FRONTIER FIELD COULD BE A POWER PLANT NEXT SEASON
The 2014 Rochester Red Wings have been an above-average International League throughout this season, mainly thanks to their pitching (3.54 ERA ranks 3rd in the 14-team IL), particularly their starting pitching. They’ve been OK offensively, with a 5th-ranked .267 batting average and league-most (by a lot) 282 doubles (Columbus is second with 259).
The most glaring deficiency for the Red Wings this season has been lack of consistent power hitting. Chris Colabello hit his 10th home run of the season this week in Buffalo. It erased the possibility of the Red Wings team season-leader in HRs finishing in single-digit HRs for the first time since 1945, when the not-so-immortal Donald White hit 6 HRs for a 64-90 team.
Since the Red Wings began in 1928, the team leader in HRs finished in single-digits only three times: Joe Mack 9 HRs in 1943, Del Rice 6 HRs in 1944 and White in 1945. Either the IL was using mushballs during World War II or most of the strong guys were in the armed forces.
The Red Wings entered Friday ranked 9th the 14-team IL with 83 HRs. They’ve allowed 92 HRs. For the record, the unofficial team record is 153 HRs in 1959.
The three main reasons why the Red Wings suffered an unexpected power shortage this season: Miguel Sano, baseball’s top slugging prospect, missed the entire season after Tommy John elbow surgery He had predicted he’d hit 40-plus HRs this season no matter where he played). Oswaldo Arcia, who was expected to tear up the IL this season, but after a hot start here (.312, 5 HRs, 18 RBI in 22 games), he has spent most of the season as a semi-regular with the power-starved Twins (.232, 13 HRs, 37 RBI in 72 games)… Colabello has spent the season on the shuttle between Rochester and Minnesota.
Imagine the fun fans might have had this season with Arcia, Sano and Colabello batting 3-4-5.
Kenny Vargas spent most of this season at Double-A New Britain (.281, 17 HRs, 63 RBI in 97 games). He skipped Rochester for an extended look-see in Minnesota this month and done very well (.316, 4 HRs, 17 RBI in 19 games). He’s already a fan favorite at Target Field. He resembles David Ortiz in size and pure power – and he’s a switch-hitter. Hopefully, for Rochester fans, with Joe Mauer entrenched at first base, the Twins will decide Vargas is too young (just turned 24) to become their full-time DH and would benefit from a full 2015 season playing 1B in Rochester.
If you share my appreciation of sluggers in the history of the Red Wings, let’s dream of a lineup in 2015 featuring Colabello, Sano and Kennys Vargas batting 3-4-5. Super prospect Byron Buxton could join them to hit in the No. 2 spot in June. How sweet that would be.
ESPN THE MAGAZINE NOT HIGH ON BILLS
The fresh issue of ESPN The Magazine (9-1-2014) is an interesting NFL Preview. Not surprisingly, considering how often the national media underestimates the Bills, Buffalo didn’t fare well:
Here are the predicted records and chance of making the playoffs:
New England – 12-4…68.5 percent
Miami – 8-8…31.2 percent
New York Jets – 7-9…21.5 percent
Buffalo – 5-11…18.9 percent.
Best and Worst scenarios -– “Will win 9 games if LT Cordy Glenn stays healthy and the D keeps up the pressure (57 sacks in 2013, second in NFL)…Will win 5 games if EJ Manuel stares down WRs and the D can’t replace Jairus Byrd or Kiko Alonso.”
The magazine’s preview includes projected scores for every game. It’s a silly exercise, but guaranteed to generate lots of attention. Here’s the outlook for Buffalo:
Sept. 7 – 34-10 loss at Chicago (0-1)
Sept. 14 – 34-17 home loss to Miami (0-2)
Sept. 21 – 36-20 home loss to San Diego (0-3)
Sept. 28 – 26-13 loss at Houston (0-4)
Oct. 5 – 34-27 win at Detroit (1-4)
Oct. 12 – 38-10 home loss to New England (1-5)
Oct. 19 – 24-17 home win over Minnesota (2-5)
Oct. 26 – 34-24 loss at New York Jets (2-6)
Nov. 9 – 22-14 home loss to Kansas City (2-7)
Nov. 13 – 23-3 loss at Miami (2-8)
Nov. 23 – 33-10 home win over New York Jets (3-8)
Nov. 30 – 38-10 home win over Cleveland (4-8)
Dec. 7 – 28-13 loss at Denver (4-9)
Dec. 14 – 38-10 home loss to Green Bay (4-10)
Dec. 21 – 27-14 win at Oakland (5-10)
Dec. 28 – 28-17 loss at New England (5-11).
Is ESPN The Magazine underrating Buffalo’s defense – that’s a lot of points allowed (419) or are many of us overrating Buffalo’s defense (the Bills did allow 388 points last season’ 24.3 points allowed per game ranked 20th in the 32-team league)?
RATTLERS-OUTLAWS TALE OF THE TAPE
The Rochester Rattlers will take on the Denver Outlaws, featuring former Rochester Knighthawks/Rattlers superstar John Grant Jr., in the Major Lacrosse League championship game Saturday, 7 p.m., at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga., outside Atlanta. You can watch it on the CBS Sports network.
Here is how the two powerhouse teams measure up for the season (statistics include last week’s semifinal playoff games):
Records – Rochester 11-4 (7-1 home, 4-3 road)…Denver 10-5 (7-1 home, 3-4 road)
Goals for – Rochester 203…Denver 202
Goals against – Rochester 172…Denver 187
2-point goals for/against – Rochester – 5/4…Denver 8/6
Power-play percentage – 28.08 (14-for-50)…Denver 33.00 (13-for-39)
Penalty killing percentage -- .702 (33-for-47)…Denver .667 (28-for-42).
A key to the game figures to be the matchup between Grant and Mike Marley of the Rattlers, who this week was voted MLL Defensive player of the Year.
NO ENTRIES TO 30-30 CLUB SEEM LIKELY THIS SEASON
Major League Baseball’s 30-30 Club is difficult to enter. Only 38 players have hit at least 30 home runs and stolen at least 30 bases in the same season (13 did it multiple times). Speed and power is a rare combination.
The most recent members of the 30-30 Club were Ryan Braun (41 HRs/30 SBs) and Mike Trout (30 HRs/49 SBs). I suspect that Braun probably needed PEDs to do it.
There were no 30-30 Club members in 2013 and it looks like no player will come close in 2014. The only players with at least 20 HRs and 20 SBs this season are Carlos Gomez (21 HRs/27 SBs) and Brian Dozier (20 HRs/20 SBs).
The last time there were no 30-30 Club members in consecutive seasons was 1984-1985-1986.
Is the non-30-30 Club streak likely to continue? There aren’t many players out there with the power/speed combination to get it done. The most obvious candidates include Gomez, Trout and Andrew McCutchen.
LeBRON JAMES HISTORIC HICKOK BELT WINNER
Cleveland Cavaliers (again) superstar LeBron James this week was voted the 2013 Hickok Belt winner. The Hickok Belt goes to the best pro athlete and always has been selected by a panel of national sportswriters and sportscasters.
Since Rochester’s Tony Liccione resurrected the Hickok Belt in 2012, “King James” was selected both years.
When the Hickok Belt was awarded from 1950 through 1976, there were no repeat winners. The only two-time winner was Sandy Koufax (in 1963 and 1965).
The repeat selection of James is a strong clue to the clout basketball and baseball have now compared to the original Hickok Belt run…From 1950 through 1976, no basketball players won the Hickok Belt. The breakdown by sports: baseball 15, football 5, boxing 4 and golf 3…Baseball ruled the American sports scene for a long time. It no longer does.
RED WINGS’ TEAM HR LEADERS PRIMER
Two Red Wings (1928 through 2013) led the team with 40-plus HRs: Russ Derry 42 in 1959 and Ripper Collins 40 in 1930. Jim Fuller had 39 HRs in 1973.
The only Red Wing to lead the team in HRs four years in a row was Garrett Jones: 24 in 2005, 21 in 2006, 13 in 2007 and 23 in 2008…Harry “Stinky” Davis led the Red Wings in HRs three straight seasons: 21 in 1939, 17 in 1940 and 14 in 1941…Russ Derry led the Red Wings in HRs three straight seasons: 42 in 1949, 30 in 1950 and 19 in 1951.
Eight players who led the Red Wings in HRs for a season never played in the major leagues: Frank Gravino, Jim Frey, Ron Diggle, John Valle, Dan Logan, Brad Tyler, Tommy Davis and Dustin Martin.
Allie Clark, who led the Red Wings with 23 HRs in 1955, played on two World Series champions in consecutive seasons: Yankees in 1947 and Cleveland in 1948.
Legendary Red Wing Estel Crabtree led the team in HRs in 1937 (15) and 1938 (12). He had 13 career HRs in the majors.
Del Rice, who led the Red Wings with 6 HRs in 1944, had 1 HR in 44 games with the 1960 Red Wings.
The most career HRs in the major leagues by players who led the Red Wings in HRs for a season: Cal Ripken 431, Boog Powell 339, Justin Morneau 234, Bobby Grich 224, Leon Wagner 211,Chris Hoiles 151, Ripper Collins 135, Eddie Joost 134, Mike Epstein 130, Curt Blefary 112, Garrett Jones 110, George Selkirk 108.
Terry Crowley led the Red Wings in HRs in 1969 (28) and 1977 (30).
Luke Easter led the Red Wings with 21 HRs in 1959 after he was purchased from Buffalo. The 1959 Red Wings hold the unofficial team record for HRs in a season (153).
Russ Derry had 17 HRs in the majors and Jim Fuller had 11 HRs in the majors.
The Buffalo Bills were rated the NFL’s fourth-fastest team this week by Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com. He researched the 40-yard dash times of the regular players at 10 spots: QB, RB (2), WR (2), TE, CB (2) and safety (2). He did not include linemen or linebackers (why not?) in his study. He subtracted mini-seconds for each year of NFL wear-and-tear…The top 10 “fastest teams”: Tennessee, Washington, Buffalo, Cleveland, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Miami, Baltimore and Seattle…The five “slowest teams”: New England, followed by Chicago, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Denver…I guess being “slow” isn’t always a kiss of death.
Give the LPGA credit for the dramatic increase in tournaments outside the United States. Tour stops this year outside the continental United States include Australia, Bahamas, Canada, China, England, France, Hawaii, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. That’s another reason why the LPGA has “outgrown Rochester.” At least for now.
Rochester Flash Stars Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach both scored on penalty kicks for the United States women’s national soccer team Wednesday night in a 4-1 victory over Switzerland. It was Abby’s 168th goal for the U.S. national team…The next two games for the U.S. women’s team will be Sept. 13 against Mexico in Sandy, Utah, and Sept. 18 vs. Mexico at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester.
Surprising Buffalo Bills factoid: Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the league’s best home record: 244-95-1 (.719). Two teams are tied for 23rd with home records of 184-156-1 (.541) – the New York Giants and the Bills. The New York Jets are 29th at 165-173-1 (.488).