PBL 2016 Season in Review: Silver City Outlaws

Last season, the Silver City Outlaws were one of the Patriot League’s biggest disappointments; tabbed as a championship favorite, they burned out after a hot start, and a harrowing second-half collapse left them 10 games under the .500 mark.  In the memorable words of manager John Jarha, “the whole lineup collectively popped a squat on the stat sheet – and our record.”

This season was a different story; the offense showed improvement, the pitching remained strong, and the Outlaws cruised to a second-place finish in the West, then upset the California Sharks in the Western Division Series before losing the championship to the Knoxville Smokies in six games.

“Here I was scared we’d be eatin’ Cheetos in the basement by July,” said Jarha, “but these fellas staked our claim as the Best in the West and damn near brought it all home.”

What was the key to Silver City’s hitting revival?  They learned to work with their park.  The hot temperatures and high elevation of The Corral make it a launching pad, and the Outlaws’ hitters took advantage, clubbing a league-leading 273 homers.  RF Nathaniel Wason led the way (and led the league) with 55 round-trippers, but he was joined by big boppers like CF Javier Cardona (41 homers), SS Danny Taylor (37), 3B Rusty Brewmaker (34), and 1B Muzz Elliott (29).  Those blasts helped lift Silver City to an .824 team OPS, third-best in the league.  “These boys showed a lotta grit, lotta fight,” said Jarha of his hitters.

The rotation, which was the Outlaws’ strength last season, remained stout despite the loss of Juan Carlos Lopez and Linus Pauling in the expansion draft.  Lefties Pedro Rodriguez (15-7, 3.69 ERA, .708 OPS against) and Rob Tildon (13-10, 3.87, .667) provided a potent 1-2 punch at the top, and teenager David Otto proved an ideal midseason reinforcement, going 10-2 with a 3.99 ERA.

The bullpen was arguably even more impressive, with righty Emilio Abbas (5-4, 4 saves, 2.63 ERA), rookie Tim Simmons (4-1, 7 SV, 3.76), and lefty Cliff Humphrey (1-3, 3.00) providing a bridge at the back end to closer Go Matsumoto, who struggled at times but converted 28 of 34 save chances.

The team’s overall excellence left Jarha “gushin’ all over [his] guys like a moon-eyed lil’ school girl.”

However, the skipper was clear enough to see some chinks in his team’s armor.  Most notably, Jarha cited “that giant [expletive] black hole in left field.”  Brant “Poison” Ivey manned the position in 2015, but his questionable glove work prompted Jarha to move him to the DH slot.  Instead, Jarha tried a platoon of Marlon Hintz and Tex Whittier, “a pair of guys who showed me they could hit the ball last year.”  They were unable to repeat that performance in 2016.  Hintz hit a mere .234 and struck out in nearly a third of his at-bats, while Whittier hit .209 with no power.  “I don’t know what happened in the offseason—too many donuts, maybe somebody’s chakras got outta whack or somethin’,” said Jarha.  “But let’s just say I was disappointed.  Real disappointed.”

In addition to the left-field issue, Silver City struggled at the back end of the rotation.  Rookie Kevin Jennings (10-10, 4.73) and veteran Cloyce “Hoss” Benson (12-8, 4.79) both struggled with inconsistency, while Matthew Frederick (3-6, 5.36) underwhelmed before suffering a mid-season injury and never making it back to the majors.  If none of those three can improve, much of the Outlaws’ fate will be riding on Otto’s slender shoulders.

Looking ahead to 2017, Jarha made no secret of his expectations: “What else?  We gotta get back to the series and win the damn thing this time!”  The manager acknowledged that his team won’t have an easy road back to the Series; California figures to be strong, Milwaukee is likely to bounce back, and Salt Lake and Kalamazoo should be interesting with another year of experience under their belts.  But Silver City has strong top-end starters, a solid crop of firemen, and a hard-hitting lineup.  There’s no reason to believe that the Outlaws won’t be back in the mix next year.  “Ol’ Snuffy better sleep tight with that trophy,” said Jarha, “‘cuz it’ll be westbound and down, I’ll tell you that.”

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PBL Season In Review: Silver City Outlaws

Silver City OutlawsIf you had to pick the Patriot League’s most disappointing team for the 2015 season, the Silver City Outlaws would likely be it.  Other teams finished with worse records, but none fell as far short of expectations as the Outlaws.  Widely expected to be a leading championship contender, Silver City got off to a scorching-hot 14-4 start.  From there, though, the Outlaws took a nosedive, and ultimately crashed to a 70-80 record and a flat third-place finish in the West.

To Outlaws manager John Jarha, it’s no mystery why things went wrong.  “From my perspective, the reason is pretty simple: We just didn’t swing the bats like we should have,” said Jarha.  “Our starting rotation was great, even better than I thought we’d be at the start of the season, but we didn’t give them any help.”

The numbers bear out Jarha’s argument.  The team finished with a 4.19 ERA and a .738 OPS against, both marks good enough for third place in the league.  However, Silver City’s hitters batted only .239 (only last-place Salt Lake was worse) with a .736 OPS (third worst in the league).  The Outlaws struck out an eye-popping 1014 times, the most in the league by far (no other team had more than 800).  Factor in the offense-enhancing conditions (hot temperatures and high elevation) at The Corral, and the chasm between the team’s strong pitching and dismal hitting is even more stark.

A major chunk of Silver City’s offense came from RF Nathaniel Wason, who was one of the league’s best all-around offensive players.  Wason’s 54 homers led the league, and his .667 slugging percentage was second in the league to Milwaukee’s Felipe Mateo.  The Outlaws had a few other players with decent pop (3B Rusty Brewmaker hit 29 homers, 1B Muzz Elliott 27, and CF Javier Cardona 24), but the team struggled to get runners on base ahead of those blasts.

“We had plenty of homers,” said Wason, “but far too often, they were solos.  We weren’t scoring runs in bunches the way we needed to.”

The team’s offensive struggles undermined a quality pitching staff.  Rookie lefty Pedro Rodriguez made a strong case as the league’s best pitcher, posting a 3.06 ERA that was second-best among starters and leading the league with 212 strikeouts.  Thanks to the lack of support, though, Rodriguez posted an underwhelming 12-11 record.

The rotation, anchored by Rodriguez, was Silver City’s greatest strength.  The rookie southpaw was supported by solid performances from lefty Rob Tildon (10-14, 3.88, 169 Ks) and righty Juan Carlos Lopez (12-12, 3.97).  The biggest surprise, though, came from veteran right-hander Linus Pauling.  The 31-year-old impressed the Outlaws brass by posting an 11-14 record and a 3.49 ERA, fifth-best among Patriot League starters.

“I mean, I don’t think anyone expected what Linus did in the first half—probably not even Linus!” said Jarha.  “We brought him on to shore up the back end of the rotation, and he ended up being one of our most solid starters.  He’s not a big strikeout pitcher like Pedro or Robbie, but he knows how to get hitters out, and he did everything we needed him to do and more.”

Outlaws owner Justin Rallis praised the production from his team’s two teenagers, the 19-year-old Rodriguez and the 18-year-old Brewmaker. “Pedro is a legitimate Cy Young candidate in his first season, and Rusty was just a home run and five RBI short of a 100/30/100 season,” said Rallis.  “That’s a terrific foundation of young players to help build and improve our franchise.”

Jarha was also full of praise for Brewmaker. “Rusty led the team in on-base percentage, and finished second [to Wason] in runs, home runs, RBI, and game-winners,” the manager noted.  “That’s pretty amazing for a kid who was in high school last year!”

Despite the impressive work of the two rookies and the strong rotation, however, the Outlaws finished well out of contention.  The feeble offense was the primary reason for the team’s failure, but the bullpen also played a role.  In the first half, the Silver City relief corps was a reliable unit, one that earned the affectionate nickname “Dirt Hogs” from Jarha for their low-glory, blue-collar work ethic.  In the second half, though, the former team strength became a liability.  The pen finished with a 4.96 ERA, and several relievers showed clear signs of overwork down the stretch, most notably righty Jamaal Sapp and closer Go Matsumoto.

How will the Outlaws make sure that 2016 isn’t another disappointment?  Outlaws GM Hank Stroman declined to discuss specifics, saying, “My highest priority is making sure we re-sign the players we need to win games next year.”  He did suggest that the team was actively looking to improve through both free agency and the draft.

Jarha is focused on improving the team’s hitting.  “I’ve gotta let the guys go home for a little while and see their families,” said the Outlaws manager, “but I want to get back in the cages as soon as possible.  I don’t want to be sitting here next year talking about why our team couldn’t hit the ball.”

Stroman did hint that next year’s changes might extend beyond the roster, saying, “I’ll be evaluating the performance of our entire staff to determine if we need to make a change.”  When asked if this meant Jarha or some of his coaches might be dismissed, Stroman replied, “I didn’t say that.  What I said is that it’s my job to make sure our guys have the right coaches and environment.  If that means I have to make a change in the coaching staff, I’ll make that determination at the appropriate time.” With a laugh, the GM added, “That isn’t today, though.”

Based on the owner’s comment, it’s not clear whether Jarha or his staff can rest easy this offseason.  What is clear, though, is that the Outlaws had better see some upward mobility in the standings next year, or players and coaches alike will see their feet held to the fire.

 

PBL Transactions, 6/15/15 – 6/21/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

 

 

Knoxville Smokies

Knoxville Smokies: Called up 2B Danny Kurland. Demoted CF Arnold Carranza.

 

 

Salt Lake SamuraiSalt Lake Samurai: Activated C DeAndre Turnbull from the disabled list. Placed 2B Quincy Gaytan on the 15-day disabled list.  Called up 2B Gabriel Montalvo.  Demoted 1B Dwayne Parillo.

 

Silver City OutlawsSilver City Outlaws: Called up LF Marlon Hintz. Demoted DH Teddy Olivas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PBL Transactions, 6/1/15 – 6/7/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

California Sharks

 

California Sharks: Signed free agents 1B Jamal Gerke, SS Grant Knepper, CF Conrad Mojica, SP Kerry Lopez, and RPs Osvaldo Barret and Jason Richter.

 

Jackson Hammerheads

Jackson Hammerheads: Signed free agents C Carlos Asperzol, 3B Elmo Milliner, LF Monty Walcott, DH Dexter Jester, SP Nico Library, and RF Cortez Petrik.  Waived 1B Coy Tighe. Activated 1B Pete Ciancarulo from the 15-day disabled list.  Placed DH Alex Jaramillo on the 15-day disabled list.  Called up LF Monty Walcott.

 

Jacksonville Dragons

Jacksonville Dragons: Signed free agents 1B Neal B. Thomas, CF Rondei Isua, DH Isaias Miguel, SP Juan Pascos, and RPs Lauren Gilpatrick and Jamel Janke.

 

 

Knoxville Smokies

Knoxville Smokies: Signed free agents 2B Danny Kurland, CF Arnold Carranza, DH Jerome Arch, and RPs Rodolfo Darville, Oscar Madison, and Norman Sater. Claimed 1B Coy Tighe off waivers. Called up CF Arnold Carranza. Demoted SS Lorenzo Arias and RP Edgar Provenza.

 

Milwaukee Bear Claws

Milwaukee Bear Claws: Signed free agents 2B Quirico Rodriguez, RF Bruce Rew, DH Hans Coghill, and RPs Rodolfo Elmonte, Mike Manigault, and Antonio Schieber.

 

 

Orlando Calrissians

Orlando Calrissians: Signed free agents 2B Jeffrey Matter, LF Sang LeLeux, DH Casey Helmers, SP Ali Godari, and RPs Shab Mickolas and Courtney Vanepps.  Activated CF Glen Madden from the 15-day disabled list.

 

Salt Lake Samurai

Salt Lake Samurai: Signed free agents 1B Lawrence Briski, 2B Gabriel Montalvo, SS Dario Rickard, DH Lazaro Matherne, and RPs Jose Mariata and Bryce Sereno.  Traded RPs Rick Wilkins, Oliver Jones, and Jose Mariata to Knoxville for SP Grant Fore, DH Matthew Weigel, and RP Norman Sater.  (See story here.)  Placed C DeAndre Turnbull on the 15-day disabled list.  Called up RPs Jimmy Okamura and Norman Sater.

 

Silver City Outlaws

Silver City Outlaws: Signed free agents 3B Narciso Rodriguez, CF Sebastian Melora, DH Charley Ingraham, and RPs Irving Godlewski, Duke Newlin, and Ron Wall.

 

 

 

PBL Transactions, 5/25/15 – 5/31/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

Jackson Hammerheads

 

Jackson Hammerheads: Traded 1B Eddie Battin and RP Sylvester Lighty to Knoxville for DH Alex Jaramillo, SP Yu Chen, and 1B Pete Cianciarulo. (See story here.)

 

Salt Lake Samurai

 

Salt Lake Samurai: Activated RF Romeo Martinez from the 15-day disabled list. Demoted 3B Luis Poncilar.

 

 

 

 

PBL Transactions, 5/18/15 – 5/24/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

 

Jackson Hammerheads

 

Jackson Hammerheads: Activated SP Luke Danton from the 15-day disabled list.

 

Jacksonville Dragons


Jacksonville Dragons:
Placed SP Kyle Palmer on the 15-day disabled list.  Demoted 3B Lautaro Perez and RP John Longroofan.  Called up SS Alexis Popejoy and RPs Emilio Abbas and Elias Rosado.

 

Orlando Calrissians


Orlando Calrissians:
 Activated SP Tom Trane from the 15-day disabled list and demoted him to the minor leagues.

 

Silver City Outlaws

 

Silver City Outlaws: Called up RP Zeke Foster.  Demoted RP Trip Hawkins.

 

 

PBL Transactions, 5/3/15 – 5/9/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

 

Jackson Hammerheads

 

Jackson Hammerheads: Activated RF Erin Arispe from the 15-day disabled list.  Demoted 1B Vernon Mack.  Traded DH Erasmo Crofoot to Orlando for RP Hilton Sircy.  (See story here.)

 

Orlando Calrissians

 

Orlando Calrissians: Claimed SP Charles McNally off the waiver wire.  Places RP Tom Trane on the 15-day disabled list.  Called up RP Aron Filippi.  Demoted SP Steve Gardner.  Waived DH Jerome Arch.  (See story here.)

 

Salt Lake Samurai

 

Salt Lake Samurai: Placed RF Romeo Martinez on the 15-day disabled list.  Called up 3B Luis Poncilar.

 

Silver City Outlaws

 

Silver City Outlaws: Demoted OF Beau Baynes.  Called up OF Kent “Tex” Whittier.

 

PBL Transactions, 4/26/15 – 5/2/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

 

Jacksonville Dragons

 

Jacksonville Dragons: Claimed free agent RP Michael Youngblood.  Called up SP Tony “Packo” Harris.  Demoted RP Whitney Winslow.  Waived RP Mike Manigault.

 

Silver City Outlaws

 

Silver City Outlaws: Traded RP Rick Wilkins to Salt Lake for RP Cliff Humphrey. (See story here.)

 

Salt Lake, Silver City Swap Relievers

Cliff Humphrey
Cliff Humphrey
Rick Wilkins
Rick Wilkins

Relief pitchers appear to be the hottest commodity in the Patriot League this season, as virtually all the contenders are shuffling their bullpens in search of an edge.  The Silver City Outlaws, whose once-commanding Western Division lead has slipped, were the latest contender to fortify their relief corps, acquiring left-hander Cliff Humphrey from the Salt Lake Samurai in exchange for long reliever Rick Wilkins.

Humphrey, a 34-year-old knuckleballer, has excelled in fairly limited work with the Samurai this season.  He posted a 1.42 ERA in 6 2/3 innings for Salt Lake, one of the few bright spots in a generally grim picture.

Not only was Humphrey quite effective on the mound, he was also widely liked in the Samurai clubhouse.  He was well-known as a quick wit and a cross between assistant pitching coach and father confessor for the younger players on the team.  He is also a fairly accomplished electric guitarist, who occasionally played jam sessions in Salt Lake nightclubs and tours with a blues-rock band during the offseason.

“I’m really going to miss Cliff,” said Samurai manager Johnny Dugan.  “He’s a good pitcher, and even more important, he’s a really fun guy to be around.  I know a lot of us are sorry to see him go.”

Outlaws GM Hank Stroman was full of praise for his new acquisition.  “Once I set my mind to getting a player, I track that deal like a hound dog and don’t let up until I get him.  As soon as I saw Cliff Humphrey pitch, I knew I wasn’t gonna rest until I saw him in the cream-and-green.  I think he fits in great with our staff, and he has that veteran know-how I like.  We just got another notch on our belt.”

The 31-year-old Wilkins only appeared in one game for Silver City, in which he allowed 3 runs in two-thirds of an innings.  Sources with the team say he lost manager John Jarha’s trust after that, and he had grown increasingly vocal in his dissatisfaction with his role.  He has shown an amazing reputation for rubber-armed durability in his previous stops, posting a 2.82 ERA in 106 appearances last year in the Mexican League.

“Well, at least I should get to appear in all the games I want,” said Wilkins about his trade to Salt Lake.  “The record sucks, but I’ll treat it as an opportunity.”

PBL Transactions, 4/12/15 – 4/18/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

Jacksonville Dragons

 

Jacksonville Dragons: Called up RP John Longroofan. Demoted RP Jack Jacques. (See story here.)

 

Knoxville Smokies

 

Knoxville Smokies: Traded 3B Chris “Catknife” Davidson to Salt Lake for LF Victor Gomez.  Demoted SS Lorenzo Arias.

 

Salt Lake Samurai

 

Salt Lake Samurai: Called up UT Edmund Rains.  Demoted 3B Luis Poncilar.

 

Silver City Outlaws

 

Silver City Outlaws: Called up DH Teddy Olivas. Demoted LF Marlon Hintz.