Looking at some numbers behind the IronBirds' slow start

Pitching has been good, hitting not so much

July 01, 2011

In the past six days, over the course of a trip to the West Coast, I was on six different planes, and drove close to 500 miles, so I'm a bit fried at the moment, and I'm going to write this column before I get the final results of the IronBirds' Wednesday night road game with Staten Island, so I will have a bit more time to recharge my batteries than I would on a normal Wednesday night.

In the last column I wrote before heading off to the left coast, my first time out there in case you were curious, I made some Harford County sports predictions, one of which was that our men in Aberdeen would buck their recent trend of losing seasons and finish somewhere on or over the .500 mark at season's end, and possibly compete for a wild-card spot in the playoffs. During my vacation I was checking the New York-Penn League standings pretty regularly, and I was dismayed to find that the IronBirds, after winning Opening Night, lost their next nine straight games, snapped the losing streak with a win on Monday, then were beaten, 1-0, the next night. Through Tuesday's game, Aberdeen holds a 2-10 mark, which is the worst record in the league (tied with the State College Spikes), and if they're going to prove me right, they'd better start turning things around fast. I'm not nearly presumptuous to say, "this is what they should do," so I'm going to look at some numbers from the IronBirds first 12 games, and maybe they will make some sense of the slow start.

The bats are M.I.A.: Through 12 games, the IronBirds have a .219 team batting average, which is the second worst in the league behind State College's just-above-the-Mendoza-line .209, and they're also second-to-last in slugging (.303), on-base-plus-slugging (.601), and tied with State College at the bottom with an on-base percentage of .298. We're just over 1/10th of the way into the 2011 campaign, so there's a lot of time to shuffle lineups and figure things out, but all those numbers need to come up substantially.

Running game snubbed out: New manager Leo Gomez said before the season started that, because he liked aggressive base running and his team would not have the most powerful lineup, the IronBirds were going to be stealing a lot of bases this year, but so far that hasn't happened, as Aberdeen is second-to-last with six swipes, two more than last-place Brooklyn. When you're only getting on base fewer than three times out of 10, it's tough to rack up steals.

Plain old tough luck: Of the IronBirds 10 losses, seven have come by a margin of one run, one was by two runs, another was a three-run defeat, and the biggest margin was 7-1. If you're losing 70 percent of your games by one run, you should be ripping your hair out with frustration, or looking for things to turn around soon.

Home runs: I think the only offensive category that Aberdeen isn't middle-of-the-road or below is, surprisingly enough, home runs, of which they have six, tying the IronBirds for second in the league with Brooklyn.

Pitching: The IronBirds hurlers are certainly striking out enough hitters, as they currently hold the league's second-highest mark with 117, but they're also leading the league with 68 walks. Looking at individual stats, Parker Bridwell has 17 strikeouts, good for third place, and Jake Cowan is tied for fifth with 15 K's. Bridwell (1-1) and Cowan (0-2) also have fine ERAs (2.77 and 2.81, respectively), so I'm curious to see how their seasons pan out.

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