If mediocrity and inconsistency are two of the symptoms of swine flu, it would seem that the 2009 Trenton Thunder have collectively been afflicted.
Tonight’s 3-2 loss — their second straight loss to the Defenders by that score and third game in the series where they could only muster two runs — sent the Thunder to 9-9.
The Double-A team of one of the best and deepest farm systems in baseball is .500
So, it would be safe to assume that manager Tony Franklin isn’t happy with where the team’s at right now.
“Well, I think we’re better than that,” he said.
OK, I’ll bite. How much better?
“It’s kind of hard to determine right now,” Franklin said.
“But when you’re 9-9 and you’ve been in just about every baseball game, you figure that if you got a hit here or made a play there or made a pitch there, then we’d win a baseball game. I don’t know what that translates (into) in terms of games, but I certainly think we’re better than a 9-9 team.”
The same questions that surrounded this team from the get go are still there; Where is the offense? Will the back end of the rotation hold up? Does this team have enough speed to play small ball to compensate for their lack of power?
Offense? What offense? The team has scored 60 runs in 18 games, good for the lowest total in the Eastern League. That’s 3.33 runs a game. Their four home runs are last in the league, and five teams in the league entered the night already in double digits. Only 2-15 Harrisburg has drawn less walks, and the club is in the middle of the pack with 11 stolen bases.
The back end of the rotation will dazzle you one night, and frazzle you the next. Zach McAllister was amazing last Thursday against New Britain, but couldn’t give the Thunder more than four innings yesterday. Ivan Nova picked up his second straight win last Friday, but needed 95 pitches to get 16 outs tonight. Ryan Pope made his best Double-A start on the 19th in Connecticut, but followed that up with his worst six days later at Waterfront Park against the Rock Cats. The talent is there, the consistency isn’t.
Of the 11 stolen bases the Thunder have, six come from Colin Curtis and Edwar Gonzalez. I wouldn’t consider either player as being “fast.” Reegie Corona, who led last year’s team with 24 steals, has a grand total of two so far.
And then there’s been something that’s made itself painfully obvious that nobody even thought of at the beginning of the year…defensively, the team is atrocious.
Through 18 games, the position players have combined for 28 errors. Francisco Cervelli has managed to amass five of them while catching, which is almost unheard of. Eduardo Nunez already has seen “E-6” pop up on the scoreboard eight times. Marcos Vechionacci has made five errors.
People who think this team is better than 9-9 will tell you that they’ve been decimated by call-ups (Eric Hacker, Chris Malec, Jose Valdez) and injuries (Edwar Gonzalez).
In fact, Franklin did just that.
“Let’s face it, we’ve lost some pitching and we’ve lost some hitting,” he said.
“That’s a lot. You just don’t lose a guy like Malec and a guy like Hacker and a guy like Valdez and not feel it a little bit. But we’ve replaced those guys, pitching wise. Maybe not offensive wise, as far as Malec’s concerned, but that’s a lot to ask. We’re still in this. We’ve been in some close games, and we have not been blown out, and I’m pretty happy about that. But we’re better than 9-9, I do know that.”
I guess only time will tell if that’s really the case…
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com