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    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

    2012 Cape Cod League Standouts: Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox

    And now, we are onto the final two. The Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox were arguably the best team during the regular season of the Cape Cod League. They finished second in the Eastern Division with a 25-19 record; only Harwich and Cotuit were better. On top of that, they scored the most runs out of any team, and had the second best team strikeout-to-walk ratio. Their playoff run consisted of sweeps of Chatham and Orleans, followed by a heartbreaking extra-inning loss to the Wareham Gateman in game three of the finals. While their season may not have ended the way they would have wanted, Y-D had a lot to be proud of this season.

    One of the impressive things about the Red Sox’s season was the number of freshmen who played key roles. For example, there’s University of Washington freshman Robert Pehl (#20). Pehl is naturally a second baseman, but spent more time as the Sox’s starting designated hitter due to their depth up the middle. His bat was just too good to keep out of the line-up, though; he finished with two-thirds of the team triple crown, hitting six home runs and 38 RBI while finishing third in batting average. HIs OPS placed first on the team, thanks to a .329/.414/.519 slash line (average/on-base/slugging). That’s a 155 OPS+.

    Now, as a warning, that figure isn’t park adjusted, and that’s a huge issue with Y-D. The Red Sox’s home field is by far the biggest hitters’ park in the Cape League; it’s pretty close to being the league’s Coors Field, although it played closer to neutral this season. That probably means Pehl’s OPS+ is actually closer to 145 or so. That’s still very impressive for a freshman middle infielder, though.

    The team’s second-best hitter was also a freshman, Indiana University first baseman/outfielder Sam Travis (#40). Travis hit twelve doubles and four homers to go with a decent 20 walks to only 28 strikeouts. That helped him to a .339/.415/.482 line (team leader in average), and a 145 unadjusted OPS+. Again, that’s a 135 OPS+, but coming from a freshman, it’s more exciting.

    One of the two middle infielders blocking Pehl was fellow freshman Alex Blandino (#5), a shortstop from Stanford. In his 38 games (35 at shortstop), Blandino hit .312/.401/.449 with eight doubles, three homers, and a triple. His 133 OPS+ seems almost plain compared to Pehl, but, again, I would gladly take a freshman shortstop hitting at 120% of a regular hitter.

    His partner up the middle, Zak Blair (#10), doesn’t have his youth; the Mercyhurst shortstop (second base for the Sox) just completed his junior year. His batting average was a little better (.338), and he showed more patience at the plate (.428 OBP). He didn’t quite have Blandino’s power (.426 slugging), but the end result was a .854 OPS just .004 ahead of Blandino's mark. It leaves him with a slightly higher OPS+ of about 135. It’s good to see him hitting as well as Blandino. But, seeing as Blair is two years older, his double play partner has a distinct advantage.

    Catcher Sean McHugh (#23) was part of another interesting tandem, this one behind the plate. A Purdue sophomore, McHugh caught in 25 of the team’s 44 games (and played in 27 total) while providing a .292/.403/.431 line. Catchers hitting 29% (or even 19%) are in short supply, and it’s encouraging that he has an OBP over .400.

    His platoon partner, Stanford freshman Wayne Taylor (#27) posted similarly strong numbers. Taylor caught in 28 of the 31 games he played in, and hit .292/.364/.416. With another year of experience, he could match or better McHugh’s numbers next year and add to the strong returning core of the team.

    The team also had three power pitchers at the top of their rotation, led by staff ace Aaron Blair (#44). The Cape leader in ERA at 1.17, the Marshall right-hander also finished with 44 strikeouts against only 12 walks. His WHIP was 1.020 (36% better than league average), and opponents only hit .201/.299/.244 off of him. He also didn’t allow a home run all year in 38.1 innings, which helped towards a 1.74 Fielding Independent Pitching mark. The one dark spot on his control was his seven hit batters; however, I would think he should be able to cut down on that number.

    At 3.23, UC Irvine righty Andrew Thurman (#26) didn’t have quite as an impressive of an ERA. However, the sophomore did lead the team in Ks with 49 in 39.0 innings, and they came with only 11 walks (and a hit batter). He also carried a 1.180 WHIP in the regular season. His one issue appears to be home runs-he allowed five over the course of the summer. However, like Blair, that will likely decrease more or less on it’s own (especially when you recall that Thurman spent a lot of time in the CCBL Coors Field). Even as is, Thurman had a 3.10 FIP.

    Central Florida right-handed sophomore Ben Lively (#18) managed to continue the trend of high strikeout totals with decent control. In 30.1 innings, he induced 43 whiffs while issuing only ten free passes. Like Thurman, his ERA (4.15) suffered partly because of his home runs allowed (six). Again, that’s a 3.83 FIP, but seeing as he played in a homer-friendly park, that’s probably underestimating him. Even with that, he held an above-average 1.250 WHIP.

    Lastly, right-handed closer Bryan Verbitsky (#29) from Hofstra University. On top of his 35 to 10 K/BB ratio in 21.2 innings (with no extra hit batters to worry about), he managed to do a relatively good job of keeping the ball in the park, surrendering only one home run. And although he had a 4.15 ERA, he also managed a 1.200 WHIP and a 1.85 FIP.

    Overall, the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox were not only strong enough to finish second this year, they may also already be the favorites for next year thanks to their young nucleus.

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