the hill for Vero Beach was Wilton Noel, who had gone 23 appearances since his last victory. Naturally, both of these ignominious streaks came to an end that evening. Noel took a no-hitter into the seventh inning as the Devil Rays coasted to a 6-0 victory.
A Discerning Eye: It took Alfredo Silverio of the Great Lakes Loons 28 games before he even drew his first walk of the season, and as recently as Aug. 16 he had just three all season. But the free-swinging 21-year-old coaxed four walks over his final 14 games, including one in his second-to-last plate appearance of the season on Sept. 1. He finished the year with seven walks over 376 at-bats.
It's All A Matter of Perspective: On Aug. 12, Torre Langley became the first player in the 29-year history of the Greensboro Grasshoppers to hit for the cycle. But what is rare for some is commonplace for others. On that same day, Joe Koshansky of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox hit for the cycle for the second time this season.
The Young Unit: Those of you who thought that there would never be another 6-foot-10 left-hander named Johnson in professional baseball are in for a shock. In addition to Randy, there is Garrett, who suited up for the Bristol Sox this season. The lanky 21-year-old went 4-4 with a 4.13 ERA over 12 appearances (11 starts), and led the Appalachian League in "Big Unit" comparisons by a wide margin.
Stingy From Start To Finish: Jason Bulger of the Salt Lake Bees was virtually unhittable out of the bullpen for the entire season, as evidenced by the fact that he did not allow more than one run during any month. The 29-year-old righty yielded one run in April, one in May, none in June or July, and one in August. He finished with a 4-0 record and 0.63 ERA over 37 appearances.
When Things Are Bad, They're REALLY Bad: Veteran right-hander Ron Chiavacci compiled a 6.48 ERA over 14 appearances with the Round Rock Express this season. This unsightly number was largely the result of two horrible outings. On Aug. 4, Chiavacci faced Portland and allowed nine runs on 13 hits over 2 2/3 innings. Two starts later, he went up against Nashville and yielded 10 runs on 12 hits over two frames. Chiavacci's total numbers over these two starts: 4 2/3 IP, 25 hits, 19 ER.
A Nocturnal Creature: Batavia Muckdogs' closer Adam Reifer loves to play under the lights. In 24 night appearances this season, the 22-year-old is 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA, and has converted 18 saves in as many opportunities. In six daytime games, Reifer is 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA, and has converted three of five save opportunities.
A Homebody: While pitching in the friendly confines of Missoula, Taylor Sinclair is 4-0 with an 0.33 ERA over 27 1/3 innings pitched. While on the road, the 22-year-old southpaw is 1-1 with a 7.43 ERA over 13 1/3 innings pitched.
And the Hits Just Keep on Coming: On Aug. 21, the Bristol Sox trounced the Bluefield Orioles, doing most of the damage early on. The Sox scored 13 runs and collected 14 hits over the first three innings, putting them on pace to score 39 runs on 42 hits in the ballgame. Not surprisingly, the offensive output slowed from there. Bristol eventually settled for a 19-5 victory, collecting "just" 23 hits in the ballgame.
Settling for a Three-Run Homer: On Aug. 22, Lancaster's Kris Negron came to the plate in the ninth inning of a game against Bakersfield needing a double to complete the cycle. The 22-year-old ripped a fly ball to right field that bounced off a fence beyond the outfield wall. Under last year's ground rules, Negron's blast would have been ruled a double. This year, however, it's a home run. This put Negron in the perhaps unprecedented position of hoping he hadn't hit a home run. "I knew I needed a double for the cycle," he told MiLB.com after the game. "When I hit it, I told the ball to get down and hit the wall, but I guess I'll have to settle for the homer." Poor guy.
His Middle Name is "Good": Over 13 relief appearances for the Princeton Devil Rays, Chris Luck went 6-0 with a 2.25 ERA. No other pitcher on the Rays' staff finished the season with more than three wins.