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Monday, July 12, 2010

First Half In Review

We have officially reached the halfway point of the Frontier League season, and that means it's time to take a look at where the Florence Freedom stand.

Southern Illinois Miners3990.813-3L6-4
River City Rascals27210.563125W7-3
Gateway Grizzlies26220.542135W7-3
Normal CornBelters21270.438181W4-6
Florence Freedom19290.396201W4-6
Evansville Otters17300.36221.51W3-7
The standings don't tell the whole story, but they tell you enough. Southern Illinois, despite going into the break on a season high 3 game losing streak, can start printing Western Division Championship shirts today. The final playoff spot is still up for grabs, but a 1-4 stretch to end the first half has left the Freedom with a tough road to reach it.

One things the Freedom have done well is hit. They rank first in the Frontier league in slugging percentage and doubles, second in home runs. However, they only rank sixth in batting average and on-base percentage and fourth in runs. This may be a case of picking nits, but the issue is that the Freedom are getting big hits with few if any people on base. Like I said, this is a small complaint and the offense is scoring more than enough runs for this team to win on any given night, as they are averaging just under 5 runs scored a game (4.9).

Therefore the fault has to fall on the pitching and defense for the Freedom's first half shortcomings. They rank 9th in ERA and next to last in hits allowed. Meanwhile, the defense has committed 60 errors in 46 games allowing 43 unearned runs to score...clearly not doing the pitching staff any favors.

When one problem seems to get solved, another springs up in it's place. If the starting pitcher has a good performance, the bullpen struggless, and vice-versa.

And while they are getting considerable contributions from Steven Shults, Tim Grogan, Johnny Welch, Michael Campbell, and pitcher Liam Ohlmann, two players they were counting on to lead the team have scuffled. Justin Pickett and Billy Mottram, both all stars during the 2009 season, have struggled to put it together offensively. Mottram is hitting .275 with 5 home runs and 20 RBI, not terrible, but he's well off his last years pace when he hit 23 home runs and knocked in 79. The same goes for Pickett who is hitting only .217 with 3 home runs and 24 RBI while committing a team high 11 errors. Last year he hit .277 with 26 home runs and 78 RBI. If those two players can regain their form from 2009, the Freedom's chances improve dramatically.

But will the pitching staff contribute enough quality outings to give the offense a chance? The loss of starters Everett Saul and Andy Clark for a significant amount of time due to injury certainly crippled the starting rotation and their return in the second half would provide a much needed boost.

Right now there are a lot of questions, but will the Freedom find the answers?

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