The second-to-last road trip of the season saw Victoria venture south-east to the heat of the Wenatchee Valley to take on the AppleSox. Wenatchee, the perennial league favourite and powerhouse find themselves in a bitter and unfamiliar position this year – in dead last in the WCL’s East Division.
This past weekend didn’t help, as Victoria hitters feasted on a bounty of withered pitching arms, banging out 45 total hits and scoring 39 runs over a three game sweep. Victoria hitters were unstoppable the entire weekend, hitting .375 as a collective group, with some players having series numbers that sound more slo-pitch like than what we are accustomed of seeing in the WCL. Griffin Andreychuk remains Victoria’s most consistent hitter of late, going 7-11 with 5 walks, a .636 average. Kevin Collard and Austin Guibor each went 6-12 with 4 walks each, and PJ Floyd rounded out the .500 club going 3-6 with a walk. PJ was plonked twice, and Collard took one for the team as well. All 14 Victoria hitters who played on the weekend registered at least 1 hit and at least 1 RBI each.
All that hitting added up to three wins for the Cats, and yet another sweep.
The other side of the ledger though is anything but legendary… If I would have told you in the preview that Victoria starters would combine for 13.1 innings and a 7.43 ERA over three games, would you have predicted a sweep? Toss in a combined relief ERA of 6.52 and you may well have predicted a sweep the other way. All three starters (Omana, Walker, and Topoozian) walked away with wins though thanks to some quick-start offence that just kept rolling. New bullpen signings saw action as well – most impressive was Calvin Christianson who threw three strong innings in Saturday’s 8-6 win, giving up only a single run on 2 hits. Tei Vanderford continued to impress as well, giving 2.2 innings of shutout work on Friday.
Sadly, the sweep did nothing positive in the team’s position in the standings, as both Corvallis and Yakima Valley also swept, leaving the HarbourCats effectively 2.5 games back of a wildcard spot.
Yakima Valley Pippens Preview
In what seems like a genius bit of scheduling, the Pippens make the journey to Victoria with both teams fighting for a playoff spot. Either team can vanquish the other with a sweep this week, but both will be doing some serious scoreboard watching.
At this point with 6 games left, Victoria needs some help from other teams:
- Sweeping the Pippens is a must for Victoria, which would make Yakima Valley’s final series in Wenatchee somewhat meaningless in the race.
- Victoria would then travel to Bellingham looking to do the same against a team that might rest a regular or two for the playoffs.
- Corvallis is the real bump in the road. They have one game left against Walla Walla, then three against both Kelowna and Medford. Even if Victoria sweeps their remaining 6 games, Corvalis needs to lose 4 of 7 to knock themselves out.
But that’s why we play the entire schedule – there’s still a chance!
From a stats perspective, the tear Victoria hitters are on has changed the WCL leaders landscape quite a bit – in fact, if the All-Star team was picked this week instead of a month ago, it would likely be littered with HarbourCat hitters – Kevin Collard now holds the Cats hitting lead at .304, clinging to a slight lead over fellow Cat outfielder Austin Guibor who sits at .301. The league is led by two Kelowna hitters Hunter Villanueva at .375 and Justin Flores at .374.
Griffin Andreychuk is hitting better than all of them by a wide margin – he’s hitting a massive .388 in 103 plate appearances. League rules however dictate that in order to be considered in the batting title race, a player must have 2.7 plate appearances per team game. At 25-22, that means there’s a minimum of 127. Griff is 24 short. He’ll never get there either – with only six games remaining, he would need to average 6.8 at-bats a game to qualify.
In case you’re wondering, the MLB minimum is 3.1 plate appearances in order to ensure a player has over 500 at-bats a season. Most interesting though, is that MLB has a “Tony Gwynn rule” that allows players having exceptional years with slightly less at-bats to still quality. What happens, is that a player can take the missing at-bats as 0-hits, and their average can be calculated to the league minimum. If they still end up on top, they win the title – as Gwynn did himself in 1996.
At this point, we are not sure if the WCL use the Tony Gwynn rule. If not, maybe they need a Griffin Andreychuk rule – here’s a what would happen if such a thing existed, and we project ahead with some reasonable stats…
|Griffin Andreychuk and the Batting Title?|
|Estimated Last 6 @ 4.5 AB/G||27||16||8||0.500|
|Added Tony Gwynn Rule AB||14||14||0||0.000|
As you can see, Andreychuk would end about 14 AB short of the mark. Giving him 0’s for those Abs lowers his average, but only down to .320 – .016 higher than teammate Kevin Collard at this point, but still well below the WCL leaders. Andreychuk would win the Cats batting title at least – or have a legitimate shot at it. Him hitting .500 over the final 6 games isn’t much of a stretch either, he’s hit 12-22 in his last 10…
Regardless, watching Griff and the rest of our hitters keep up with their torrid pace will make it a fun week, and Victoria is throwing its top rotation in the last two series to give them every chance at a victory. Starters against the Pippens are Austin Dondanville (3-2, 2.61 ERA), Matt Blaise (3-3, 3.65), and Henry Omana (2-2, 3.81).
Yakima knows these are must-win games as well, and are countering with Matt Campbell (2-0, 3.17), Andrew Brenstein (2-4, 2.70), and late-season phenome Jens Jensen (5-1, 3.12). Jensen has won four of his last five starts, going six or more innings each time and giving up more than 3 runs only once. He will certainly be the one to watch on Wednesday. As a team, the Pippens hold a modest 3.20 team ERA, good for third in the WCL. Victoria sits at a lofty 4.11, good for eighth out of twelve teams.
Offensivley, the Pippens are led by LF Jace VanDeBrake (.286), SS Mitch Skags (.269), and 3B Corry Morris (.267). As a team, the Pippens hit a slight .241, just .002 better than the league basement .239. Victoria’s recent explosion has raised their team average to a lofty .263, a continued team best.
With Victoria still in the playoff hunt, watch for a fairly standard lineup, with low tolerance for pitching woes. Expect Victoria to come out swinging for their last home series of the year – but expect the Pippens to fight like their lives depend on it. Because they do.
What do you think? Power over pitching once again?