The Hyannis Harbor Hawks stand a game and a half behind the Bourne Braves in the standings. Whichever one finishes on top continues on to the the playoffs. And there are only four (for Hyannis) or five (for Bourne) games left in the Cape Cod League season. Thankfully, the team had their ace on the mound for the second game of a double header on Friday.
And not just any ace; Indiana State University left hander Sean Manaea. Manaea* has been making a bit of a buzz in the draft world recently. Baseball America just ranked him third in the 2013 draft class in their first rankings.** And for good reason; despite pitching in what’s been the best year for Cape League hitters anyone can remember, Manaea’s been absolutely dominant.
*As a note, “Manaea” is a Samoan last name, and pronounced like the start of the word “maniacal”. Insert your own forced joke about torturing hitters here.
**Link goes to the Hardball Times summary, since the original article is behind a paywall.
Forgive me if I start to ramble, but it’s just fun to recite his numbers. There’s the basic stuff; Manaea leads the league in strikeouts. But even that doesn’t quite fully capture how good he’s been; he has 85 strikeouts. That puts him 32 ahead of second place Ryan Connolly. With his 10 K game Friday (more on that in a bit), he moved into a tie for ninth-most strikeouts in a season since 1990. If he gets another start in, another 10 strike out game would put him first.
Not only that, but another 10 K game doesn’t sound too ridiculous. Friday marked his eighth start of the year. In his season debut, he struck out 8. He’s topped that every start since, including a 15 strikeout, 7 inning start against Falmouth on July 19th. Friday marked his fourth double-digit strikeout game of the season.
Not only did Manaea strike out ten batters on Friday, but he didn’t allow a hit until the start of the eighth, or even a base runner until there were two outs in the sixth. That base runner came on a walk, by the way; it was his seventh of the season, and his first since June 30th. Yes, he went the entire month of July without issuing a walk.
Not only does he have a 85/7 strikeout-to-walk ratio (which simplifies to over 12, by the way), he also leads the league in WHIP with 0.54. He’s averaging a baserunner every other inning. He’s second in the league in ERA with 1.22, .05 behind leader Aaron Blair.* In eight starts, he’s allowed 7 earned runs. He’s in the midst of a 24 and a third inning scoreless streak that dates back to July 12th. He’s only allowed three runs total (one earned) since the start of July. This season, six of his eight starts have been quality starts. And not only does he lead the league in a bunch of rate stats, he’s also a workhorse-he leads the CCBL in innings pitched with 51 and two thirds. And, if you don't feel like doing the calculations, that's a 14.8 K/9 innings.
*If Fielding Independent Pitching is more your thing, he has a FIP of .97. If you don’t know what FIP is, it tries to take the defense out of ERA and just narrow it down to what the pitcher can control. It reads on a similar scale to ERA (ie; 3 is good, 2 is really good, below 1 is “HOLY ****!”).
I mentioned that this has been something of a hitters’ year in the Cape, and it has. The league, as a whole, has hit .262/.342/.393 (batting/on-base/slugging), good for a .736 OPS. Manaea has held opponents to a .121/.161/.192 line (by the way, he also leads the league in batting average against). Players are slugging below the Mendoza line against him. That’s a cool .353 OPS. The league has an OPS against him lower than the batting average of the league leader. The league, as a whole, has an OPS+ of approximately -4 against him. A hitter facing Sean Manaea this summer has been roughly 104% worse than a league-average hitter. I don’t even have an adjective to properly describe that.*
*Maybe Manaea-cal? Shoot, I promised I wouldn’t do that.
As I mentioned, Friday was spectacular. Hyannis needed a strong performance to stay in the playoff hunt. Manaea went out and brutalized the Brewster Whitecaps’ lineup with a fast ball. They didn’t break up the perfect game until there were two outs in the sixth, and they didn’t end the no hitter until the start of the eighth. They never did end the shutout. Manea needed 90 pitches to get through 8 innings and strike out 10 batters. When I wrote about John Simms, I talked about the dominance of swinging strikes. Manaea was similarly dominant-22 swinging strikes total. With these kind of performances, he’s making a strong case for pitcher of the year.
This past year, Manaea was similarly dominant, striking out 106 in 97.2 innings at Indiana State. ISU was the only college that recruited him out of high school, not that that matters much to Sean-he praised the school’s “awesome coaching staff and campus”. Originally from Wanatah, Indiana (in the northwest of the state), Manaea was not drafted after graduating from Andrean High School. He says his repertoire includes a slider, a split change, and a four-seam fastball that serves as his primary out pitch. He also says he’s loved his time in the Cape, and had praise for the league’s competition. He admitted that the wood bats in the league might make things a little easier for pitchers, but with how he’s pitched this year, I’m not sure hitting with aluminum bats would help opposing batters too much. As some interesting trivia, his favorite team is the Phillies, and his favorite pitcher is David Price.
Look for him to go high in the draft next year. But first thing’s first: pitching Hyannis into the playoffs.