PCL Has Six New Affiliations

September 19, 2014

We’ve got a major shake-up in the PCL, as six of the 16 teams will have different major league affiliates for 2015.

This was the biggest affiliation shuffle in the Pacific Coast League in many years – and it all went down in just three days. Here are the teams that changed affiliates:

  • SACRAMENTO – was Oakland A’s, now San Francisco Giants
  • FRESNO – was San Francisco Giants, now Houston Astros
  • OKLAHOMA CITY – was Houston Astros, now Los Angeles Dodgers
  • ALBUQUERQUE – was Los Angeles Dodgers, now Colorado Rockies
  • COLORADO SPRINGS – was Colorado Rockies, now Milwaukee Brewers
  • NASHVILLE – was Milwaukee Brewers, now Oakland A’s

I have received enough questions to clarify this: the Triple-A players are all employees of the major league teams. That means that a player who has been with Sacramento seemingly forever – for example, Daric Barton – will now suit up for the Nashville Sounds (assuming the A’s re-sign him for 2015). The guys who were in Fresno this year like Gary Brown and Adam Duvall and Chris Heston will be Sacramento River Cats next year. The coaching staffs move, too: if Dwight Bernard remains the SF Giants Triple-A pitching coach next year, he’ll be stationed in Sacramento instead of Fresno.

Radio broadcasters, clubhouse managers, PCL general managers, sales reps, ushers, ticket takers… they all stay in the same minor league city, because they work for the minor league team.

It doesn’t appear that any PCL teams need to re-brand themselves with their new affiliate, so we probably won’t have any team name changes.* If the Iowa Cubs had changed this would have been an issue, but they stayed with Chicago.

So, how does all of this affect the Tacoma Rainiers in 2015?

First off, the Rainiers will remain with the Seattle Mariners. The four-year Tacoma-Seattle agreement from Fall 2010 expired two weeks ago, but before it expired the sides agreed to extend for a currently unknown number of years which will be announced soon.

The big change will be on the field for 2015 and beyond: the Rainiers will no longer regularly play against Oakland A’s affiliates.

This is both good and bad.

Oakland always puts a winner on the field in Triple-A, and that winner will be in the American-South division now. This theoretically makes it a lot easier for Tacoma to win the Pacific-North.

On the other hand, Mariners prospects will not face Oakland prospects in Triple-A all of the time anymore. Now when Oakland brings in a rookie reliever to face a young Mariners batter, the two will not have faced each other multiple times in Triple-A. With Oakland in Nashville, the Mariners and A’s Triple-A players will square off in just one four-game series each PCL season.

Here’s a look at Tacoma’s division, the Pac-North:

  • Tacoma (Seattle Mariners)
  • Reno (Arizona Diamondbacks)
  • Sacramento (San Francisco Giants)
  • Fresno (Houston Astros)

It should be noted that the Houston Astros farm system is currently very strong, so the Fresno Grizzlies will no longer be the pushover they have been for the past 15 years. Meanwhile the SF Giants have a long history of fielding bad Triple-A teams, so Sacramento fans may have to get accustomed to that.

It’s going to take a while for all of us to get used to these new affiliations. Memorizing all of these gives me something to work on during the off-season!

Links:

I just went out to the mailbox and found an issue of ESPN The Magazine in there… with former Rainiers outfielder Adam Jones on the cover. Nice!

* feel free to go for it anyway, Sacramento.


Omaha Wins Triple-A Title; PCL Affiliations Changing

September 17, 2014

The Omaha Storm Chasers won their second straight Triple-A National Championship Game, defeating Pawtucket on Tuesday night 4-2.

The annual meeting between the PCL and International League champs is played at a revolving neutral site. This year’s game was held at the new ballpark in Charlotte, NC.

The game was tied 2-2 in the top of the seventh inning when Omaha catcher Brett Hayes launched a two-run homer. That proved to be the game-winner, as the Omaha bullpen nailed it down.

Kansas City Royals pitching prospects Christian Binford and Kyle Zimmer both shined in the contest, which was marred by a 1 hour, 46 minute rain delay in the fifth inning.

Congratulations to the Omaha Storm Chasers on winning the whole ball of wax. They had a tremendous season.

The affiliation shuffle in the PCL is underway.

  • The Sacramento River Cats have officially given the Oakland A’s the boot, and it seems likely that they will sign on with the San Francisco Giants. This decision by Sacramento is driven by ticket sales: the River Cats feel that the Giants have a larger fan base in Sacramento. However, the River Cats are getting a lot of backlash.
  • The long rumored Dodgers-to-Oklahoma City move is done. The Dodgers left Albuquerque for a more pitcher-friendly ballpark and conference. This makes sense from a player development standpoint, since the Dodgers play in one of the best pitcher’s parks in the majors and Albuquerque plays in a launching pad. The Dodgers also switched their Double-A affiliation to Tulsa – apparently LA is trying to annex Oklahoma.
  • Albuquerque quickly hooked up with the Colorado Rockies, which seems like a perfect match. The Rockies still get the developmental advantage of having their pitching prospects work at high elevation while taking a huge step up in quality of ballpark.
  • The Rockies leaving Colorado Springs is a big issue going forward for the Sky Sox. It appears they are likely to land either the Brewers, Astros, or A’s. None of those seem like good marketing/geographical matches. However, we do have eight fun facts about the Sky Sox.
  • Nashville is moving into a new downtown ballpark and their affiliation is up for grabs.
  • The Chicago Cubs and Iowa Cubs extended their affiliation through 2018.

Links:

  • The Omaha newspaper has reaction from Charlotte on the Storm Chasers winning the Triple-A title.
  • The Mariners got back on the horse and raced to a 13-2 win at Los Angeles Of Anaheim. It was a big day in the race for the wild card(s), as the Mariners closed the gap on all three teams they are chasing.
  • You can find some details about playoff tickets in Bob Dutton’s Mariners notebook.
  • Jim Caple has a story on the impact Robinson Cano has had on the Mariners.
  • John Sickels reviewed his preseason Mariners prospect list.
  • Former PCL slugger & Rainiers killer Chris Carter is having a breakout season with the Houston Astros, and Jonah Keri tried to figure out how.

Lots of stuff going on with the affiliations right now, as several PCL teams are still possible changing. Stay tuned for more…


Storm Chasers Repeat As PCL Champions

September 15, 2014

There is a new dynasty in the Pacific Coast League.

Omaha won its second straight PCL title on Sunday afternoon, when starter Aaron Brooks pitched a complete game two-hit shutout in a 4-0 victory over Reno. Omaha won the best-of-five series, three games to two.

It’s not just two straight for Omaha. The Storm Chasers also won the PCL championship in 2011, giving them three PCL titles in the last four years.

I think we can safely say that Omaha has surpassed Sacramento as the top dynasty in the league right now. Sacramento won the Pacific-North 11 times in 13 seasons from 2000 to 2012, taking four PCL titles during that time. But Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs in two straight seasons.

Omaha won its first two championships under longtime manager Mike Jirschele, who he was bumped up to the big league coaching staff this season. New manager Brian Poldberg didn’t skip a beat, winning a league championship in his first season as a Triple-A manager.

Brooks was named Most Valuable Player of the series, winning a pair of starts while allowing just two runs in 16 innings. He retired 20 straight batters during his championship-clinching shutout.

Omaha is not done yet. They have one game remaining, the Triple-A National Championship Game on Tuesday night in Charlotte, NC.

It will pit Omaha against the International League champion Pawtucket Red Sox in the one-game cross-league battle.

The game feels kind of like an exhibition after the intensity of the league finals, although of course the players are trying to win it. Omaha will be trying to win it for the second year in a row.

Tuesday’s game will be nationally televised on the NBC Sports Network, with George Grande and Jim Kaat on the call. First pitch is set for 4:00 (Pacific).

The Mariners had a disappointing weekend, dropping games on Saturday and Sunday to Oakland after winning the series opener on Friday night.

The series loss to Oakland – the current leader for AL Wild Card #1 – at least provides some clarity in terms of who the Mariners are chasing. While it is still possible for Seattle to pass Oakland, it is much more reasonable for Seattle to surpass Kansas City and take the AL Wild Card #2 spot.

So it looks like we are anti-Royals for the final two weeks of the season.

Links:

Tuesday’s Triple-A National Championship Game is the final minor league game of 2014. We’ll start looking toward 2015 soon!


We Have A Game Five

September 14, 2014

The Pacific Coast League Championship Series comes down to a fifth and final game today, at noon in Omaha.

Omaha stayed alive and forced the final game by crushing Reno on Saturday afternoon, 11-2. Infielder Brian Bocock – not known for his power – hit two homers, had three hits, and drove in three runs.

Reno starter Charles Brewer lasted just three innings, three other Omaha players homered, it was 8-1 after four innings and the rout was on.

The series is tied 2-2, and it all comes down to Game Five today at 12:05 (Pacific). Both teams have good starters ready to go: Reno starts RHP Mike Bolsinger (8-3, 3.93) against Omaha RHP Aaron Brooks (12-3, 3.88).

You can listen to the game online by clicking here. For a gameday screen, go here.

Links:

  • The Omaha newspaper has a thorough story on last night’s game.
  • The winner of today’s game win the PCL Championship, but will still have one game left: the Triple-A National Championship Game against Pawtucket on Tuesday in Charlotte. The PawSox won the International League title (“the Governor’s Cup”) by downing Durham on Saturday.
  • The Mariners lost a toughie last night to Oakland, and now the series finale today looms as the latest Most Important Game Of The Year.
  • John McGrath’s MLB rankings give you a nice snapshot of what’s going on in the majors right now.
  • Larry Stone writes that Lloyd McClendon would be a good choice to win AL Manager of the Year.

Reno Grabs The Lead

September 13, 2014

The Reno Aces took pivotal Game Three of the PCL Championship Series on Friday night, coming away with a 2-1 victory at Omaha on Friday night.

Reno now leads the best-of-five series, two games to one. The Aces get two shots to win one game and their second PCL title.

Last night’s star was Reno left-hander Andrew Chafin, who delivered six scoreless innings of four-hit ball. Chafin has pitched 15 scoreless innings during the playoffs.

Reno scored its runs when Roger Kieschnick connected for a two-run homer in the sixth inning.

Game Four is today at 12:05 (Pacific).

Links:

If there is a Game Five, it will be at 12:05 Pacific on Sunday.


Series Tied

September 11, 2014

Reno evened-up the Pacific Coast League Championship Series with a 4-2 home victory on Wednesday night, but Omaha still has the advantage.

By getting a split of the two games in Reno, Omaha is the favorite as the series moves to Nebraska for the final three games.

Reno could have been in deep trouble, but last night the Aces had a tremendous pitching performance by newcomer Bradin Hagens. Hagens allowed just one run on five hits (with no walks) over six innings to earn the win.

Even the most attentive Rainiers fan has probably never heard of Hagens: he was with Double-A Mobile until late in the season, and made just four August starts for Reno. He was not with the Aces at any time that they played Tacoma.

That was a big outing for the Triple-A newbie. Hagens had some early run support: Reno scored all four of its runs in the second inning, as Mike Freeman hit a two-run single and Nick Ahmed had a two-run double.

The series takes a day off for travel today, and resumes with the pivotal Game Three on Friday night at 5:05 (Pacific).

Links:

With both the PCL Finals and the Mariners getting a day off tonight, we will not have a post on Friday. This blog will next be updated on Saturday.


Omaha Strikes First

September 10, 2014

The Omaha Storm Chasers won the opening game of the best-of-five PCL Championship Series on Tuesday night, picking up a 6-2 road win at Reno.

The way the game started was ominous for Reno: Omaha scored three runs in the top of the first inning, knocking out Reno starting pitcher Clayton Richard in the process. Reno used four pitchers to cover the remainder of the game, with former starter Bo Schultz picking up 4.1 innings to save the rest of the bullpen.

Omaha was ahead 6-0 in the second inning and coasted to the win behind Aaron Brooks, who lasted seven innings. Brooks had a streak of 25 consecutive scoreless inning end when Andy Marte connected for a two-run homer in the sixth.

Offensively, Omaha drilled 11 hits although they were mostly singles. They hit nine singles and two doubles, but were able to string together the hits over the first two innings to amass the six runs.

Game Two of the series is tonight at 7:05.

The Mariners stretch run continues tonight with the final game of a three-game series against the suddenly-pretty-good Houston Astros (they have won 8-of-their-last-11 and are playing above .500 ball for roughly the last two months).

Tonight Houston starts RHP Nick Tropeano, who will be making his Major League debut.

Tacoma faced Tropeano at Cheney Stadium on June 22, scoring three runs against him in 5.2 innings. Michael Saunders was on rehab with the Rainiers at the time, and his RBI triple keyed a two-run rally in the third inning.

The 23-year-old ended up going 9-5 with a 3.03 ERA in his first Triple-A season. He closed the season on a real roll, allowing just three runs over his final 23 innings pitched.

The late surge enabled Tropeano to lead the PCL in earned run average, as he dropped below the 3.38 ERA of Fresno’s Chris Heston to win the title.

One thing was very clear in the PCL: Tropeano has a reverse platoon split, due to his outstanding change-up. Left-handed batters hit just .156 against him, while right-handers batted .241. This was over 124 innings pitched, so “small sample size” does not apply here. The Mariners may not be able to take advantage of this split, due to the heavily left-handed roster composition.

At any rate, I think this will be an interesting match-up to watch.

The popular food truck festival – The Moveable Feast – is this Saturday at Cheney Stadium. The lunch session is free entry and the dinner session is paid admission, 21+, live bands, beers, etc. TNT Diner has a post which includes descriptions of many of the food trucks that will be present.

Links:

  • The Reno newspaper has a detailed report on the opening game of the series. In the story, Reno manager Phil Nevin explains his quick hook of Clayton Richard.
  • The MiLB.com game story has reaction from Omaha starter Aaron Brooks.
  • In the International League Finals, Pawtucket won the opener against Durham, 3-2. For blurbs on all of the minor league championships, check out this Baseball America round-up.
  • The Mariners offense was shut down by Astros mystery man Collin McHugh, who has quietly been one of the better starters in baseball for the last two months.
  • James Jones discussing base stealing is the leadoff item in Bob Dutton’s Mariners notebook. The story also includes a Dustin Ackley injury update.
  • Oakland A’s beat writer Susan Slusser got some interesting player quotes regarding the rumored A’s affiliation change from Sacramento to Nashville.
  • Speaking of the A’s, Jonah Keri writes about their fall, and Bruce Jenkins writes that Billy Beane made a bad trade.

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