Walter Triebel spent 15 years as an adjunct faculty member at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has had an extensive career in business and as a textbook and reference book author. Triebel’s “Road-Tripping the South Atlantic League: A Guide to the Teams, Ballparks and Cities“ was published by McFarland in 2016. It’s available for purchase on their website as well as Amazon.
Enjoy all of his 2018 Greensboro Grasshoppers coverage on Fish Stripes.
*Requires a minimum of 55 2⁄3 innings pitched based on 69 games and an average of .8 inning/game
+Requires a minimum of 7 win/loss decisions based on 69 games and an average of 1 W/L per each 10 games
Next, I will look at the pitchers that were the leaders of the Greensboro Grasshoppers pitching staff during the first half of the 2018 South Atlantic season. The table of Figure 1 lists the Grasshoppers pitchers that ranked number 1 at the all-star break for the seven traditional pitching statistics I chose to follow. The first six of those stats, wins (W), win-loss percentage (W-L%), innings pitched (IP), strikeouts (SO), earned run average (ERA), and walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP) are typically associated with the rating of a starting pitchers performance, while the last is a key stat for relief pitchers performing the closer role.
The information provided in the table includes the player(s) that ranked #1 in the statistic, the value of his team leading stat, if he is a starting pitcher (SP) or relief pitcher (RP), whether he bats from the right or left side of the plate, throws right or left handed, and which year the 2018 season is of his Minor League career.
Note from the figure’s caption that three of the stats, ERA, WHIP, and W-L%, have special qualification requirements. Earned run average and walks plus hits per innings pitched require a pitcher to have a minimum of .8 innings pitched per team game. Since Greensboro played 69 games during the first half season, to qualify as a team leader in them at that point in time a pitcher must have thrown a minimum of 55 2⁄3 innings. On the other hand, W-L% required that a pitcher record at least 1 win or loss decision for each 10 games played by his team up to that point in the season. So to qualify as the leader of the Grasshoppers pitching staff in win-loss percentage at the end of the first-half of the South Atlantic League regular season the sum of a pitchers wins and losses must equal or exceed 7. Typically, those requirements can only be met by pitchers who primarily start games.
A quick look at the table in Figure 1 shows that during the first half of the season one pitcher, right hander Ryan Lillie, was the leader of the Greensboro Grasshoppers starting rotation. Lillie. who played college baseball at the University of California prior to entering the June 2017 First Year Players Draft, was selected in the 5th round of that draft by the Miami Marlins and signed to a pro contract at the age of 21. He was assigned to the Marlins rookie class team in the Gulf Coast League, but made just two brief relief appearances before being promoted to the Batavia Muckdogs (New York-Penn League, A- class). With the Muckdogs, he transitioned to the starting role. At the end of the NYP regular season, Lillie was elevated to the Greensboro Grasshoppers, where he made 1 relief appearance before the end of their 2017 regular season.
Ryan Lillie returned to Greensboro for the start of the 2018 season, but now as a member of their opening day starting rotation. The photo in Figure 2 shows him delivering a pitch from the mound at First National Bank Field. For the first half of the season, Lillie posted a 6W:1L record in 13 starts. As shown in the table of Figure 1, at the all-star break, he ranked #1 among all qualifying pitcher on the Grasshoppers pitching staff in win-loss percentage (.857), innings pitched (75.1), strikeouts (73), earned run average (2.27), and walks plus hits per innings pitched (0.94). Moreover, his six wins ranked him number 2 on the team in that important pitching stat category. Based on his strong showing from the mound during the first half, Lillie was selected to represent the Greensboro Grasshoppers on the Northern Division All-Star Team in the 2018 South Atlantic League All-Star Game. Finally, he was promoted on June 27th to the Marlins A+ class team in the Florida State League—the Jupiter Hammerheads.
Colton Hock, shown in the video of Figure 3, is an interesting exception to the norm. Note from the table of Figure 1 that at the end of the first half of the SAL season Hock, who is a member of the Greensboro Grasshoppers relief corps, led the pitching staff with 7 wins. He is another former college baseball player and pitched for Stanford University prior to entering the 2017 First Year Players Draft. Hock was selected by the Miami Marlins in the 4th round of the draft. After signing, the 21-year-old Hock joined the roster of the Marlins rookie class team in the Gulf Coast League—the GCL Marlins. However, after making just 4 short relief appearances at the Rk level, he too was promoted to the Batavia Muckdogs (New York-Penn League, A- class). Then, Hock was assigned to the Greensboro Grasshoppers for the start of the 2018 season.
Since entering the Miami Marlins Minor League system, Colton Hock has primarily pitched in a middle innings/long relief role. For instance through the 2018 all-star break, he made 18 appearances for the Grasshoppers and 16 of them were as a reliever. However, he did make 2 starts and also closed out a few game. What is interesting is that even though he had primarily pitched in relief, he compiled a 7W:3L record during the first half of the season and as pointed out earlier led the team’s pitching staff in wins. The deviation from the norm is that the wins stat category is typically dominated by starting pitchers. In fact, by the end of the first two week of the second half, Hock had recorded two more wins during relief appearances. That improved his record to 9W:3L. As of the end of play on July 7th, he continues to lead the team in wins, but is now also tied for the team lead in W-L% (.750) with Lillie, who was 6W:2L when he departed for the FSL.
The road that Vincenzo Aiello (Figure 4) took to become the current closer of the Greensboro Grasshoppers is also a bit of an anomaly. Aiello, who pitched for the University of Oklahoma Sooners, was selected and signed by the Miami Marlins in the 2017 draft. Similar to Lillie and Hock, Aiello was initially assigned to the GCL Marlins and after making just a few brief relief appearances was elevated to the Marlins A- team, the Batavia MuckDogs, where he finished out the 2017 season. However, unlike those pitchers he was elevated to Miami’s advanced A class team, the Jupiter Hammerheads, in the Florida State League for the start of the 2018 season.
With the Marlins, Muckdogs, and Hammerheads Vincenzo Aiello pitched exclusively as a reliever and typically in late innings short relief roles. On May 23rd of this season Aiello was reassigned to the Greensboro roster where he took over as their regular closer. Over the 25 days that led up to the all-star break, he made 8 relief appearances; finished 7 of those games; and recorded 3 saves. As shown in Figure 1, that tied him for the team lead in the important saves relief pitching stat. Moreover, from the start of the second half of the SAL season through July 7th, he has made five more relief appearances during which he closed out games and recorded 4 saves and 1 win in those outings. Therefore, Aiello now leads the Grasshoppers relief corps with 7 saves.
With the promotion of Ryan Lillie to the Jupiter Hammerheads, the door is opened for another pitcher on the Greensboro Grasshoppers second half season roster to take over as the leader of the team’s starting rotation. Who will be the end of season pitching leader of the Grasshoppers? The answer may begin to appear as the second half progresses, but might not be clear until the last regular season game is played on September 3rd.