Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Catfish in three?

MinorLeagueBaseball.com likes the Columbus Catfish.

Okay, let me rephrase that.

Jonathan Mayo, a reporter for MLB.com, writes for MiLB.com.

And he thinks the Catfish will beat the Augusta Greenjackets (Giants) in the best-of-three series. Of course, he says it'll go all three games. They always do, for these short playoff series. And did, for all three Class A playoffs that start this week.

Still, Mayo says the Catfish in three.

I'm fine with that. Although Catfish in two would mean I don't have to spend two nights in Augusta. Not that there's anything wrong with Augusta. It's just, I'd just as soon the Catfish get the series over with quick.

But it'll be a tough series. This year, the teams met 12 times: 4 games in Columbus, which was split 2-2, and 8 games in Augusta, two 4-game series that the Catfish won 3-1 each time. So, for the year, the Catfish lead the series, 8-4.

The feature will be the pitching, but neither team is a slouch at the plate. The Catfish hit .265 for the year, 5th best in the league. Augusta hit .264, 7th best. Emmanuel Burriss, at .321, was the only Augusta player to hit over .300. The Catfish were led by Ryan Royster's .329, Desmond Jennings' .315, and Cesar Suarez' .306.

The Catfish hit 121 home runs, paced by league leader Royster's 30. Quinn Stewart hit 21 and Matt Fields hit 19. Ryan Rohlinger lead Augusta with 18.

Nevin Ashley was 4th in the league in triples with 8. John Matulia had 7 while Jennings had 5. August was paced by James Simmons, who hit 5.

Brett Pill led Augusta and the league with 47 doubles. Teammates Matthew Weston had 35, while Ryan Rohlinger and Robert Felmy each had 31. The Catfish' Suarez was 2nd in the league with 42 doubles. Royster hit 31 two-baggers.

Jennings, who was hurt late in the season, stole 45 bases, 4th best in the league. Suarez stole 31. Burriss, for Augusta, was 3rd in the league with 51. He was the only Augusta player with more than 30 steals, although Marcus Sanders and Tyler Graham had 29 each, while Felmy had 26. Brian Bocock also had 26, but he was promoted to San Jose a while back.

Augusta averages 5.1 runs a game. The Catfish average 4.9. So, offensively, a couple of evenly matched teams.

Mayo points out the series features the best pitching staffs in the South Atlantic League squaring off:
This is a matchup of the league's two best pitching staffs, with the league's ERA and wins leader doing battle to start things off.

The ERA leader is Augusta's Kevin Pucetas (15-4, 1.86 ERA). The Minor League Baseball wins leader is the Catfish' Heath Rollins (17-4, 2.54).

And that's just game one. Game two, which will be in Augusta on Friday, matches Catfish starter Jeremy Hellickson (13-3, 2.67) against Augusta's Clayton Tanner (12-7, 3.29).

And, if it goes three games? I'm thinking the Catfish will start either Will Kline (0-4, 4.97) or Jeremy Hall (1-0, 1.50).

Kline was thrown into the fire after signing as Tampa Bay's number two overall pick this June. Of his 9 starts, he's only had one bad outing. But it was bad. However, if you take away that one bad game and his ERA drops to 1.67. The other three losses came because of no run support.

Hall was on pace to be pitcher of the year for Princeton of the Appalachian League, before being promoted to the Catfish.

But, that's game three.

Game one, tomorrow night, should be a classic. Game two, also. And, if things work out, there won't need to be a game three.

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