Coming off of the 6-3 start I reported on two weeks ago, many wondered if the R-Phils were just hot, or if they are really a good team. That question seems to have been answered, at least in part, by the 9-4 record they posted over the two succeeding weeks. The team has been led by their offense, efficient if not dominant pitching, and by getting the big hit or the big out when its needed. At 15-7, they’re in first place by 3 games in the Eastern Division of the EL.
First the offense, which is first in the EL in runs scored: Cody Overbeck and Matt Rizzotti are the team leaders in the heart of the order, both in the league top-10 in AVE and OPS (Overbeck is 4th in OPS at .945, and Rizzotti 6th at .929). Three other full-time players have been contributing consistently: Derrick Mitchell, Carlos Rivero, and Freddy Galvis, all of whom have OBPs over .325, and OPSs over .700 where the league average is barely over .660. Galvis, who in previous years contributed mainly with his glove, has had an OPS of .833 in his last 10 games, and is hitting quite well against LH pitchers and in day games. At 21 years of age, Galvis is still very young for AA baseball. The 22-year-old Rivero has been getting on base at an excellent .375 clip. So far this year he’s making better, more consistent contact, reducing his Ks and increasing his walk rate while posting an .898 OPS over the last 10 games. Because he’s been pretty inconsistent from game to game, I’m a bit doubtful that this signifies anything more than a small sample size fluctuation for him, though. Derrick Mitchell has been playing a very solid CF and contributing offensively with an occasional HR. He needs to strike out a bit less and walk a bit more. The offense will miss Harold Garcia, who was lost for the season when he tore his ACL on April 19th in a collision at first base while legging out a bunt single.
On the mound, the bullpen has been dependable for the most part, and the starters have been decent, with Zeid and Kissock in particular looking better recently. The whole staff pitches to contact, with only Philippe Aumont and BJ Rosenberg striking out more than one batter per IP. The staff overall is third in the EL in ERA. Zeid’s last start, when he was pulled after five no-hit innings, was obviously his best, and came against a Portland team that raked him earlier in the season. Kissock also excelled in his last start, pitching a 7-inning, 3-hit shutout against Erie. He is a fly-ball pitcher who doesn’t get a lot of Ks, so I’m not sure how bright his future is. One more pitcher who is really contributing to the team is Mike Cisco, who seems to be playing the role of fifth-and-a-half starter, pitching about every 4 or 5 days and throwing 3-5 innings. He’s been effective in all five of his outings, allowing only a .172 opposition average.
JC Ramirez needs his own entire post, but, briefly, he’s been pitching brilliantly in terms of results, but not striking anyone out–sort of the Kyle Kendrick of the Eastern League. He only has 6 Ks in more than 26 innings of pitching, so he’s actually making Kendrick look like Nolan Ryan at this point. He’s succeeding by keeping the ball in the park and not walking anyone. Against lefties, he’s not allowed a walk, and he’s inducing almost four times as many GBs as FBs, which is a key point in his success, since many righties struggle against portsiders. He’s holding all batters to an .071 average with RISP, so that’s helping as well. His BABIP numbers should normalize a bit, so he’ll need to start striking out a few more hitters to maintain his successful start.
Reading finishes a week-long homestand with a game versus Portland today (Austin Hyatt starting), and a 4-game series versus New Hampshire (a team that has given them trouble over the last several seasons) Monday through Thursday. They then hit the road (a short road, really), playing at arch-rivals Harrisburg and Trenton, against whom they’ve also struggled in the recent past. They return home a week from Thursday, strangely to play New Hampshire again for four more games.