The good, the bad and the ugly

We’re at the halfway point of the Atlantic League season and mercifully, the York Revolution will open a nine-game road trip Tuesday night in Camden, N.J. with a clean slate and an 0-0 second-half record.

But we’re at the point of the year meant for reflection. What went right in the first half? What went wrong? What went absurdly wrong?

This post will dissect those questions and I’ll have a couple points on each.

The Good:

1) Signing of Kennard Jones — In case you’ve been under a rock the last three weeks, you know all about York’s new exuberant leadoff man. He was released from Double-A Bowie last month despite decent numbers and that’s been great for the Revs — Jones showed up ready to prove something. So far, he’s hit a mind-boggling .382 in 22 games to go along with three homers and 16 RBIs. This is the same guy who had a career high of four homers for an entire season before his stint with York.

Jones (pictured) is also 8-for-10 in stolen bases, has scored 22 runs and has multiple hits in 11 of his 22 games — including the first 6-for-6 game in the Atlantic League since 2000. His performance has been so good that you wonder how long he’ll be an Atlantic Leaguer. But that’s a problem the Revs will deal with if it comes up.

2) The Bullpen — The Revolution starting rotation got all the publicity coming into the year, but it’s been the guys at the end of the game who have truly done the job. Entering Sunday, York’s relievers had a collective 3.78 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 214 1/3 innings. The bullpen will send two pitchers to the All-Star game (Jason Olson and Nick McCurdy) and the argument could be made for Dave Veres (2.52 ERA in 25 innings with only five walks) to be in Somerset on July 16 as well.

McCurdy has been the stud of the group (1.31 ERA in 41 1/3 innings with 47 strikeouts and only seven walks). But Dan Foli has emerged as a stopper in tough situations and manager Chris Hoiles has multiple options with the game on the line as the second half gets underway.

3) Constant Change — OK, normally injuries, affiliated signings and other Atlantic League roster abnormalities create chaos on a team. We need to look no farther than across the Susquehanna River to Lancaster to see the truth in that statement.

But with York, change has been good — simply because the team that entered the season was flawed. York has already used 35 players this season (17 pitchers) after using 43 in its inaugural season last year. The trades of Kevin Kotch, Tyler Von Schell and Travis Ezi all solved issues with the Revs’ roster and the team has played its best ball lately thanks to the maneuvering of the Revolution front office.

The big thing will be continuing this trend in the second half. York will need to add more pitchers — as is always the case — in order to gear up for a playoff run. Lancaster did it with Josh Steven in ’06. Newark did it with Mark Woodyard and Co. last year. And it’s the formula that leads to playoff success.

The Bad:

1) Road Record — The road woes of the Revolution have been well-documented by yours truly. But for the record, York ended the first half 10-25 (.286) away from Sovereign Bank Stadium. That was slightly behind Lancaster (12-26) for the worst road record and worlds apart from Newark (18-18), which had the best road record in the league during the first half.

Bottom line: York has to get better outside of its home ballpark. There’s no getting around it. The Revs will need to play at least .450 ball on the road to compete for a playoff berth and that’s assuming York plays incredibly at home. The Revs were 20-15 at Sovereign Bank Stadium in the first half.

2) Lack of Success Against Newark — It was horrible news that Somerset edged out Newark for the first-half Freedom Division crown mainly for one reason: the Revolution can’t beat the Bears. All-time, York is 5-23 against Newark and 0-9 in the nine series the squads have played.

Obviously, this has to change and York showed signs of playing the 2007 Atlantic League champions tougher in the last series between the two squads a week ago. York could have easily won the series, but Newark wiggled out of the White Rose city with two of three under its belt. York needs to find a way to stifle the Bears’ potent offense.

The Ugly:

1) Keoni De Renne — No one could have predicted how far De Renne would fall this year after an incredible second half in ’07 as the Revs’ spark plug. De Renne is hitting .229 in 258 at-bats with only 33 runs scored in 66 games. To compound his struggles at the plate, De Renne has also struggled mightily in the field to the point where the Revs should be very hesitant to leave him at short full-time in the second half.

Sure, De Renne makes incredible plays. But it’s the easy ones he seems to botch. Also, he’s made some huge baserunning mistakes. The biggest one was when he failed to score on Matt Dryer’s RBI single in the ninth on June 30 because he thought the score was tied at the time (The mistake didn’t end up costing the Revs thanks to a Kennard Jones walk-off homer).

Luckily, De Renne is a relentless worker and if anyone is capable of putting up a .330 clip for the second half, it’s him. We’ll just have to see how he responds to a first half he’ll certainly want to forget.

2) The Defense — The jokes about the lack of defense in the Atlantic League fly around daily. Unfortunately, York did its best to make those follies appear accurate. The Revs committed 82 errors in 70 first-half games and that mark was only better than Long Island (96). And I don’t need to tell you where the Revs and the Ducks ended up in the standings.

York also had a league-worst 15 passed balls and only turned 58 double plays, which was one more than the last-place Ducks mustered. This shows us that defense plays a huge factor in the Atlantic League and York needs to improve drastically in this area.

Conclusion:

York has constructed a solid team and this could be the best Revolution team on paper in the club’s two-year history. The additions of Jones and Shea Hillenbrand should make York a serious threat in the second half. Revolution fans will just have to hope the current roster can stay together long enough for York to make a serious run.

*Chris Ashby and Jones photos by Steve Russ; Jose Enrique Cruz photo by John Pavoncello.

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2 Responses

  1. Unless I’m reading the boxscores wrong, De Renne only has one error since June 13th (some games not at SS). The fact that, despite that, he still has 20 errors for the season really shows how bad he was playing in the field to start the season. It seems like he’s turned a corner with it, though.

    He also seems to be a bit better at the plate now that he’s lower in the order.

  2. I do not wish to weigh in on the thin-skinned Stormers fans, who apparently feel that children should be seen and not heard. Nor do I care for an “educator” to chastize the parents for not picking up the kid by his ears and giving him a good smack across the face(something I think was implied by the post) And maybe I don’t wish to rain on everybody’s parade, and point out that whom ever you root for in the War of the Roses, they are both owned by the same people. So, I shall save my comments for another time. A second half starts anew, and starting out on the road- well there is always next year.
    For the record, the true ugly of this entire first half has been the mismanagement of pitchers by our beloved manager Chris Hoiles. I don’t know why he gets a free pass on this board, but the chickens will come home to roost by the end of this season.

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