Monday, June 27, 2011

L.I. DUCKS ~ Closer To A First Half Divison Clincher


Off Day; State of the Pond Address.

The Ducks Are Well On Their Way To Wiping Away The Memory Of Missing The Playoffs in 2010.   With Less Than Two Weeks To Go, The Webbed Crusaders Are Zeroing In On a First Half Clinch.

The South Maryland Blue Crabs salvaged the last game of their series against the Long Island Ducks Sunday afternoon to avoid dropping behind Long Island by six games.  For the Ducks, the first half standings are twelve games away from being written in stone.  They lead the Liberty Division by a healthy five games over South Maryland.  Somewhere around July 9, 2011, the Atlantic League's First Half division winners will be decided as the first half comes to an end and the standings get frozen in time.

Winning the division obviously has it's advantages once the playoffs start.  But the Long Island Ducks also sport the League's best record.  And there are playoff advantages to that too.  The Ducks' record of  33-17 is tops so far.  Behind them is the Freedom Division leader; Lancaster Barnstormers; with a
30-19 record.  As division leaders, they are the only two clubs with thirty or more wins.

The Long Island Ducks disappointingly missed the playoffs last season.  This year, they have played with a near-complete balance to their game and are perhaps the most well rounded team in the League today.

Batting for average; timely hitting; and power compliment strong starting pitching, while backed up by shut-down bullpen work.  All have equalled first place and current King of the Hill status for the Webbed Spikes Nine.

Mike Loree; the League's top hurler in nearly all major categories; and his mound-partner; Mike Parisi; a League co-leader in strikeouts, have emerged as the Atlantic League's most lethal starting pitching combination this season.  While there were reasonable expectations for Mike Parisi heading into the season, Mike Loree seized the most of a second opportunity to pitch in the starting rotation. He's anchoring the staff after not earning a spot heading into opening day.  But the departure of Lenny DiNardo presented Loree with another opportunity and he nailed it.  Loree and Parisi; the Mike and Mike Show; are a combined 13-3 this season.  After Loree and Parisi, the Ducks might be considered a little thin in the rotation.  More about that towards the end of this post.

Stocked with firemen like Ehren Wassermann; Jeremy Hill; emerging Bob Zimmermann; and of course, the Bethpage Thrilla' Bubbie Buzachero; the Ducks' bullpen is well armed for long relief if necessary.  Of particular note, the work Eren Wassermann has put in so far should not go under spoken.  He and Buzachero have a combined 14 saves.  There were hopes former Met; Duaner Sanchez could be a big contributor this season.  But in only nine appearances he was largely ineffective and is presently inactive.  However, Shane Youman has come on lately, and in five appearances is yet to allow a run.

On the offensive side of things, the Ducks lead the Atlantic League in runs (308) scored.  Kraig Binick batted over .400 for a substantial time before missing a week with facial fractures.  His .352 batting average is still second overall in the League.  Javier Colina is batting .303; Matt Esquivel is at .321; and John Rodriguez is working on a .298 average.

Javier Colina is second in the League in home runs (10) and sixth in RBI.  John Rodriguez, despite missing five games recently due to a sore thumb, is still tied for the League lead with 42 RBI.  After Colina's ten home runs, there are no shortages for power in the Ducks line-up.  Ray Navarrete and J.R. House are second on the team with eight apiece.  John Rodriguez comes in next with seven.  And Matt Esquivel and Lew Ford have six each. 

John Rodriguez leads all Atlantic Leaguers in RBI, but quite a few Ducks are driving in runs also.  Javier Colina with thirty-six and J.R House with thirty-four, round out the team's top three.

Defensively, I'd only offer maybe Ray Navarrete and Javier Colina need to tighten things up a bit up the middle.  Matt Esquivel has had his moments in right field, but is doing a respectable job.  Otherwise, the Ducks are a fundamentally sound bunch.

The Lancaster Barnstormers are only 5-5 in their last ten games.  Last year's champion; the York Revolution are hot on their trail.  Winners of nine out of their last ten, they are only one game behind first place Lancaster in the Freedom Division.  As a matter of fact, York IS the hottest team in the League right now. 

Then enter the Ducks who are winners of seven out of their last ten games.  Many thought, after losing their top two sluggers, who's contracts were purchased by the Mexican League, the Blue Crabs would fade away in the Liberty Division standings..  But they stuck around and took turns occupying first place with the Ducks before Long Island finally took a firm grip on the division.  Bridgeport started to surge and I thought they'd over-take South Maryland at some point.  But they are mired at .500 and can't seem to stop running in place.  Last place Camden recently visited Long Island and gave them all they could handle with a four game series split.

After an off day Monday, The Ducks play host to the white hot York Revolution for three games.  That should be a very interesting series for the Ducks.  Joselo Diaz, who's struggled this season, and Ruddy Lugo are my guess to start two games during the series.  A third starter is harder to find.  Perhaps Shane Youman gets called to man the hill for a game.  York will escape without having to face Loree and Parisi after they pitched against South Maryland over the weekend.

During the bottom of the fourth inning in a game between the Lancaster Barnstormers and the Somerset Patriots, Lancaster manager; Butch Hobson; argued over a play at first base with first base umpire; Chris Rick.

A heated Butch Hobson then gestured as if to throw the Umpire out of the game. Well, that bought Hobson an ejection. Coach Hobson then repeated the gesture throwing the Umpire out of the game again. He then removed the first base bag out of the ground and took it with him to the dugout, where he retrieved a Sharpie; signed the bag; and gave it to a young fan in the first row. The home crowd went wild as the game continued without a first base bag.


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