July 2011

RoughRiders Potpourri

Yesterday, the ‘Riders Insider Blog took a rare day off. We’re back at it today with a few odds and ends, spanning everywhere from Martin Perez to whiffle ball. Here are a few wide-ranging Frisco Facts for this Thursday, the beginning of a six-game road trip to Springfield and Arkansas.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • We’ve been asked a few times, so I figured I would touch on it first here. Frisco starter Martin Perez is not scheduled to pitch again for the RoughRiders before the XM Futures Game this Sunday. His turn in the rotation would be Saturday, but Perez will skip that start in order to perform for the World Team in the event at Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
  • As for who that starter will be, we don’t know yet. It is the very familiar talent, “TBA.” However, two good guesses would be former members of the rotation–Richard Bleier and Jake Brigham. Both have excelled at certain points as starters here in 2011.
  • Tough news out of Arlington over the last day or so. Brandon Webb is likely done for the season, that according to multiple outlets. Webb made four starts for the ‘Riders and went 0-2 with a 9.75 earned run average in 12 innings.
  • I don’t know about all of you, but I really feel for the former Cy Young Award winner. He clearly didn’t have the stuff he did when he was consistently posting 200-inning seasons with the Diamondbacks. However, he worked very hard to return to the big leagues, and he couldn’t have been a nicer person during his time with Frisco. Whether it is with the Rangers or someone else, I sincerely hope we see Webb pitch again somewhere.
  • Be sure to check out the Reebok 2011 Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game this Saturday at Dr Pepper Ballpark. The Larry O’Brien trophy will be there, as will many celebrities. David Archuleta, Aaron’s favorite singer, will be on hand to sing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch. Here are the details for the event, which begins at 3 p.m. and will run until well after the sun goes down.
  • I had a chance to go to the Rangers-Orioles game last night. It was my first full game in Arlington, and I really enjoyed the park. Everyone was very friendly, except for one fan screaming “Good Job Pie” at poor O’s left fielder Felix Pie (although it was all in good fun–I enjoyed it at least). I loved the area in center field where kids can play some whiffle ball and hit home runs off a tee. It took me back to my little league “glory” days, and I wanted to join in the fun (I didn’t, by the way).
  • The second version of the “RoughRiders Roundtable” podcast will be out in the next 24 hours or so. We had great results and feedback from the first one, so check it out. You can access that podcast here when it is available. Joining me will be Aaron and Jason Cole of LoneStarDugout.com. The topics include Topps Texas League Player of the Month Tommy Mendonca, Mike Bianucci, Renny Osuna, all-you-can-eat buffets and so much more.

The ‘Riders and Cardinals open up a three-game series tonight at Hammons Field. Join us on the pre-game coverage along the RBN at 6:37. Enjoy!

- Brian

Mendonca Named Topps Player of Month

Tommy Mendonca’s month of June began with a six-game hitting streak during the RoughRiders’ first road trip sweep in more than three years.

Then, Mendonca took off during the middle of the month and won the Texas League Player of the Week honor.

He finished the month with at least one RBI in 15 of the last 18 games.

All of that incredible work was enough for Mendonca to earn the Topps Texas League Player of the Month for June.

Mendonca hit .375 with four home runs and a league-leading 30 runs batted in during 25 games. The Turlock, Calif., native hit safely in 22 of those contests. During the month, Mendonca boasted a 13-game hitting streak, an 11-game extra-base hit streak and a ten-game RBI streak.

Currently, Mendonca is fifth in the league in hitting (.328), tied for fifth in homers (16), first in RBIs (64), fourth in hits (94), third in extra-base hits (39) and sixth in OPS (.971).

It has been a breakout year for Mendonca in the minors, and his efforts were honored today. He and the ‘Riders continue the July slate tonight at 7:05 against Arkansas. Join us for pre-game coverage on the RBN at 6:35. Enjoy!

- Brian

RoughRiders 4th of July History

Independence Day is a day rich in history, so why not delve into the history of the RoughRiders franchise on July 4. Here’s a look back at the ‘Riders’ efforts on this day.

2003–Frisco 5, Tulsa 1: The first Fourth of July in franchise history produced the highest attendance at Dr Pepper Ballpark (11,836). C.J Wilson went six and a third innings for the win to improve to 4-6 on the ’03 season. By the way, thanks to the Director of the RoughRiders Statistical Research Department–Michael Damman–for helping on this information. As always, you can check out his work here.

2004–Frisco 7, Round Rock 1: The ‘Riders cruised in their second Fourth of July game against the team that Frisco would beat in mid-September for its first ever Texas League championship. Kameron Loe went eight dominant innings for the ‘Riders, and both Mike Curry and Tydus Meadows homered.

2005–San Antonio 2, Frisco 1: Current big leaguer John Danks went seven innings and struck out ten Missions, but a pair of solo homers doomed him on that Independence Day. It was the RoughRiders’ first road game on the Fourth of July. Frisco’s nine-hole hitter, Cameron Coughlan, went 3-for-3 with a solo homer.

2006–Frisco 5, San Antonio 4: The ‘Riders got some revenge on the Missions in ’06 at Dr Pepper Ballpark, using a homer and three RBIs from Nate Gold to defeat San Antonio by one.

2007–Frisco 1, Arkansas 0 and Frisco 3, Arkansas 0: The ‘Riders played a de-facto double header. In the completion of a suspended game from a few days ago, the ‘Riders won in the tenth on a solo shot by Kevin Richardson, the game’s only run. In the nightcap, Armando Galarraga (yes, that Armando Galarraga) tossed a one-hit shutout to clinch a sweep for the ‘Riders.

2008–Frisco 8, Springfield 1: The ‘Riders scored three in the second and five in the third and cruised from there en route to the club’s third straight victory on Independence Day, all of which took place in North Texas. Frisco starter Michael Ballard worked into the ninth inning for the victory.

2009–Frisco 18, Springfield 4: Playing in just the team’s second road game on the Fourth of July, Frisco scored in six different innings, and the duo of Chad Tracy and John Whittleman combined for 13 RBIs. The ‘Riders did not score this many runs again until June 3 of this season, when the club spanked Northwest Arkansas by the same score.

2010–Frisco 8, Springfield 7: An eighth-inning tally pushed the RoughRiders ahead for good and extended the club’s winning streak on this date to six. Current ‘Rider Engel Beltre hit a home run into the ‘Riders Pool Zone and drove in four runs. Martin Perez tossed five and a third innings, and Cody Eppley earned his eighth save of the season.

So, the RoughRiders are 8-1 all-time on the Fourth of July, and the team has outscored its opponents 56-20. In other words, America’s birthday has been kind to the ‘Riders historically.

Today, the ‘Riders aim to continue the trend against the Arkansas Travelers. First pitch is at 6:05 p.m., and pre-game coverage starts at 5:35 p.m.

- Brian

Beavan Makes MLB Debut

Former RoughRider and Texas League Pitcher of the Year Blake Beavan will make his debut for the Seattle Mariners this afternoon at 3:05 against San Diego.

Beavan was one of the key pieces in the Rangers’ deal with Seattle for Cliff Lee a year ago Saturday.

The right-hander pitched for Frisco in 2009 and 2010. In 32 starts with the ‘Riders, Beavan went 14-9 with a 3.34 earned run average.

This season with Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate (Tacoma), Beavan went 5-3 with a 4.45 ERA in 16 starts.

Beavan was always a fan favorite here in Frisco, and he will now suit up for a division rival of the Rangers. Seattle currently sits three and a half games back of first-place Texas in the American League West.

Here’s a feature about Beavan in the Seattle Times regarding his upcoming start this afternoon.

As for the ‘Riders, Frisco opens a three-game series with the North’s best Travelers of Arkansas. Pre-game coverage begins at 5:35 on the RBN. Enjoy!

- Brian

RoughRiders Staying Steady

The month of July is upon us, and the Texas League has been full of surprises. The Missions continue to roll, the Travelers have turned into the power of the North, and the RoughRiders are right there in the conversation for the league’s best teams.

Last month, the RoughRiders were ranked second in our Texas League Power Rankings. Can they hold onto that ranking? Find out in this month’s Power Rankings (past rankings in order from earliest to most recent).

POWER RANKINGS:

1. San Antonio (55-23, 6-2; Past Rankings: 1, 1): The Missions have held this title since our first rankings back in April, and there is no reason to lower them now. Since our last ranking when the Missions were 38-18, they have gone 17-5, raising their winning percentage to a ridiculous .705. San Antonio is trying to replicate Northwest Arkansas’ dominance in the North last year, when the Naturals won both halves and the league title in September.
HIGH POINT (June 12): San Antonio clinched the first half title on this day with a 6-4 win over Corpus Christi, a last at-bat win that wrapped up a first half title that seemed inevitable after the team’s incredible start.
LOW POINT (June 22): This was the day that everyone’s records were reset to 0-0, which was a drop from 28 games above .500 to, well, 0. The Missions overcame this adversity with a 5-3 win over the Hooks.
KEY STAT (1st): San Antonio has the best record in all of full-season minor league baseball. No other team has a winning percentage above .700 like the Missions do.

2. Arkansas (42-33, 6-2; Past Rankings: 7, 6): Boy did I mess this one up last time. I had the entire North Division slotted 3-6, and I had the Travelers sixth. I learned my lesson. The Travs may be playing the best baseball in the Texas League over the last two weeks, and they would be first if it weren’t for, you know, the best team in all of minor league baseball.
HIGH POINT (June 21): Arkansas clinched its first playoff berth since 2008 with a 17-6 thumping of Springfield at Hammons Field. That victory capped a 13-6 run to end the first half and get that postseason bid.
LOW POINT (June 11): The Travelers lost their second straight game to Northwest Arkansas on that day, 6-4. The Travs finished 7-3 to get that playoff berth.
KEY STAT (+45): That was Arkansas’ run differential in June after posting a -1 in April and a -3 in May.

3. Frisco (43-35, 3-5; Past Rankings: 6, 2): The RoughRiders finished second in the Texas League during the first half of the season. It’s too bad the ‘Riders didn’t play in the North. Frisco would have won the division fairly easily. Instead, the ‘Riders sit in pretty good position in the playoff chase provided that San Antonio continues to roll. Only a Midland or Corpus Christi second-half crown should keep the club out of the playoffs.
HIGH POINT (June 19): The ‘Riders wrapped up a 6-2 road trip with a 9-8, 12-inning victory over Corpus Christi at Whataburger Field. In the month, Frisco went 13-5 away from Dr Pepper Ballpark.
LOW POINT (June 26): T.J. Steele’s walk-off, two-run homer gave Corpus Christi a 4-3 victory over the ‘Riders, which was the Hooks’ third straight against Frisco. That loss dipped the ‘Riders’ mark in the second half to 1-4.
KEY STAT (11): Frisco is 11 games up on Midland for second place in the overall standings, which means that if San Antonio wins both halves, the RoughRiders are in the driver’s seat for the second playoff spot from the South. The team with the second best overall record goes to the playoffs when the same team wins the division in both halves.

4. Tulsa (38-40, 5-3; Past Rankings: 2, 5): The Drillers got off to a great start in the first half before fading and finishing the half in third. So far, so good for Tulsa in the second half. It’s hard to believe that a team two games below the break-even mark would be fourth, but that’s the set-up in this top-heavy Texas League.
HIGH POINT (June 27): With two down and his club down by two in the top of the 9th, Tim Wheeler hit a three-run home run to give the Drillers a 6-5 lead over the Cardinals that they would not lose. It was Tulsa’s third straight win, and it ushered in the All-Star Break in a big way.
LOW POINT (June 19): The Drillers were already out of the chase by this point, but Arkansas delivered a knockout with a 3-1 win over Tulsa, the Travs’ third straight win over the Drillers.
KEY STAT (19): Wheeler’s home run total, which leads the Texas League by two over Frisco’s Mike Bianucci and Springfield’s Matt Adams.

5. Midland (32-46, 5-3; Past Rankings: 3, 7): Maybe it is a bit early to call the RockHounds “contenders” in the second half, but they are 5-3 and they rallied for a series split of San Antonio last week. Midland is off to a great start against the three best teams in this league (and the three top teams in this poll).
HIGH POINT (June 27): Midland went into the break with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over San Antonio. The ‘Hounds scored one in the seventh to tie and one in the eighth to win.
LOW POINT (June 25): Two days prior, the RockHounds were shutout by the Missions for the second straight day, 2-0. It looked like more of the same for Midland in the second half. The last four games have changed that outlook.
KEY STAT (3.9): That’s the average number of runs Midland’s opponents have scored in the first eight games of the second half. The RockHounds had the worst ERA in the first half (5.22).

6. Northwest Arkansas (36-39, 1-7; Past Rankings: 4, 3): The next two teams share the biggest drops of the month. I had the Naturals as the favorite in the North in early June, and they finished one game back of Arkansas. The second half, however, has been a struggle. The Naturals have lost seven in a row and sit with the worst record in the Texas League’s second half.
HIGH POINT (June 22): It was a modest high point, as the Naturals began the second half with a 6-2 win at Tulsa. At that point, the Naturals were four games above .500.
LOW POINT (July 1): Yesterday, the Naturals dropped their seventh straight, 4-1 at San Antonio. This skid ties a franchise high for most consecutive losses in team history. The only other time a seven-game losing streak has occurred for the Naturals–August of ’09.
KEY STAT (41-21): That’s the margin of runs for the Naturals’ opponents and the Naturals in the second half. Northwest has posted two runs or less in five of the eight games.

7. Springfield (34-44, 2-6; Past Rankings: 5, 4): I was higher on the Cardinals than most in the first half, but Springfield still finished last in the North with a 32-38 mark. So far in the second half, things haven’t gotten much better for a team that does have significantly more talent than it had at the beginning of the year.
HIGH POINT (June 15): Shelby Miller, St. Louis’ top prospect, tossed eight shutout innings against Arkansas in Springfield’s 8-1 win over the first-place Travs to keep the Cardinals alive (barely). Miller scattered four hits and whiffed eight.
LOW POINT (June 30): The Cardinals lost the lead in the eighth inning and fell victim to a RoughRiders walk-off win 7-6. It was the final loss during a four-game skid.
KEY STAT (1.89): Miller’s ERA through six Double-A starts. He has been great since his call-up from high-A Palm Beach.

8. Corpus Christi (29-49, 4-4; Past Rankings: 8, 8): The rankings have been consistent at the beginning and the end. The Hooks have been in the basement all year long. However, the Hooks have shown some life in the second half, and players like Jose Altuve, Xavier Cedeno, Jake Goebbert, Dallas Keuchel and J.D. Martinez make it fun to watch Corpus Christi. The Hooks may not be in the hunt, but they will post their fair share of wins in the second half.
HIGH POINT (June 26): T.J. Steele’s walk-off, two-run homer gave the Hooks a 4-3 victory over Frisco and a 3-2 record in the second half.
LOW POINT (June 27): The Hooks were three outs away from their first series sweep of the season, but the RoughRiders responded with four runs in the top of the ninth to stun Corpus 6-3.
KEY STAT (.500): The Hooks’ winning percentage through eight games in half number two, which is significantly better than the .357 mark they posted in the first half.

How would you rank the Texas League? Let us know. Enjoy our coverage tonight on TXA 21 beginning at 7:00 and on the RoughRiders Baseball Network beginning at 6:35. Hope you are along for the ride!

- Brian

We Have You To Thank

It was quite a month for the RoughRiders. The ‘Riders went 18-10, finished second in the Texas League in the first half, and sent nine men to the Texas League All-Star Game.

Also, the guys here at the ‘Riders Insider Blog also enjoyed quite a month. We had our best readership ever, and we have you to thank.

This blog is dedicated to all of you who come to our site on a day-to-day basis. We would love to hear ideas that you have for future posts. Please feel free to give us ideas in the comments section.

Today, here is a look back at the most popular posts from the month. Relive the fun from the month of June!

FRISCO FACTS (June blog edition):

Again, we would love to hear from you about posts you would like to see moving forward. Thanks again for reading, and we look forward to having you along for the broadcast tonight. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:35. Enjoy!

- Brian

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