“The pitching and why the NBA and NHL Playoffs along with Olympic ballyhoo take a back seat to Asheville”
Ok, so maybe the world does not start and stop with minor league baseball. Maybe there are more important things in the world to focus on. We get that. However, America can only digest so much of a Clinton vs. Obama, USA vs. Beijing, Britney vs. sanity in a muddled media agenda that just grinds your gears before turning attention elsewhere. That’s where the Tourists come in. And the Asheville crew has turned in one of the finest months of professional baseball ending April with seven consecutive wins and a solid 20-7 record. Consider this:
Asheville has two of the top 10 pitchers in the South Atlantic League in Cory Riordan (3-1.65 ERA) and Jhoulys Chacin (4-1, 1.85). Both Chacin and Riordan have recorded seven inning complete games and both rank amongst the league leaders in strikeouts and innings pitched. America has not seen a 1-2 punch like this since Lil’ Mac in “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out” for the old NES. Nearly the same thing, but instead of facing Bald Bull and Soda Popinski, Chacin and Riordan are knocking out teams such as Augusta and Kannapolis. Same thing – almost.
So sticking with the poor “Punch Out” comparison, that leaves starting pitchers Connor
Graham (3-2, 2.96) and Bruce Billings (2-1, 33 Ks) as the “star punch” portion of the rotation. In a four game series, Asheville gets the opponent stunned with Chacin/Riordan fierce combo and then hits the “start” button on the Nintendo Controller to release the star punch power of Graham and Billings. See, you can’t get the star punch if you don’t stun the guy first… then you can yell “hit start hit start” and only then can the true knock out blow be delivered. I guess if you have never played Nintendo or Punch out itself, this whole analogy does not work at all.
They are stunned Bruce! Hit the Start Button! Hit It
So to simplify, the starting rotation is good very good but despite that the Tourists may have and even greater.. wait for this……… bullpen!
Has there ever been a core of players so widely ignored but just as valuable to a team then a baseball bullpen? Perhaps an offensive line in football or the blockers in a roller derby contest (which is a whole separate topic and yes Asheville has a roller derby team and yes they are called the “Wham Bam Thank You Maam’s”, and yes they will be featured here and on the broadcast at some point this season)
However consider this… the number one overall pick in the NFL draft this past Saturday was, you guessed it a lineman.. can anyone claim that the next pick in the MLB draft will have a GM sputtering the words “Yeah, this guy is going to be one hell of a set up guy in five years from now. That mentality just is not there. However the crew that sits in the bullpen has been the key to success for teams throughout history, from the great A’s of the 80’s to the Reds of 1990 to the Yankees in 1996-2000. Bullpen dude, bull-pen. B-U-L-L-P-E-N……Lets take a look at the Asheville pen.
Here is the formula that works with several outside variables
C² + RT =V
Craig Squared, Rodriguez and Baker plus Randal Taylor equals a victory. The Tourists are currently 17-0 when leading after five innings, meaning essentially the lock it down. Remember, it is not just the getting of the lead, it’s the holding of the lead.
Rodriguez and Baker (or perhaps we can call them the “Craigs” like the “Coreys” of the
80’s. But then we would have to debate which one would be Corey Haim and which one would be Corey Feldman, and this is not the right time for that discussion)
have allowed a combined two runs, (one earned) in 24 2/3 innings pitched this season with 28 strikeouts Fan-fricking-tastic, nuff said.
Not to mention Andrew Groves(see post below) Edgmer Escolona and Joey Williamson (read Joey entry from first road trip).. all forming a solid relief corps that has answered with a ERA of just under 2.70. Oh and Randall Taylor picked up his seventh save of the season to end the Month with a 4-2 win over Columbus.
So basically what we are trying to say is the Tourists have the equivalent of the Nintendo game classic “Punch Out” with a bullpen that has Goonies, Gremlins and Lost Boys star power and an equation that rivals E=MC². Its been a good month for baseball in Asheville, and the team cant wait to return home on May 3rd with a free T-shirt night and a four game series against first place Charleston on the schedule.