The second year of affiliation with the Oakland A’s hasn’t gone quite as smoothly as the first. Last season, the Snappers, armed with a supremely talented infield and an uber-effective pitching staff, raced out to a 43-27 first-half record, good enough for a first-place finish in the Midwest League’s Western Division.
This year, Beloit won the final three games of the half to finish 30-40, last place in the division. A quick glance at the numbers tells you exactly why the Snappers’ record is where it is.
Beloit’s team batting average is just .246, good for 15th in the 16-team league. The Snappers have drawn the second-most walks in the league, but have scored the third-fewest runs at 3.82 per game.
The story from the mound isn’t much better. Beloit’s team ERA is 4.67, 14th in the league. The staff has given up a league-high 46 home runs and struck out a league-low 440 batters.
The bullpen in particular has been an issue for Beloit all season. The team has thrown 17 players on the mound to varying degrees of success. That total doesn’t include position players Ryan Mathews and Sam Roberts, who combined for a 1-1 record and just four earned runs in 10 innings of work.
Eight of the 17 true pitchers Beloit has thrown out on the mound employ an ERA of at least 5.50. Opening day starter Bobby Wahl was recently demoted to the bullpen after struggling with an oblique injury and compiling 6.59 ERA.
The bright spots on the mound include Tyler Vail, Kyle Finnegan, Andres Avila and Dylan Covey. Vail, a member of the 2013 Snappers, joined the team in May and has compiled a 2.25 ERA out of the bullpen.
Andres Avila has taken well to the closer role, putting up seven saves along with a 2.93 ERA. Finnegan earned the starting role in the 2014 Midwest League All-Star game, held Tuesday in Grand Rapids, Mich., with a 5-4 record with a 2.85 ERA.
Covey had a difficult start to the season but has come on strong of late. Covey has pitched two consecutive complete games and leads the team with 80 innings pitched. Covey, the former first-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers, is 4-5 with a 4.28 ERA.
On the offensive side, it’s been the Boog Powell show. Powell leads the league with a .336 batting average, .450 on-base percentage and 50 walks. He has stolen 14 bases as well.
Snappers manager Rick Magnante knew Powell had the talent to succeed at this level after managing him last season in Vermont of the New York-Penn League.
“I wouldn’t have told you he was going to lead the league in hitting,” Magnante said. “But his game is such that he’s selective at the plate, he can run and that really helps him. He can lay down a bunt, take a walk and the next thing you know he’s 2-for-3.”
Hitting coach Lloyd Turner watched Powell transform from a slap hitter to a batter who makes solid contact consistently.
“He had a good year for us last year,” Turner said. “He has that tool that doesn’t slump: He can run. That helped him out a lot last year. But this year he’s been able to barrel balls up, along with the hits that his speed allows him to get. He realizes who he is as a player. He’s come through for us as a lot as a player in a number of situations.”
Beyond Powell, the Snappers have been inconsistent offensively. Jaycob Brugman has put together a solid half, hitting .275 with four home runs, while Tyler Marincov has provided some pop in the middle of the lineup with eight home runs.
Defensively, only infielder Luis Baez has troubling error totals, totaling 21 in the first half. No other player has more than nine. The Snappers have allowed 40 unearned runs, good for fifth in the league.