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Crooked Numbers: July's oddities

Lack of lefties, triumvirate of triples highlight month's best
August 2, 2012
Now here's a statistic that should catch all but the most obsessive of Minor League stat geeks completely off-guard: entering the month of August, no left-handed reliever on the Double-A Akron Aeros had allowed a run all season.

But, as is often the case, this statistic comes equipped with a sizable caveat: it took until July 16 for any left-handed reliever to appear in an Akron Aeros game. That would be rehabbing Cleveland Indian Rafael Perez, who tossed a scoreless inning on the 16th and two more on the 23rd. He remains the only southpaw to have appeared in relief for the Aeros this season.

This anomalous nugget was first brought to my attention by Winston-Salem broadcasters Brian Boesch and Mike Lefko, on their blog "The Dash Board." Winston-Salem has rivaled Akron in its nearly complete lack of lefty relievers, as it took until July 11 -- the Dash's 90th game of the season -- for one to appear. That would be Matt Wickswat, who went unscored upon in appearances on the 11th and 14th before allowing five runs over 1 2/3 frames on the 18th.

And that's not all! Would you believe that there is yet another team whose left-handed relievers have let to allow a run this season? There is, and that team is the Dayton Dragons. Ryan Kiel tossed five shutout frames over two May appearances, and rehabbing Bill Bray hurled 2 2/3 scoreless frames over two outings in June. Since then, not a single southpaw has appeared in relief for the club.

This is neither the time nor the place for an analysis of the strategic decisions that led to this near-complete dearth of bullpen-dwelling lefties. But it is the place to get excited about this as a bizarre subplot for the remainder of the 2012 campaign. Will another left-handed reliever grace the rosters of the Akron Aeros and Dayton Dragons this season? Will Wickswat remain the only Dash southpaw in the team's bullpen?

Stay tuned -- this is Minor League Baseball at its most riveting!

Going out on top
The sad tale of Shaq Green-Thompson received nationwide publicity this month after the just-drafted 18-year-old went 0-for-39 with 37 strikeouts over 13 games with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox (he then left the team, in order to prepare for the upcoming college football season). But how's this for a silver lining: in his last at-bat of the season, Green-Thompson lined out to right field. It marked the first and only time that he hit the ball out of the infield during his ill-fated professional baseball debut.

Twenty-three runs scored, eight innings to go
Green-Thompson aside, it can be easy to overlook what's going on down there in the sweltering backlots of the Gulf Coast League. But one thing we at couldn't help but notice was the Brewers-Royals game on July 7. The score of the game was 17-6 -- after one inning! The Brewers sent 22 men to the plate in the frame, collecting 12 hits and five walks before the Royals were finally able to stop the bleeding. The game's final score was a relatively modest 23-8.

What sport is this? The GCL Brewers-Royals tilt wasn't the only Minor League ballgame to feature 31 combined runs this month. The Memphis Redbirds defeated the Oklahoma City RedHawks in a game whose final score is far more common on the football field: 24-7.

This blowout was highlighted by a most uncommon occurrence -- in the fourth inning, the Redbirds hit two grand slams, which were separated by just five batters.

The Grapes break out
Entering their July 23 game against Auburn, the Jamestown Jammers hadn't scored more than 12 runs in a game all season. Naturally, they then went ahead and scored 13 in the second inning of that ballgame, en route to a 19-2 victory over the thoroughly dazed Doubledays.

Not Intimidating enough
You'd think that an 11-run inning would be enough to seal the deal in any ballgame, but that wasn't the case for the Kannapolis Intimidators on July 22. The Intimidators scored 11 runs in the third to open up an 11-5 lead, but the indomitable Charleston RiverDogs stormed back to take a 12-11 lead in the seventh and held on for an eventual 14-13 victory.

All in
It's rare for every player in a team's starting lineup to hit safely, and even rarer for every player in the lineup to hit safely and score a run. But rarest of all is when every player in the starting lineup of both teams in a ballgame hits safely and scores a run. This is indeed what happened in Bowling Green's wild 15-13, 13-inning win over Lansing on July 25. The only player to get an at-bat in the ballgame and not hit safely was Andy Fermin, who entered as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning and went 0-for-3.

The pace is glacial
The Bowling Green-Lansing contest mentioned above featured 28 runs and 39 hits over 13 innings, and yet it was still played in less time than the nine-inning Durham-Gwinnett contest that had taken place the night before. That ballgame took an agonizing four hours and 15 minutes to complete, with Durham finally, mercifully, winning by a 10-8 score.

Two-base bonanza
On July 11, en route to a 16-6 blowout win over Mississippi, the Jackson Generals established a new Southern League record by blasting 11 doubles. The first seven batters in the starting lineup contributed at least one two-bagger, with leadoff man Nate Tenbrink leading the way with three. The Generals hit three doubles in the first inning, one in the second, two in the fourth, two in the sixth and three in the eighth.

Triple triplet
The Williamsport Crosscutters hit three triples during their 11-8 victory over Staten Island on July 8, and they occurred back-to-back-to-back to lead off the ballgame. This triumvirate of triples came courtesy of Roman Quinn, Chace Numata and Cameron Perkins, as part of a seven-run first frame.

Worth the wait
It's not very often that it takes 32 minutes to complete an at-bat, but that's what happened to Eric Stamets of the Cedar Rapids Kernels on July 9 -- and in exceedingly dramatic circumstances. Here's how writer Curt Rallo summed it up, in his Midwest League notebook:

"Stamets stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and the bases loaded Monday, and the Kernels trailing Peoria, 3-1. Thirty-two minutes later, Stamets' at-bat ended and the Kernels had a 4-3 victory. Umpires called a rain delay during Stamets' at-bat when a sudden rain hit. When the game resumed, Stamets swung at Liria's first pitch, blasting a three-run double to left-center field."

Worth the wait, Part II
It took them 13 attempts, but the Lancaster JetHawks finally won a game in Lake Elsinore this season. After an 0-12 start at Lake Elsinore's The Diamond, they eked a dramatic extra-inning victory on July 25.

18th-inning hero
And speaking of "worth the wait," how have we made it this far without mentioning position players pitching? July's standout moonlighting moundsman was Tacoma's Scott Savastoma, who, quite literally, did it all for his team in their 2-1 marathon victory over Sacramento on July 18. Savastoma, who originally entered the game at first base, pitched a scoreless top of the 18th inning and then blasted a home run in the bottom of the frame to give his team (and himself) the victory.

Everything's in play
The Durham Bulls defeated Lehigh Valley 8-6 on July 17, and none of the three Durham pitchers who appeared in the game struck out a batter or issued a walk. This marked the first time that this had happened in a nine-inning International League game since at least 2005 (this is as far back as records for such things go).

Strange but true
New Hampshire shortstop Brian Bocock stole home three times this past month, and all of these thefts were part of a double steal. He accomplished the feat on July 5, 19 and 23.

Stranger but true
In the first inning of a game against Great Lakes, Ryan Brett of the Bowling Green Hot Rods managed to steal home after his teammate Drew Vettleson walked. This rare play was immediately trumped, however, as one batter later Cameron Seitzer lined into a 6-4-3 triple play.

Never say die!
Louisville's Cody Puckett homered in three straight games against Toledo from July 28-30, and each of these home runs came with two outs in the top of the ninth! The first two turned out to be game-winners, but on the 30th it still wasn't enough as Toledo tied that game at 7-7 in the bottom of the ninth and went on to win, 10-9, in 11 innings.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog.