Season-so-far: May 1st, 2006


It’s a month into the season, and already big changes are evident in the dying Spring air of the 2006 season.

At the conclusion of April, Daly City stands at 19-9 (.679), tied with the Canon Image Stabilizers in the Shinto-World League for the best record in the majors.  However, the Monti’s 19-9 mark is not only their lowest starting mark ever, but leaves little margin for error as the all super-.500 Galactica Division hotly tails the team, with the Apple Septic Tanks two games back, the Mozilla Firefoxes 3 games back, and the Microsoft Longhorns 4 games back.

Despite standing atop the standings, Daly City is far from being the dominant team it used to be.  It’s ranked 2nd in runs scored, and with a 3.79 team ERA, a full run over 2005’s ERA, ranked 3rd in pitching.  What’s been plaguing the team?  Everyone knew the team would be worse hitting-wise, losing a huge chunk of production in Batter of the Year Joey Wong and all-star catcher Sam Lau.  Compared to 2005’s .304-.369-.484 average line, the team is down to .283-.357-.436 – a similar on-base ability, but a huge power outage (OBP in fact ranks 1st in the league, while SLG is 5th out of 8 teams).  The problem seems to have stemmed from a lack of any midrange whatsoever.  Several players (Derek Lew, Rudy Puzon, Henry Nghe, and surprisingly, Francis Chen) have all performed fairly well, each slugging in the .521-.546 range.  After this, however, there is a significant dropoff to Jason Liu, who slugs .429, Jonathan Chee, who slugs .404, and then 3 ¼ more sub-.400 sluggers after that.  Lacking a 1-9 slot of consistent slugging power, and lacking a single supreme slugging force (like Wong, or the Lew of years past), Daly City seems to be struggling a lot more with scoring runs.

On the pitching side, there seems to be a heavy contrast between the rotation and the bullpen.  The rotation’s ERA is a fairly low 3.15, which is still a bit higher than usual.  However, the bullpen ERA is at a hideous 5.93, driven by several abysmal performances among nearly every single member of the bullpen (save Josiah Leong, ironically).

Despite the struggles, Daly City is still winning, although these days there seems to be more haphazard duck-taping of the leaks rather than smooth sailing.

Tina “Experimental ErRR” Quach, catcher: After finally inheriting the catcher position after two seasons waiting in the wings of Sam Lau, Quach began the season behind the plate… only to fall flat when stepping up to it.  She’s played in 23 games out of 28 so far, but has done so with an abysmal .228-.287-.304 line.  Defensively she’s getting her bearings straight, and despite a weak arm has thrown out 3 out of 9 would-be base stealers.  One of the biggest drop-offs so far from 2005 production, Tina definitely needs to turn it around for the team to return back to form.

Marco Paz, backup catcher: The rookie hasn’t seen too many chances so far he’s had 7 starts to play, and in 30 plate appearances, a .143-.167-.250 line to show for it.  Given time, Paz looks to come around, although at this time there really isn’t much to see.

Derek Lew, first baseman: After a bit of an agonizing 2005 season, Lew looks to be back to form so far in 2006.  He’s hitting .277-.346-.546, and while his contact numbers are a little off, he’s slugging every bit as well as he used to, and is currently Daly City’s top power hitter in terms of slugging.  A surprisingly new aspect of Lew’s game is his newfound penchant for walks – after only 14 in all of 2005, Lew already has 11 so far in 2006, a .083 BB/PA that far exceed’s 2005’s .027 BB/PA.  With Wong gone, Lew emerges as the veteran and leader of this team, and so far he’s done a superb job returning to form and leading what’s left of the hit parade.

Rudy Puzon, designated hitter: There’s no sophomore slump for this rookie hitter, who burst right out of the gate to hit .333-.412-.541 in 27 games, averaging well over his 2005 numbers in each category.  Part of Daly City’s new 3-4-5 core of Puzon, Lew, and Nghe, Puzon has so far been instrumental in keeping the team afloat, and his continued hitting is vital to the run production of the team, especially in his dual role of run-driver for the 1-2 hitters and place-setter for RBI leaders Lew and Nghe.

Cristian Ortiz, second baseman: Hounded by critics all offseason, Ortiz appeared to silence most of them as he raised his batting average to well over .300 in late April, only to see a slump that would bring it all the way back down to a meager .265-.312-.393 line.  While a single month isn’t very telling, the beginning of the season has been a bad sign for Ortiz, whose critics have lamented that he performed far pass his actual skill level in 2005.  On the bright side, Ortiz has 13 steals in April, putting him on pace for 78, which would just barely top Cubilo’s record.

Henry “Mr.” Nghe, shortstop: The rookie of the year returns in 2006 to slightly less flashy numbers but overall better performance.  While his batting average of .333 is off his league-leading .362 mark, a newfound ability to walk and new penchant for extra base hits has left his OBP at .430, higher than 2005’s .408, and his .536 slugging not far behind 2005’s .545.  Hitting at the backend of the 3-4-5 core, Nghe is tied for the league in RBI, and perhaps due to his high OBP, also leads the team with 21 runs, despite having only the 6-7-8 hitters to drive him in.

Joanna Maung, saung-gah-basewoman: Coming in with the need to fill big shoes, and at the same time with no expectation to do so, Maung in her first full starting role has adapted beautifully.  Both her AVG and OBP at .333-437 are career highs, yet at the same time her SLG of .354 is a career low.  Despite cranking out the hits and walks at a dizzying pace, Maung has only 2 doubles, leaving her with 31 singles out of 31 hits for a shocking .939 1B%.  While the team will take what it can get – solid on-base production – from a good tablesetter, there’s some luster missing from a Joanna Maung who no longer hits those clutch pinch-hit homers.  When or if those start to come around, Maung looks, surprisingly, to join the echelon of elite hitters on the team, at least based on her performance so far.

Jonathan “The Cheet” Chee, leftfielder: After making a big name for himself in 2005, Chee returned again to a permanent starting role in LF.  He’s been doing well so far, with a .314-.392-.404 line that isn’t too far off from his 2005 numbers, although he’s scored only 16 runs despite hitting well at the #2 spot in front of the 3-4-5 core.  HBP-wise, Chee’s monthly total of 4 is a far ways off from his 2005 total of 49, so he’ll need to start leaning in towards those beanings if he wants to duplicate his 2005 success in that regard.

Tiffany Ho, centerfielder: After a meager half-season with not much in the way of noteworthy statistics, Ho plowed into the 2006 season as the starting centerfielder.  While her fielding has been decent, her batting abilities are clearly still developing.  With a .292-.309-.349 line, she’s been building up her average, although her OBP and SLG numbers aren’t really going anywhere for now.  Time will tell, but until then Ho slaves away at the bottom-of-the-order 7-8-9 slots.

Francis Chen, rightfielder: Guess who’s back to form?  Surprise!  It’s Francis Chen, who was set to become a bench player in favor of Jason Liu, only to be brought back by grassroots activism.  It turns out that all 2005 postseason indicators (where Francis went .244-.404-.805) were correct – so far this season Francis has batted .234-368-.521 and leads the team with 7 HR, right around where most optimists estimated his performance, and setting the stage for potentially greater development in the coming months.  It’s always a roller coaster ride with Francis Chen, so stay tuned to see what happens in the coming two months.

Jason Liu, backup outfielder: Once slated in the offseason to become the opening day rightfielder for the first time, Liu surprisingly found himself back on the bench, despite arguably being Daly City’s best hiter in 2005.  Maybe it’s frustration and discouragement, but Liu hasn’t been hitting well at all so far, with a mere .171-.189-.429 line (check out that AVG to SLG ratio though!).  As long as Francis Chen keeps slamming away and The Cheet keeps getting on-base, the plate appearances may be hard to come by for Liu, especially if he keeps hitting like this.

Nathan Yan, #1 Starting Pitcher: It’s been a rough month for Yan, who somehow still comes out better than his 2005 average.  In his first start Yan got slammed for a career-high 10 hits in only 8 innings, allowing 4 runs (only 1 earned).  He was, however, still set to win that game, when he handed off the ball to Josiah Leong for the save.  Instead, Leong BLOWS THE FIRST SAVE OPPORTUNITY OF THE SEASON and renders Yan with his first ever career No Decision, breaking the streak.  Since that first game, Yan has bunkered down, throwing four complete games but only one shutout.  Nonetheless, his 0.82 ERA is fairly below 2005’s 0.98 ERA, and Yan’s K per 9 rate has skyrocketed to a godly 18.2, over last year’s already-record 15.3.  Yan also threw a 20-K game in his 2ndstart, and tied that record again in his 5th start.

Whitney Anne Esguerra, #2 Starting Pitcher: The rookie starter has had four great starts and one bad one thus far, and has emerged with a 1-2 record to show for it (including a complete game 1-run loss), which isn’t too surprising given her team-low 2.9 runs per game.  She’s currently pitching at a 2.83 ERA, 1.06 WHIP level, which just may be the best performance from a rookie pitcher in years.  So far, she’s shown every bit of the potential that put her into the #2 slot, and it’s just a matter of time (and some offensive support) before the wins start rolling in.

Terrence Zhao, #3 Starting Pitcher: Another victim of poor and inconsistent offensive production, Zhao, like Esguerra, has thrown four good starts and one bad one, including a 9 2/3 inning, 1 run performance that went far into extra innings and resulted in a no decision.  Zhao’s ERA stands at 3.77 and his WHIP at 1.29 with a 1-1 record, but the real culprit has been his low 5.2 runs per game offensive support.  On the plus side, Zhao seems to be gaining a little bite on pitches, striking out 9.9 K’s per 9 innings and fast approaching the magical 10-K mark.

Sean Wade, #4 Starting Pitcher: The steadfast rookie, who has built his reputation on consistency in his rookie year, has been anything but so far this season.  In four out of five starts Wade has given up 6 runs or more, and yet the fifth start was a complete game shutout.  This all combines together for a 6.35 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, which may easily be Wade’s worst month ever.  However, with a team-high 9 runs per game offensive support, Wade’s record stands at 2-1.  So early into the season it’s hard to make any judgements, but Wade’s performance thus far has been most disappointing, to say the least.

Samantha Chin, #5 Starting Pitcher: Going through her rookie year brimming with potential, Chin seems to have achieved that sooner rather than later.  So far through April, she’s 4-0 with 2.92 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP, although she’s thrown with a more consistent style rather than sheer dominance (no shutouts or complete games, but four out of five quality starts).

Miguel Pardo, #6 Starting Pitcher: For yet another year, the enigmatic Pardo starts out the season blazing, defying all analysts’ predictions.  In three starts this year (all quality starts), he’s 2-1 with a 2.86 ERA, including a beautiful 2-run complete game, despite a high-ish 1.32 WHIP.  As always with Miguel, it’s a game of roulette every time he takes the mound, but for now it seems as if luck is on his side once again.

Helen Yamamoto, Mopup Reliever: I guess the one thing that can be said about Yamamoto is that she has improved.  Where her ERA used to be 9.35, she’s now down to 7.72, her WHIP down from 2.54 to 1.93.  She’s given up an earned run in every appearance she’s made, although she’s not actually the worst of the bullpen woes…

Angel Poon, Middle Reliever: What’s happened to the steady Poon?  Once humming along steadily as one of the team’s better relievers, Poon seems to have hit a very rocky spot.  Her ERA has ballooned to a team-high 8.53, with her WHIP at 1.58.  Could this be the beginning of the end for Daly City’s longest-tenured reliever?

Zubeda Khan, Middle Reliever: Khan seems to have taken her fall from the closer’s role hard, as she gets slammed for a 6.43 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in her first month as a middle reliever.  More than anything, she seems to be particularly affected by big hits, having given up 3 HR and 3 doubles in only 7 innings of work (her SLG of .688 is far higher than 2005’s .408).  Like the rest of Daly City’s ailing bullpen, things need to turn around quick for Khan before the efforts of the rotation and feeble offense are squandered away.

Alfred Vong, Long Reliever: Things have gone from bad to worse for Vong, and no one is quite sure why.  His ERA has risen all the way to 5.89.  In his share of close games, Vong has stepped in to throw 4, 4, and 6 inning outings, which may be stretching things  a bit for the young reliever (he’s on pace to throw 110 innings, after having only thrown 63 2/3 in 2005).  Surprisingly, his other performance metrics aren’t all that bad, with his WHIP at 1.15 and both AVG and OBP numbers lower than last year’s. Maybe a bit of luck is all Vong needs, and the team is hoping the bullpen, and most especially Vong (who’s thrown 30.2% of bullpen innings), finds it soon.

Alvina Chu, Setup Reliever: The leader of the Daly City bullpen, it’s perhaps most shocking of all to see the troubles of Chu, who owns a 5.91 ERA from two very bad relief outings.  Her 1.13 WHIP still offers hope, however, although it is a far cry from her 0.91 2005 WHIP.  At the very least, Chu is no longer vultering those starter wins into no-decisions…

Josiah Leong, Closer: When the team announced that Josiah Leong would be returning to the closer role in 2006, everyone braced themselves for one hell of a ride.  Leong has delivered, to say the least.  In his first four appearances Leong blew three saves (and in the process three wins, including Yan’s first no-decision), going into extra innings in both of them to win two for himself and lose the other.  Outside of those three blown saves, however, Leong has been flawless, and since his last blown save has gone six shutout innings with only 2 hits and 2 walks, and seven consecutive saves.  In fact, with 8 saves, Leong currently leads the league!  With a return to the bullpen, Leong is also throwing at a 3.95 ERA, 1.24 WHIP clip, slightly below his career averages, and throwing out his three blown saves, has got a 0 ERA and .60 WHIP.  More rough spots can be expected along the way, but perhaps this current shutout streak is a sign that Leong may have finally put it all together as a dominant reliever.

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