May 2011

Jurickson Profar’s Historic Pounding of the Ball

By Ben Gellman
Broadcasting Assistant

The Crawdads have a prodigy at shortstop in 18-year-old Jurickson Profar.  No shortstop in the South Atlantic League has turned more double plays, and no player in the league is younger (including Hagerstown’s much-hyped Bryce Harper).  He’s batting .424 since May 16, and leads the team in homers after last night’s solo blast.

John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com gave high praise to Profar in a blog post yesterday, so he’s clearly catching some eyes.  While Profar’s defense has drawn rave reviews in all quarters, it’s what he’s done at the plate this season that is so impressive.

Through his first 36 games, Profar is batting .279 with 36 hits.  Of those 36 hits, 20 have been extra-base hits, powering Profar’s team-best .550 slugging percentage.  That’s 55.55% of his hits going for extra bases.  His isolated power (SLG-BA) is .271.  How good is that?  Well, only seven MLB players have a better ISO right now.  None of them are middle infielders.  Throughout MLB history dating back to 1871, only 13 seasons with an ISO above .271 have been turned in by a middle infielder.  Six of those came from Alex Rodriguez, and 5 came from Ernie Banks.  (The other two belong to Rico Petrocelli and Bill Hall.)

That gives you an idea of just how rare it is that Jurickson Profar is turning in so many extra-base hits.  When he puts the bat on the ball, fans here in Hickory know extra bases are in the offing.

Cutting Through Matt Thompson’s New Weapon

By Ben Gellman
Broadcasting Intern

Crawdads hurler Matt Thompson has added a new piece to his pitching repertoire this season: a cut fastball.  It’s a pitch that more and more pitchers in both the professional and amateur ranks are turning to, and its popularity is due in no small part to its success at the major league level.

The term “cut fastball” originally applied to a ball that had been illegally scuffed, scratched or cut so as to disrupt its airflow in flight and produce an overlarge break.  Since then, it’s evolved to apply to this pitch, a hybrid of sorts between a standard fastball and a slider.  It breaks in on left-handed hitters when a righty throws it, and the key is that it breaks late.  Since the time it takes for a pitch to reach the plate is less than two seconds, batters must make incredibly fast judgments on what a pitch is before they swing.  Because the cutter breaks so close to the plate, it’s often too late for a hitter to adjust.

The cutter came into vogue after the sensational results Yankees closer Mariano Rivera got with it.  Rivera has relied on the cutter for nearly all of his superlative career, and the numbers don’t lie.  Rivera’s wonder-pitch has gotten him the top ERA among active pitchers, the best WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) of any pitcher since 1917, and the second-most saves of any pitcher…ever.

This video demonstrates what makes Rivera’s cutter so effective.  As you can see, it’s so close in looks to his fastball that hitters are just bamboozled.

While I wouldn’t compare Thompson’s cutter to the Sandman’s just yet, he’s gotten excellent results from it this season.  Thompson has a 3.26 ERA in nine starts, and has struck out 53 batters in 47 innings.  What’s more, SAL hitters are mustering just a .228 batting average against him in 2011, down precipitously from last year’s .304 mark.  He’s also allowed just 0.57 homers per nine innings, the stingiest rate of his career.  He’s inducing ground balls at a higher rate, and he carries an ERA of 1.57 over his last six starts.

Is the cutter alone the explanation for all of this improvement?  Probably not.  But Thompson’s new weapon has certainly proven formidable against SAL foes.

Clawcast #3: Special Guest Jared Weymier!

Wow, it’s another Clawcast!  Crawdads Promotions Assistant Jared Weymier stops by to chat with us about all the incredible stuff happening at upcomingCrawdads games, as we take a quick status check on the Crawdads!

Download link: Clawcast 3

Right-click and click “Save Target As” to download the podcast, or left-click to listen to it within your browser!

Make sure you come out to the ballpark tonight for Game 2 of the series between the ‘Dads and the Charleston Riverdogs!  First pitch is at 7 p.m.!

Clawcast #2: Special Guest Douglas Locascio!

If you’ve been waiting with bated breath for the newest edition of the Clawcast (yes, we renamed it), WAIT NO LONGER.  We’ve got what you crave right here.

This edition’s guest: Crawdads Director of Ticket Operations & Merchandising Douglas Locascio!  He’ll stop by and talk baseball and bargains with us.

Download link: Clawcast 5/19/11

Right-click and click “Save Target As” to download the podcast, or left-click to listen to it within your browser!

We’ll have more in the future, and there’s still time to come out to the ballpark for tonight’s game against the Greensboro Grasshoppers at 7 p.m.!  See you soon!