Rainiers Review, PCL Playoffs Predictions

The 2013 Tacoma Rainiers season came to an end with a 9-6 loss to Sacramento on Monday afternoon. Tacoma finished the season with a pretty strong record of 76-68.

It was a tumultuous year, to say the least. From the staff changes (manager in early May, pitching coach at the all-star break) to the player moves (140 total transactions before the final call-ups – 34 more than the 2012 team had), it seemed like there was never any continuity.

Yet the team won a lot. For a while there in May and June, it was the best Triple-A team we’ve had since the 2001 squad. But it all petered out mid-summer: on July 10, the club was a season-best 16 games over .500 and had a four-game lead in the division, but went 21-29 over the last 50 games.

You can point to the call-ups: Nick Franklin, Mike Zunino, and Brad Miller got called up roughly around the same time (and Danny Farquhar before them). But the real culprit was the DFAs. Those young call-ups weren’t on the Mariners 40-man roster, so they had to clear space. First it was Eric Thames, and then it was Alex Liddi.

I see the loss of Liddi on waivers (June 28) as the key moment in the season. He was Tacoma’s No. 3 hitter, and he was one of the leaders in the locker room. He was unlikely to get recalled by Seattle before September, so we were going to have him on the club all year. To make it worse, the Rainiers didn’t get anything back when he left (he was traded for “international signing bonus slot money”).

It would have been nice if the Mariners went out and signed a veteran from an independent league to fill the third base hole, but they haven’t been going that route in recent years. The Angels went indy-league crazy and signed a host of players for Salt Lake, including third baseman Andy Marte who the Rainiers could have really used.

The team competed well down the stretch and nearly got back in it at the end. They had to sweep that series from Salt Lake last week, and they won the first two games before falling in the final two. Tacoma ended up finishing two games behind the Bees.

It’s going to be an interesting off-season. Amazingly, it’s easier to guess who next year’s players might be than the coaches. We have no idea who the manager will be next year! John Stearns said he is going back to his previous job as minor league catching instructor – in fact, he’s getting right back into it with the instructional league starting in two weeks.

The Rainiers handed out their end-of-season awards on Monday.

The MVP went to outfielder Abraham Almonte, who appears to be getting a serious look as a potential starter for the Mariners next year (he’s started four of the last five games). Almonte finished tied for 7th in the PCL with a .314 batting average, and his .403 OBP ranked fifth in the league.

Pitcher of the Year went to closer Logan Bawcom. Bawcom ranked fifth in the league with 21 saves, while posting a 2.91 ERA. He had 64 strikeouts and 25 walks in 65 innings pitched. I was a little surprised he didn’t get a September call-up – I believe he needs to be protected this winter, or else he’ll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft.

The Gold Glove Award went to first baseman Rich Poythress. Poythress has really soft hands at first – he seems to catch everything, and is real good at scooping low throws and saving errors for his fellow infielders. As for himself, Poythress committed just one error all season for the rare .999 fielding percentage.

The Community Involvement Award went to Nate Tenbrink. Tenbrink was a willing and active participant in the Rainiers community events all season, representing the team with numerous appearances throughout the area.

The PCL Playoffs start tonight, so it’s time for my fearless predictions.

Las Vegas at Salt Lake

The series opens in Salt Lake for the first two games, then moves to Vegas for the final three (if necessary).

Salt Lake really stumbled into the playoffs, dropping 13 of the last 18 games. However, they only lost one player (reliever Ryan Brasier) to a call-up.

Wally Backman‘s 51s played extremely well down the stretch, fending off Sacramento to hold on to the title.

These should be some high-scoring games, played in good hitting conditions. However, I see Las Vegas as the club with the better starting pitching.

I’m taking Las Vegas in four games, 3-1.

Omaha at Oklahoma City

Omaha is the first PCL team to reach the playoffs with a below-.500 record since the current format was established in 1998. The beat out Memphis on the final day of the season to take the crown.

Oklahoma City was the best team in the American Conference all year – and it seems like the Astros are leaving the club intact for the postseason. Notably, superstar George Springer hasn’t been called up yet.

My gut says to take Omaha, because it feels like one of those “expect the unexpected” situations. However, logic is prevailing.

I’m taking Oklahoma City in a three-game sweep.

Links:

  • Here is the Rainiers wrap-up from Tuesday’s News Tribune.
  • I almost didn’t link to MiLB.com’s PCL playoffs preview article, because it says that Salt Lake lead the division “nearly wire to wire,” which is totally inaccurate. But there is some decent info in there, so here it is.
  • Ryan Divish has James Paxton‘s call-up story. Paxton makes his MLB debut on Saturday.
  • On that note, Taijuan Walker makes his second start tonight. I think I’ll (silently) watch some baseball this evening.
  • Larry Stone writes that the Mariners need to find relevance in September.
  • PCL playoff previews from local newspapers: Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Omaha, Oklahoma City.
  • Interesting: the owners of the El Paso team extended their contract with the ballpark in Tucson one year just in case the new stadium isn’t complete by April. Seems like its simply insurance.
  • I enjoyed this display of 15 great baseball-related album covers.
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One Response to Rainiers Review, PCL Playoffs Predictions

  1. Derek Stansbury says:

    Thanks for a great year of broadcasting….you do an amazing job.

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