The IronBirds are still in the cellar, but they're getting better

Some interesting numbers behind Aberdeen's modest turnaround

July 22, 2011

Let's get the nastiness out of the way first: The Aberdeen IronBirds are still dead last in the New York-Penn League's McNamara Division, 7.5 games away from getting out of the cellar, and, at 10-23 through Wednesday, they're in a two-way tie with State College for the worst record in the league. The chances of Aberdeen getting anywhere near the .500 mark are pretty slim, and odds are they won't be competing for a wild-card playoff spot, as I predicted prior to the season. When you start the season 2-17, it's hard to claw your way back into contention.

Looking at things a bit more positively, the IronBirds have been playing good baseball recently. In the two weeks between July 6 and July 20, Aberdeen went 8-6 and picked up two series victories. That's not a miraculous turnaround, but after such a dreadful beginning I'm sure everybody in the organization is happy they've found a way to win some ballgames. In any case, here's some statistics, tidbits and odds 'n' ends I thought you Aberdeen fans might like to chew on. Keep in mind, any statistics I cite take into account only games played through Wednesday (when the IronBirds beat Brooklyn, 7-6, in 10 innings!).

Running like they stole something: At the IronBirds' pre-season press junket, new manager Leo Gomez said he expected his team to be running a lot, as he was not sure how much power he'd have in his lineup, and because he just plain enjoys seeing aggression on the base paths. Through the first 20 games though, Aberdeen was only putting men on base about 2.5 times out of 10, making it tough to put Gomez's plan into effect. Recently, however, the IronBirds have been moving like mad, swiping enough bases to jump from second-to-last to sixth in the league with 39 steals. Their stolen base-to-caught stealing ratio is 3.25, which could come up a little bit, but it's definitely better than the league average of 2.84.

Offender No. 1 on the IronBirds stealing spree has been Glynn Davis, Aberdeen's 19-year-old center fielder. As of Wednesday, he had 12 steals, the second-highest total in the league, and, having been caught just once, his ratio was the league's best. Davis has been pretty slick at the plate as well, running up a .306 batting average, which is second only to Joe Velleggia's .313 (I'll get back to him later). I'm curious to see if Davis can keep swiping bases at the same clip, or if the opposing pitchers and catchers will start taking more extreme countermeasures to keep him close to the bag.

Also, in the last two weeks, the IronBirds have successfully pulled off the double steal of home and second base, which I find really interesting. Gomez said on Tuesday night, "We've done it a few times, so let's keep quiet and see if we can do it again." Amen.

Velleggia top dog, but out for a bit: I had planned to write something on IronBird first baseman and designated hitter Joe Velleggia because he's been hitting the ball so well, but there's also some bad news to report as well, which I'll get to in a second. Velleggia, a Monkton, native, has been the IronBirds hottest bat, as he leads the team in all three triple-crown categories (five home runs, 18 RBIs, .313 batting average). Compared to the rest of the league, he is fourth in homers, fifth in slugging percentage (.542) and sixth in on-base plus slugging (.942).

Sadly, Velleggia was struck in the face by a ball while taking batting practice prior to Tuesday's game, and by Gomez's estimation, he's going to be out for at least another week, and probably more. Details are a bit hazy at this point, but it sounds like Velleggia broke his nose, and maybe fractured his orbital bone as well, in which case he's going to be out for a bit longer than a week. I'm hoping that's not the case, because, looking at things from my own selfish standpoint, Velleggia is such an easy guy to interview, always smiling and gracious. Get back to the lineup soon, Joe.

That's it for now. Tune back next week, and maybe the IronBirds will be that much closer to .500.

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