Monday, July 09, 2012

L.I. Ducks ~ Limp Into Break After Clinching Title

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

First Half Liberty Division Champs Stumble Into The Break


Six Long Island Ducks Headed to All-Star Game

We've reached the half way point folks.  Having already clinched the first half Liberty Division title handily over the second place RiverSharks, it's now time for Wednesday's Atlantic League All-Star Game, being played this season in beautiful Campbell's Field in Camden, New Jersey, right underneath the Ben Franklin Bridge.  If you've never seen a game there, do so.  The park sits right    across the river from Philadelphia with the bridge and the downtown skyline serving as a backdrop.

Long Island's manager Kevin Baez, will lead the Liberty Division All-Stars in this year's game.  Joining him will be six Ducks players.  Starter Jason Monti, and reliever Jeremy Hill are the hurlers.  Ray Navarrete, Kraig Binick, Dan Lyons, and Shawn Williams, will join them in Camden.

After stumbling through a six game losing streak to end the first half, the Ducks finished 39-30, ever so coincidentally after they clinched the division title.  Thirty-nine wins was still tied for second best in the circuit.  The Freedom Division first half champ Lancaster Barnstormers romped to forty-five wins, to include a closing four game sweep of the Ducks in Lancaster.

Not necessarily an All-Star omission, the Independent League's premiere power hitter over the last few seasons, Brandon Sing, missed twelve games in the first half due to an injury.  He is in his first season in the Atlantic League since coming over from the American Association.  So perhaps he's still adjusting.  His thirteen home runs are just slightly off the league lead.  But maybe with more games played, his thirty-six RBI could be up among the leaders.  Ray Navarrete by the way, is tied for second in the A.L. with forty-eight RBI so far.  Ramon Castro of York, leads with fifty.

Then there is the curious case of starting pitcher, Mike Loree.  He is clearly not the same triple crown pitcher who dominated the league just a season ago.  In fact, he has struggled in thirteen starts with a 5.80 ERA, which is three full points higher than last year's mark.  Last season's league leader in wins, is currently sporting a 4-4 record.  He has been far more hittable this season than over last.  In 71.1 innings pitched, he has surrendered eighty-five hits.  Mike has issued seventeen walks and struck out fifty-four.  Last year's strikeout king, is currently ranked thirteenth in the circuit.

This season at least, Bob Zimmermann and Jason Monti have emerged to lead Long Island's starting rotation to somewhat offset Mike Loree's slide.  But the Ducks aren't nearly as deep as they were last season either.  If you remember, last season in the first half, the Ducks bulldozed their way to a title behind a formidable offense, but also rode the strong pitching of Mike Loree, and Mike Parisi before his contract was purchased.  This season, Mike Loree, Bob Zimmermann, and Jason Monti, have combined to win thirteen games.  That's only a third of all Ducks' victories.

It is also worth noting, after a string of terrible starts, Gustavo Chacin was finally jettisoned from the rotation and the team.  Reliever Jason Monti was then needed to be taken out of the bullpen to start games, and has gone on to win five of six decisions.  Monti's insertion into the rotation became possible when reliever John Hunton returned to the Ducks' bullpen this season.  He was signed late last season and pitched in the playoffs, and was resigned again in early June this season.

In other news, on July 6th, the Ducks signed former Met outfielder, Timo Perez.  He joins fellow former Met, Armando Benitez, on the activated list.


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