Providence ready for postseason

The regular season has ended and the Providence Bruins are heading back to the playoffs for a second consecutive year. The P-Bruins finished with a record of 40-25-2-9 and 91 points, good for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. The team clinched a playoff berth Friday night when they beat the Manchester Monarchs 2-1 in overtime on the strength of two Matt Fraser goals and good goaltending from Niklas Svedberg.

Providence will play the two seeded Springfield Falcons in their first round match-up, and although they are the lower seed they will start the series at home. Due to arena scheduling issues, home ice will be given to the Falcons in games two, three, and five of this five game series. The Falcons beat the Bruins 6-2-0-2 in the season series.

In order to beat this tough Falcon team, the P-Bruins are going to have to rely on their stars to step up. Top prospect Ryan Spooner and his line mates Fraser and team MVP Craig Cunningham will have to show why they are on the cusp of the NHL and be the team’s best line consistently. This line was able to create chances and goals late on Friday after a tough start to the game. Rookie Alexander Khokhlachev, the team’s leading scorer, and the second line will also have to play up to par and show the same type of firepower as the first line. An X factor could be Bobby Robins and the third line, a line that has played well and is the team’s most physical line. They could swing momentum in any given game with their play and against a tough Falcon team any edge the Bruins can get is a plus.

Defensively, Providence has plenty of depth led by David Warsofsky and Zach Trotman. Joe Morrow has returned from a knee injury and all but two of their defensemen have positive ratings. In net, the combination of Svedberg and Malcolm Subban has been very solid and whoever starts in net should continue to make it tough on opposing offenses.

Another potential advantage for the Bruins is the power play. With many good scorers and so much talent it’s no surprise the Bruins were sixth in the league on the power play. When they get chances on the man advantage, they can’t afford to miss them.

Game one of the series will take place Wednesday at 7:05 at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

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B-Mets Take Series from Fisher Cats

by PATRICK CAVANAUGH

(MANCHESTER)—The Fisher Cats put forth a solid defensive effort but they could not get their bats to spark up as they dropped the series finale to the Binghamton Mets by a  score of 6-0 on Sunday afternoon.

The matinee matchup started off shaky when Blue Jays top prospect Aaron Sanchez came out and struck out a batter before he found himself in a bases loaded jam that he was later able to escape. However, the nightmare returned for the Fisher Cats in the fourth inning, when the Mets walk in a run, score on a sacrifice fly, and plate a run after an RBI single.

Fisher Cats reliever Tony Davis replaced Sanchez in the fourth inning and held the B-Mets to their three runs. The Fisher Cats starter threw 3.2 innings, gave up four hits, three earned runs, walked four batters, and struck out four as well. Davis pitched for 2.1 hitless innings, walked two batters, and had one strikeout. Fisher Cats pitching gave up a total of ten walks on Sunday afternoon.

In the top of the seventh inning, Binghamton caught a lucky break when Darrell Ceciliani scored on a passed ball. The Mets collected two more runs in the 9th inning off an RBI double and a sacrifice fly. At the end of the day, the six runs scored were enough to capture the victory and win the series.

The homestand continues for the Fisher Cats as they play host to New Britain for the next three days before getting on the bus for a seven-game road-trip in Binghamton and New Britain. Tomorrow the Fisher Cats will turn to Deck McGuire (1-1, 3.60) to take on the Rock Cats. First pitch is slated for 6:35 PM at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

Patrick Cavanaugh covers professional baseball for BostonSportsU18. He can be reached at pcavanaugh@bostonsportsu18.com.

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Fisher Cats Feature: Kenny Wilson

by PATRICK CAVANAUGH

(MANCHESTER)—Kenny Wilson is an outfielder in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, ranked the 22nd top prospect in the club’s farm system. Although he is just

(Toronto Blue Jays)

24 years old, Wilson is in his 7th year of professional baseball. He was drafted straight out of high school by the Blue Jays in the 2008 draft.

Wilson started his professional baseball career in 2008 with the GCL Blue Jays and has slowly made his way up through the organization ever since. Last year, Wilson spent the season in New Hampshire, but only played in 55 games due to a stress fracture in his shin. His hard work and dedication finally paid off when he was added to the Blue Jays 40-man roster this past offseason. Wilson leads the team with most RBIs (8), but also has more strikeouts than anyone else on the team (11).

During a press conference at Fisher Cats Media Day, Kenny Wilson told reporters he enters the ballpark with a mindset that all of his injuries are behind him. His major focus is to improve his results at the dish this season in New Hampshire. Baseball America’s analysis says that Wilson “has the glove to be a defense-first outfield reserve and could be an everyday center fielder if his bat continues to improve.”

Wilson is just one of two players to appear in all nine of the Fisher Cats games this season. If his impressive performance on the diamond continues, he could potentially see his names on the lineup card in Buffalo (Triple-A) or maybe even serve as a backup outfielder in Toronto.

Patrick Cavanaugh covers professional baseball for BostonSportsU18. He can be reached at pcavanaugh@bostonsportsu18.com.

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Is The Win Still Relevant?

By TJ Horgan

Win. This is the all-encompassing word describing the apex of competition. However, does it accurately depict the talent level of the athletic elite who performing America’s pastime, every day, for nine months every year?

The starting pitcher in baseball is someone who players follow, fans revere (or detest), photographers capture, and with whom owners anchor a team. One pitch could galvanize an audience of 50,000 boisterous fans. Yet there is one thing a pitcher is constantly subject to, and that is judgement.

Any person with the privilege of being financially rewarded for physical gifts is often scrutinized. However, the scrutiny often stems inauspicious “evidence,” such as the “wins” statistic.

A pitcher achieves a “win” if they last pitched prior to the half-inning when the winning team took the lead for the first time. The most common exception to this is when a starting pitcher does not complete 4 ½ innings, as that is the minimum innings requirement needed to achieve a win.

Despite a team’s ultimate goal being to win the game, the win is an antiquated and irrelevant way to judge the talent of a pitcher.

From quick stat lines on television broadcasts, to hyperlinks on web pages with the pitcher’s picture and statistics, the win statistic is everywhere, and often the first numeral evaluation of a pitcher. It is a staple in the juxtaposed world of baseball analytics, and a symbol of the “old school” and “new school” argument.

My reasoning for arguing that the win should be completely removed from mainstream pitcher evaluations begins with the fact that a win is contingent upon a plethora of other factors, many of which are not even remotely controlled by the pitcher himself.

For example, an outfielder’s range can impact a game in a way which will fluctuate from pitcher to pitcher, outfielder to outfielder, and game to game. Raul Ibanez played 824 and ? innings in left field for the Seattle Mariners in 2013, which led the Mariners for innings played at that position. Ibanez is 41 years of age, and had more time in the field than any player over the age of 40 by a substantial margin.

Obviously, a 41 year-old player is slightly slower, less limber, and less agile than, say, Boston’s Shane Victorino (32). The statistics corroborate this, as Ibanez scored a -17.1 in Ultimate Zone Primer (UZR). This statistic encompasses a fielder’s range, in respect to ability to fielding a ball in any specific location.

Shane Victorino scored a 24.0 with UZR. Ibanez tallied the worst UZR among all players in the MLB with at least 800 innings, while Victorino sat at fourth place. Fielding discrepancies such as this are not accounted for in wins.

There were 45 players with more wins in 2013 than Felix Hernandez, Seattle’s best pitcher. Had Raul Ibanez been moderately more agile, a fly ball to left-center field may have been caught for an out, instead of dropping, and scoring 3 runs.

Jon Lester, on the other hand, Boston’s “ace” tallied 15 wins on the 2013 season. According to fangraphs.com, Victorino saved 24 defensive runs last year. That equates to one run saved every 6.75 games. Defensive metrics are highly underrated and can often be used to justify a pitcher’s low (or high) win total.

Hernandez placed fifth in terms of FIP, Fielding Independent Pitching, which is calculated using home runs, strikeouts, walks, batters hit, and other “fielding-independent” statistics. Lester finished 41st in terms of FIP.

Is it fair to depreciate the value of Felix Hernandez because Raul Ibanez is an incompetent fielder? Of course it’s not. Is it fair to say Jon Lester is an “ace” or “shut down” pitcher because Shane Victorino can run, catch, and throw better than most players? Of course it’s not. That is why wins should never surface on a remedial stat-sheet or glance at a pitcher, and metrics such as FIP should.

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Fisher Cats Drop Home Opener to B-Mets

by PATRICK CAVANAUGH

(MANCHESTER)—The New Hampshire Fisher Cats drew a nice crowd of 5,946 fans for Opening Night, but the team on the field fell short in Thursday night’s 9-1 loss to the Binghamton Mets at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

The Mets struck first in the top of the second inning. Designated hitter Jayce Boyd led off the inning with a double after drove a pitch to deep centerfield. Dustin Lawley followed with a two-run homerun over the leftfield fence, and this gave Binghamton an early advantage.

Two innings later, the Fisher Cats answered with one run after Jon Berti stole third base and went on to score after Kevin Plawecki, Binghamton’s catcher, threw the ball away into left field. This would be the only run the Fisher Cats plated in the contest.

Binghamton was not done scoring, however.

The Mets picked up three more runs in the fifth inning, one in  the top of the seventh, and three more in the ninth. While the Fisher Cats defense made some spectacular plays, there were some costly errors committed.

Fisher Cats starter Austin Bibens-Dirkx threw six innings, gave up four hits and five earned runs, but did not walk a batter. The veteran righty struck out five batters in his second start of the year.

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats play three more games against the Binghamton Mets before the New Britain Rock Cats come to town for a three-game series to cap off the homestand.

Patrick Cavanaugh covers professional baseball for BostonSportsU18. He can be reached at pcavanaugh@bostonsportsu18.com.

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