More than most seasons in recent memory, the Daly City lineup is an embarrassment of riches. While some of the veterans have put up lackluster numbers, almost every reserve and newcomer has panned out in a big way, batting their way into the lineup. As the Monti manager joked – it’s an 11-man lineup squeezing into 9 spots. As a result, no player has fewer than 137 plate appearances at the midpoint of the season, as the competition for playing time has forced nearly everyone out at some point for the next hot-hitting player.
Tina “Experimental Error” Quach, Catcher/Third Basewoman: Quach (.310-.376-.381) has put up a great batting average, but not too much else out of the ordinary so far this season, as her OBP and SLG numbers have fallen roughly in line with her career numbers. After a strong start, she was merely pedestrian in May and June, and with the continued mashing on display by fellow catcher Marco Paz, has been forced into exile at the third base position.
Marco Paz, Catcher: After exploding onto the scene early in the year, Paz has shown that he’s here to stay, raking his way to a .346-.398-.533 line while displacing Quach as the primary catcher. His potent power has faded somewhat (he’s slugged just .511 after belting 4 homers in 56 at-bats for a .607 slugging in April), but Paz has proved his resilience by continuing to pour on the hits, actually improving his average from the .339 he hit in April. Paz does need to work on his fielding, however – he’s thrown out just 8 of 34 runners this year, ranking just 18th out of 21 of catchers with 20 or more baserunner attempts.
Derek Lew, First Baseman: After what looked like an MVP start to the season in April, Lew has struggled at the plate as of late, producing a line of .290-.345-.541, good for just the 6th-best OPS on the team (and just the 8th-best Runs Created/27 outs at 6.15 RC/27). One area that Lew continues to improve in, however, is his walk rate, where his 30 bases-on-balls so far is on pace to shatter his career high of 43, achieved in his rookie year.
Cristian Ortiz, Second Baseman: The slick-fielding Ortiz is having a career season as he’s setting career highs in almost all categories, and becoming a bonafide force in the leadoff spot by adding on-base ability (.404 OBP) and power (17 homers, .519 SLG) to his arsenal of speed (60 stolen bases so far). As it stands, Ortiz is on pace to shatter two records this season: he’s on pace for 120 steals and a staggering 170 runs, which would shatter his own record (set just last year) of 91 steals, and Kenton McClinton’s 166 runs from his hallowed 1942 season.
Henry “Mr.” Nghe, Shortstop: Dismissed as an early season fluke, Daly City is in full-on worry mode for Nghe, who so far has hit at a glacial .250-.305-.403 clip. At this point the only thing allowing Nghe to start a staggering 58 of 81 games is the lack of any suitable backup to play the shortstop position.
Joanna Maung, Saung-gah-basewoman: The incumbent third basewoman has looked terrible at the plate, with a .250-.320-.288 line with no discernible pop (her isolated power is just 1.15 total bases per hit), and she’s done even worse in the clutch hitting situations she’s known for, batting .182-.250-.182 in close/late situations and just .128-.271-.179 with runners in scoring position. With a multitude of hitters banging on the third base door to get a spot in the lineup, she may be relegated back to her bench/pinch-hitting role for the rest of the season.
Salgu Wissmath, Utility Infielder: Daly City has had to lean heavily on the green Wissmath, who was originally brought in to back up the middle infield. She’s played about as well as you might expect from a rookie bench player, putting up an adequate .275-.350-.350 line that would be great for spot duty, but hasn’t been quite enough to warrant the substantial number of starts she’s received (42 total) in place of the struggling Nghe and Maung. She’s also looked shaky on defense, committing 9 errors so far playing 2nd, 3rd, and shortstop (her fielding percentage is .932). But for better or worse, the young Wissmath has been thrown into the starting infield fire, until the incumbents can re-establish themselves or some other candidate can clearly separate themselves from the pack.
Ted Kwong, Leftfielder: While Kwong has cooled down just slightly from his April pace, he’s continued to rake through the summer months and now sits near the top of the UL leaderboard in almost every category (he ranks in the top 5 in OBP, SLG, Runs Created, RC/27, RBIs, and Runs). For the season, his line stands at .344-.430-.687, which if, he holds pace, would rank as the 8th-5th-2nd best in team history, and would set a new Montis record with 11.88 RC/27 and 181.2 Runs Created total (shattering the previous records of 10.95 RC/27 and 165.53 total RC set by Norman Ho in 2003).
Jessica Kuo, Centerfielder: After competitively pushing for centerfield playing time with outstanding play in April, the speedy Kuo has done nothing but pick up speed – literally. After disappointing with just 3 steals against 4 times caught in April (despite reaching base 20 times in 47 plate appearances), Kuo turned on the afterburners, swiping 23 bags in May and 19 in June, outpacing team and league leader Ortiz both months, despite having just 205 plate appearances to his 253 and 79 on-base chances to his 104. She’s been playing in both the #1 and #9 spots as a leadoff hitter, and has set the table nicely with a .393 on-base percentage. On account of her stellar defense, Kuo seems to have gotten the majority of starts at centerfield so far, squeezing fellow outfielders Tiffany Ho and Skyler Reid into other positions on the field. Kuo had one of the most exciting stretches in baseball for a while from mid-April to mid-May, when she put together a 22-game hitting streak that looked like it might challenge the 27-game record set by 3B Joey Wong in 2004. During the streak she hit .414 (41 for 99).
Skyler Reid, Centerfielder/Designated Hitter: The rookie Reid has been tearing it up at the plate beyond everyone’s expectations so far. Projected to be a low percentage batter with some pop, Reid has hit to a tune of .356-.400-.531, ranking 1st-3rd-5th on the team, and with the 3rd-best RC/27 (8.84, behind only Kwong and RF Francis Chen). Mostly, the results have rested on a stellar ability, and a bit of luck in making good contact – Reid’s BABiP is an absurd .459, which unfortunately isn’t likely to last into the second half of the season. But for now, Reid has worked himself into a large portion of starts between the centerfield and designated hitter spots.
Francis Chen, Rightfielder: After three years of patient waiting, the season of reckoning has finally arrived for Francis Chen, who at long last has developed the power stroke and consistency to deliver the MVP-type season he has only hinted at in flashes. It’s only halfway through the season, but Chen is already close to setting career highs in HR’s (29) and RBIs (74), and leads the team in those categories as well. After posting a solid performance in April, Chen seemed to lose himself once again in May when he put up a .176-.341-.412 line, before a monstrous .338-.436-.925, 14 HR, 32 RBI June vaulted him into the discussion as one of the best sluggers in the game. Unless he falls apart completely, Chen should easily find himself among the elite 40HR club (only two others have achieved this in team history, and none since 2004), and has a very good shot at becoming the first Daly City player to hit 50, and maybe even 60 homers.
Tiffany Ho, Utility Outfielder: Ho seems to be making marked strides after her full-season stint at center last season, but has had the unfortunate luck of competing against two breakout rookies in her centerfield spot. As a result, Ho has been the odd woman out, making just 30 starts compared to 59 for Reid and 52 for Kuo. Nonetheless, Ho is hitting solidly – .326-.365-.488 – in limited duty, and she’s still shown her ever-enthusiastic spirit by even trying out the infield (3 starts at shortstop) as a way to find starts.
Jonathan “The Cheet” Chee, Utility Outfielder/Designated Hitter: It hasn’t been a kind season for Chee, who has maintained his on-base ability (.376 OBP) but has fallen off the map in just about every other area – he’s batting .244 and slugging a measly .291. He’s made 36 starts, all but four of them at designated hitter, a year after contributing 137 starts in leftfielder. Without any ability besides a simply adequate production of weak singles and walks, and lacking the defensive skills to play any of the demand positions, The Cheet finds himself without a clear role or future going into the second half of the season.
Nathan Yan, #1 Starting Pitcher: After appearing simply human in April, Yan has re-established his dominant form and is well on his way to another solid season, statistically in line with his past two. It doesn’t look as though he’ll achieve the counting stats he did in record-breaking 2006 (when he pitched 284 innings, got 568 K’s, and finished with a 30-1 record; Yan is on pace for 276 innings, 546 K’s, and a 30-2 record), but he’s again putting up astronomical rate stats – he’s lowered both his hits and walk rate for a astounding 3.8 runners per 9 innings (compared to 4.4 in 2006), although he’s given up slightly more extra-base hits compared to last season (a .196 HR/9 vs. .127). For the season, he’s putting up an ERA of 0.98, a WHIP of 0.40, and he’s on pace to tie career highs with 13 complete games and 7 shutouts, and pitched an amazing PERFECT GAME on May 23rd – a 22-K gem – just the fifth ever in league history, and the first since Jack Seeman’s perfect game for Seattle in 1938.
Whitney Esguerra, #2 Starting Pitcher: Big things were expected from Esguerra this season, but no one could have predicted she could put up such a dominant streak of performance – she’s 12-0 so far, with a 1.93 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, and she’s striking out batters at 11.1 K’s per 9, for a second-best league mark of 138 K’s. While she’s improved in just about every area, the key to her success seems to be her complete shutdown of opposing sluggers – she’s given up just 4 homers all season for a rate of 0.3 HR/9 – the 2nd best mark in the league and far below the 1.1 mark last season. As of now, she’s the leading candidate for 2nd place in the Pitcher of the Year award – no small feat consider she’s just 18 and in her second year in the league!
Samantha Chin, #3 Starting Pitcher: It’s been an up-and-down ride for Chin, who started the season slowly, had a brilliant May (4-0, 2.14 ERA, 0.89 WHIP), and has returned to average levels in June (2-2, 3.06 ERA, 1.08 WHIP). She’s improved slightly overall, by lowering her walk rate and homerun rate, but her K’s have dropped by a significant amount – she’s hitting just 8.0 K’s/9 after flirting with the 9.0 mark the past two seasons. Nonetheless, she seems to be making strides, and has already moved up to the #3 position in the rotation as the most consistent starter after Yan and Esguerra.
Terrence Zhao, #4 Starting Pitcher: At this point Zhao is still delivering solid performance, but he’s looked nothing like the dominant form he displayed in his runner-up Pitcher-of-the-Year in 2005. His ERA is at 4.13, his WHIP is at 1.35, and he’s completed just 9 quality starts (64.3%), 2 CG’s and 1 shutout so far this season – all numbers that would put him on pace for the lowest since his rookie season. He’s giving up a few more hits and walks and striking out batters less, but perhaps most alarming is that he’s giving up homeruns at more than twice the rate of previous seasons. Zhao’s been demoted to the #4 spot for the meantime, and though it looks like his position is safe for now, even former spot starter Alfred Vong is chomping at his heels with a solid mid-summer performance.
Alfred Vong, #5 Starting Pitcher: Vong has flip-flopped between the #6 and #5 slots all season, and only recently has he secured the #5 spot for good. As a result, he’s had the fewest opportunities of all starters (just 9 starts, compared to 12 for Wade and 16 for Yan). Nonetheless, he’s made the most of it – he’s 6-2 so far with a 3.09 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, and turned in a solid June with a 1.82 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, and 2-1 record in 3 starts, including pitching his first-ever shutout against the Caribbean Pirates. Vong is mostly doing it via solid control – he’s reduced his walk rate and homer rate significantly compared to last season, though with conditioning himself for the starter role, he seems to have lost a bit of zip (just 6.8 K’s/9 after 7.2 last season).
Sean Wade, #6 Starting Pitcher: Wade has simply imploded after a decent start to the season, putting up an ugly 1-2 record and 5.89 ERA in 8 starts. Despite his abysmal performance, it’s hard to tell what’s wrong with Wade – his rate stats are not too far removed from last season, and he’s even improved a bit in the HRs allowed and strikeouts department. Perhaps at the end of the season, a regression to the mean may make his line respectable, but for now he’s just been sent down to 6th starter purgatory, where he’ll find even less starts than usual given the more aggressive start schedule Yan is slated for.
Kelley Cox, Long Reliever: Aside from a lone ill-advised spot start she made in May, Cox has continued to be lights-out. Filling in for Vong in a spot start, Cox gave up 5 runs in 3+2/3 innings. Take that away, and she’s a brilliant 5-2 with 1 save, 2.41 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP in 44+2/3 of solid relief work. She’s been absolutely vital to eating up the innings or sometimes even securing the wins after some of the early-game meltdowns by Daly City’s starters – she’s thrown at least 3 innings in 9 of her 18 appearances, and she’s on pace for nearly 90 innings of relief work, and will get close to Sarah Jimenez’s record of 90 relief innings set in 2003.
Bernadette Dugtong, Middle Reliever: After a rough introduction to the league in April, Dugtong seems to have settled down to become a solid reliever – she’s currently sitting at a 3.55 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, and amazingly hasn’t given up a homerun in 33 innings. Despite great movement numbers, she isn’t blowing it by hitters (just 5.5 K’s/9), but is keeping good control with just 1.4 walks/9.
Alvina Chu, Setup Reliever: Chu had a dreadful two months to start the season, with a 5.33 ERA and 1.50 WHIP by the end of May. Since then, she’s been absolutely lights out, holding on for three wins and an 0.57 ERA and 0.51 WHIP in 15+2/3 June innings. In what is likely to be the 4-year veteran’s farewell season, her career could go out either way if she continues her June domination or reverts to the unsteady form that lost two games and blew three saves at critical moments in the beginning of the season.
Josiah Leong, Closer: Josiah has dominated in somewhat of a wasted performance so far this season – he’s given up just four runs and is on pace for career bests with a 1.24 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He’s allowed a miniscule 0.3 HR/9, and maintained a beefy 12.7 K’s per 9 with his high-velocity fastball, and hasn’t blown a save so far (after blowing 9 in a shaky 2006). Despite all this, there have been barely any save opportunities at all – he’s converted all ten he’s been given this season, and picked up an extra 3-inning save, but aside from this has hardly found any opportunities to pitch – his 29 innings lag all relievers in the Daly City bullpen.