Statistics are as of the morning of August 28.
The minor league seasons are coming down to the last days, so let’s take a look at each Angels affiliate and see where they are in their respective title chases.
SALT LAKE — The Pacific Coast League plays a 144-game schedule. Unlike lower levels, it’s all one season, not divided into two halves. The Bees are 67-67, 2½ games behind Tacoma in the Pacific North division. Salt Lake has ten games left, none of them against Tacoma. After two more games in Colorado Springs (59-74), they’ll be at home for the rest of the season, with four games against Fresno (73-61) and four against Reno (64-69).
ARKANSAS — The Texas League plays a 140-game schedule divided into two 70-game halves. The Travelers finished 26-44 in the first half, 16 games behind Northwest Arkansas in the North division.They seem doomed for a similar demise in the second half, with a 27-33 record. The Travs have ten games left, including six against the Springfield Cardinals who are 33-27, in third place six games ahead. It’s unlikely they’ll even catch Springfield, so it looks like the Travs will wind up in last place for both halves.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The California League also plays a 140-game schedule divided into two 70-game halves. The Quakes finished 39-31 in the first half, good but not good enough to win the Cal League South, falling seven games behind Lake Elsinore (46-24). The Storm have been more like a squall in the second half, currently at 30-30, two games behind the Quakes and High Desert who are tied for first at 32-28. Rancho has ten games left to play — three at home against Lancaster (23-47), three at home against High Desert, then four on the road at Lancaster. The Mavericks would seem to have the tougher schedule — only three more at home against Lake Elsinore, then three at Rancho, and finally four at Lake Elsinore.
The Cal League has a rather convoluted playoff procedure, in part because they add an extra tier of playoffs. Click here to read the playoff procedures. Basically, the first-half team (Lake Elsinore) gets a bye while the second-half winner plays the team with the next best overall record in a best-of-three playoff. Should the Storm win the second half too, then the teams with the second-best and third-best records would play. If you look at the overall records, Lake Elsinore is in first at 76-54, five games ahead of Rancho Cucamonga at 71-59 and seven ahead of High Desert at 69-61. The next best team is Lancaster, 24 games behind Lake Elsinore, so it would seem that the Storm, the Quakes and the Mavericks are all a lock for the post-season. All that appears to be at stake right now is home field advantage for the first-round mini-series; the team with the better finish is the home team for Games #2 and #3.
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Midwest League also plays a 140-game schedule split into two halves. The Kernels won the Western Division first half with a 43-25 record, so they’re automatically seeded into the post-season. They’re currently 32-28 with ten games to go. The current roster bears little resemblance to the first-half powerhouse. Tyler Skaggs and Pat Corbin were traded to Arizona. Garrett Richards and Orangel Arenas were promoted to Rancho Cucamonga. Fabio Martinez Mesa has been on the disabled list since August 1 with right shoulder tendonitis and it’s unclear whether he’ll be available for the playoffs. League MVP Mike Trout was also promoted to Rancho along with third baseman Luis Jimenez. Randal Grichuk has returned from the disabled list, which will help, and Carlos Ramirez has an OPS (OBP + SLG) of .878 in the second half after a putrid .596 first half.
OREM — The short-season Pioneer League plays a 76-game schedule divided into two halves of 38 games each. The Owlz finished 19-19 in the first half, four games behind Ogden (23-15). A week ago, Orem appeared poised to go off on another one of those famous Tom Kotchman runs as they won eight of ten between August 13 and 22 to move into first place for the second-half title, but since then they’ve lost four in a row to fall to 14-11, 1½ games behind the Raptors. Should Ogden win both halves, they’ll face the team with the second-best overall record. Right now, that would be the Owlz at 33-30, four games ahead of Casper (29-34). Orem has 12 games left, including two at home against Casper on September 1-2. They finish with four games against the Raptors, two at home and then two at Ogden. Barring a total collapse, it looks like the Owlz will reach the playoffs for the tenth straight year the franchise has been in Utah County, but they’ll need to play better to get past Ogden in the first round.
TEMPE — The Arizona League plays a 56-game schedule which ends Sunday August 29. The Angels are 23-30, last in the AZL East, so no playoff this year for the rookie league team.
Owlz manager Tom Kotchman won his fourth pennant in six years Saturday when his team beat Missoula 13-10.
Is there a better manager in minor league baseball than Tom Kotchman?
Kotch has taken the Provo/Orem franchise to the post-season every year since it relocated to Utah County from Helena, Montana in 2001. He won a pennant at Provo in 2004, then the franchise moved six miles west to Orem where he won pennants in 2005 and 2007.
Now add 2009 to the list.
The odds were against them, but the Owlz won 13-10 last night at Missoula to win their fourth pennant in six years.
Although they had the best overall record in the league at 51-25 (.671), they lost Game #1 at home in their best-of-three series against the Osprey. That meant they had to win Games #2 and #3 on the road at Missoula.
The Owlz won Game #2 Friday 10-0 on a complete game shutout by Stephen Locke to force Game #3, winner take all.
Orem got out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the 1st thanks to a three-run homer by Casey Haerther, but the Osprey answered with three in the bottom of the first off Orangel Arenas. The Owlz added single runs in the 3rd and 4th, then posted six runs in the 5th for what seemed like a safe 11-3 lead.
Going to the bottom of the 9th, the Osprey trailed 13-4, but started to chip away against the Owlz’ bullpen, their weak spot most of the year. By the time David Carpenter struck out Jae Yun Kim to end the game, Missoula had whittled down the deficit to 13-10.
Kotch is quite happy with his dual life as a Florida scout and short-season manager, but I often wonder what would happen if he was handed the opportunity to run a big league club the way he wants, similar to Mike Scioscia’s arrangement in Anaheim.
The Owlz’ webcast failed early in the game, apparently due to the loss of an Internet connection in the Missoula broadcast booth, but I did capture Missoula’s webcast. Click Here to listen to the Osprey webcast of the Owlz’ pennant victory. (WIndows Media Player required.)
UPDATE September 22, 2009 — The Owlz’ front office informed me they didn’t lose their signal during the game, so why it didn’t work here in Florida is beyond me. Anyway, all their post-season games are archived at audio.oremowlz.com.
Carlos Ramirez was 5 for 5 with two homers and two doubles, as the Orem Owlz won Friday 10-0 at Missoula.
After losing Game #1 Thursday at home to the Osprey, the Owlz got on the bus for the 550-mile ride for Missoula, facing the unlikely task of winning Games #2 and #3 on the Osprey’s home turf to take the Pioneer League pennant.
But after last night’s 10-0 rout, the Owlz have given themselves a fighting chance to capture the flag.
Stephen Locke pitched a complete game shutout, allowing only four hits while striking out five and walking one.
The Owlz hit six homers, a Pioneer League playoff record for one game. Eleven of their fifteen hits were extra base hits.
Catcher Carlos Ramirez was 5 for 5 with two homers, two doubles and a single.
Kevin Ramos, Justin Bass, Casey Haerther and Michael Wing also homered.
So it’s winner take all tonight at Missoula.
Orangel Arenas starts for the Owlz. During the regular season, he was 4-3 with a 4.65 ERA in 69 2/3 innings. In his last three starts, he gave up 11 earned runs in 11 innings. His last start was on September 10. Missoula starts Charles Brewer, 7-2 with a 2.47 ERA in 54 2/3 innings. He was selected by the Angels in the 18th round of the June 2006 draft, but he didn’t sign. The Brewers got him this year in the 12th round out of UCLA after his junior year.
Last year, Great Falls won on the Owlz’ home field. Hopefully the Owlz will balance out the karma tonight.
The Quakes were eliminated from the playoffs last night after losing 11-6 at High Desert. Rancho Cucamonga went much further than anyone reasonably expected. They upset the Lake Elsinore Storm in their wild-card series, then took the Mavericks to five games. Not bad for a team that finished 61-79 and lost power-hitter Matt Sweeney to the Tampa Bay Rays in the Scott Kazmir trade.
The Owlz suffered a surprising 7-6 loss at home to Missoula, to fall behind 1-0 in their best-of-three pennant series. The bullpen blew a 5-1 lead by giving up three runs in the 8th and three runs in the 9th, including a three-run homer in the 9th to Osprey right fielder Bobby Stone off David Carpenter.
Both teams are off today for the long bus trip to Missoula. Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 are Friday and Saturday. I haven’t done the research, but anecdotally I know it’s very hard for a team to lose its home game #1 in these best-of-three series to sweep #2 and #3 on the road. That’s what faces the Owlz.
Ryan Brasier pitched eight shutout innings Tuesday as the Quakes won 2-1 over High Desert. Brasier struck out seven, walked one, and gave up just three hits.
Ryan Brasier pitched what might be the game of his life to lead the Quakes to a 2-1 win over High Desert. The win evened their best-of-five series 2-2, with the deciding game tonight in Adelanto.
A sixth-round pick out of Weatherford (TX) Junior College in the June 2007 draft, Brasier was a reliever his entire professional career until June 30, when he was moved into the Quakes’ starting rotation. Ryan’s numbers with Rancho this year have been unimpressive — 5.23 ERA overall, 4.45 as a reliever, 5.56 as a starter — but his performance last night was as improbable as the Quakes’ survival in the post-season. Brasier pitched eight shutout innings, struck out seven, walked one and gave up just three hits.
The Mavericks were 83-57 overall in 2009. They won both halves of the California League’s South Division season. The Quakes were 61-79. Rancho shouldn’t have got this far, but they upset Lake Elsinore (73-67) in their best-of-three playoff series, and now they stand one game away from the pennant series. In the north, Bakersfield (75-65) is at San Jose (93-47) for Game #5 tonight.
Manuel Flores is the announced starter for the Quakes. He spent most of 2009 with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, where he was 7-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 120.1 innings. In six starts with Rancho, he was 2-3 with a 4.32 ERA in 33.1 IP. He’ll face Donnie Hume, 17-5 with a 4.81 ERA in 151.2 IP for the Mavericks.
Winner take all.
Let’s not overlook the Orem Owlz. They begin their best-of-three series tonight against the Missoula Osprey for the Pioneer League pennant. Pat Corbin is the announced starter for the Owlz, according to OremOwlz.com. Game #1 is tonight in Orem, then the teams are off Thursday to bus to Missoula for Game #2 and (if necessary) #3.
Down 2-0 in their best-of-five series with High Desert, and down 6-2 at the stretch half of the 7th inning in Game #3, the Quakes posted a run in the bottom frame thanks to Alberto Rosario’s solo homer, then three runs to tie in the bottom of the 9th, and finally scored in the bottom of the 10th to win 7-6. Game #4 is tonight at Rancho Cucamonga; Ryan Brasier is the scheduled starter.
Will Smith was a big-game pitcher in 2008 with the Orem Owlz, and he delivered a big-game performance last night for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, but it wasn’t enough as the Burlington Bees won 2-1 to eliminate the Men of Corn. Will gave up a broken-bat single in the 1st followed by a two-run homer off his changeup, then settled down to allow no more runs through the 8th when he exited the game. He struck out nine, walked five, and allowed only three hits — just one after the 1st-inning dinger.
The Orem Owlz are off until Wednesday, when they host Game #1 of the Pioneer League best-of-three pennant series at Orem. They’ll face the Missoula Osprey, a Diamondbacks affiliate. Missoula’s overall record was 40-36. Because of the short series, only one game is in Orem, then Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 are in Missoula. The divisions alternate by year who gets the home field advantage, and in 2009 it’s the North Division’s turn, so whomever wins the series celebrates in Missoula. The Owlz were 7-0 this year against Missoula, but that means nothing in the post-season.
The Orem Owlz won 7-4 at Ogden Sunday to win the Pioneer League South Division series 2-0. They await the winner of the Great Falls-Missoula series. The Pioneer League alternates which division gets the home field advantage. This year it’s the North Division, so Orem hosts Game #1 before going on the road up north for Games #2 and (if necessary) #3.
The Kernels won 4-1 over Burlington to tie their best-of-three series 1-1. The Game #3 finale is tonight at Cedar Rapids. Iowans, turn out and support your team! The winner goes on to face the winner of the Great Lakes-Fort Wayne series, Dodgers and Padres affiliates.
The Quakes were shut out for the second straight night, 4-0 at High Desert. They trail their best-of-five series 2-0. Game #3 is tonight at Rancho Cucamonga. If the Quakes survive, Game #4 is at Rancho and Game #5 in High Desert. Quakes fans, turn out tonight!