Commentary: Chewing on some numbers as IronBirds complete second week

It's not as bad as what we saw last year, when the IronBirds lost 17 of their first 19 games, but the Aberdeen men are off to something of a slow start, having snapped out of a four-game losing skid on Wednesday (when this was written), to improve to 3-7. I'm no Bill James, and most of the time when someone asks, "Why is the team not winning more games?" my reaction is to say, "They're not scoring as many runs as the other teams."

Seriously, I'd say in 90 percent of the post-game interviews I've done with managers and coaches, though they can usually point to one or two plays that shaped the course of the game, the first thing I hear is, "We didn't get hits when we needed them," and "We didn't throw enough strikes."

You could make it a lot a more complicated than that, infinitely more complicated, really, but usually that's what it boils down to. In a completely selfish sense, I hope the IronBirds start getting the hits they need and throwing more strikes (look at Wednesday's box score from their victory over Staten Island, and you'll see both of those), because interviewing players and managers when a team has lost 17 of 19 games is no fun. In any case, though I just said I'm not statistician, here's some numbers from the IronBirds' first 10 games that jumped out at me. Keep in mind, these stats take into account only those games played through Wednesday:

Too many walks, not enough K's: Ask any manager or pitching coach what they hate most in the entire world and, with the possible exception of serious mental lapses, they'll probably tell you "walks." The IronBirds' staff has been issuing a lot of free passes this season, 52 exactly, which puts them at the top of the New York-Penn League in that category, nine ahead of the second-place Lowell Spinners, who have surrendered 43 walks. On the other hand, Aberdeen has the second-lowest strikeout total in the league (56), so the IronBirds' strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.08) is the worst by a sizable margin. Last week, Aberdeen Manager Gary Allenson said, "So much of this game is throwing strike one," and if you need proof of that, look no further than the IronBirds' Tuesday-night loss to Staten Island, when the Aberdeen staff allowed just three hits and struck out eight hitters, but issued eight walks.

Judicious with the steals: To follow a bummer statistic with a happy one, the IronBirds have far and away the most successful base thieves in the league thus far. Tied for third with nine steals total, the IronBirds have been caught just once, giving them a 9-1 ratio (sorry for the bonehead math there). The two teams ahead of them on the list, State College (16) and Tri-City (15), have been success rates of 4-1 and 3-1, respectively.

Hitting the ball hard: Aberdeen is in the middle of the pack with total hits (81), but when they connect, they've been wailing the ball, as one out every three of their hits has gone for extra bases (54 singles, 21 doubles, three triples, three homers).

Where have you gone, Joe Velleggia?: OK, so this isn't a statistic, and I've already covered this is my nightly IronBirds game recaps, but the big, tall first baseman from Monkton, Joe Velleggia, who spent all of last season in Aberdeen, leading the IronBirds in home runs and RBIs and making the New York-Penn League All-Star Game, was finally called up to the Orioles' Class A affiliate in Delmarva, where in two games he's gone 2-for-8 with a double. Velleggia is easily one of my all-time favorite IronBirds. He was such an easy guy to interview. I remember talking with him last season, when he was sidelined during a red-hot hitting streak by a scary eye injury he got during a freak batting cage accident (he fractured his nose and orbital bone, if I recall), and he was still all smiles. Me, I get steaming mad when my laptop is running slow, but Joe was polite and gracious when he'd just suffered an injury that might have ended his career before it ever really began. Here's to Velleggia moving up the ladder; hopefully we'll see that smile on a MASN post-game broadcast one day.

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