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Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Assessing the Eastern Division playoff race - part one, starting pitching

With a little more than a month remaining in the season, the Thunder and the Fisher Cats have done little to settle the race for the top spot in the EL East. As it stands, Trenton has a one-game lead over New Hampshire but is at a considerable disadvantage insofar as the schedule is concerned. Here, take a look for yourself. Below is a breakdown of each team's remaining 27 games, and their opponents' winning percentage.


Altoona (3) - .579
Harrisburg (3) - .530
Bowie (3) - .553
Portland (3) - .478
New Hampshire (3) - .583
Harrisburg (4) - .530
Akron (4) - .513
New Britain (4) - .296

Overall, 20 of 27 games are against teams with winning records.

Richmond (3) - .491
Altoona (3) - .579
Binghamton (3) - .478
New Britain (3) - .296
Trenton (3) - .591
Portland (4) - .478
Harrisburg (4) -.530
Portland (4) - .478

Overall, 10 of 27 games are against teams with winning records.

Of course, there's the small matter of the players who will play in those games, and I believe the Cats have the advantage in that category, too. Let's start off by looking at their rotations.

Beginning Tuesday, the Thunder's starting five looks like this:

1. Cory Arbiso
2. Hector Noesi
3. Andrew Brackman
4. Adam Warren
5. D.J. Mitchell

From a sheer prospect-value standpoint, that's a pretty stacked rotation. From a performance standpoint, however, the story is completely different. The guys who should be the team's Big Three -- Brackman, Noesi and Warren -- have been positively dreadful lately.

Since 26, that trio has posted a 2-5 record, and both of the wins came against New Britain, which is already eliminated from playoff contention and is threatening to post the worst record in league history.

Worse still, the Thunder just lost their best starter, Lance Pendleton, to Triple-A. Good for Pendleton, who posted 111 Double-A strikeouts and a .215 batting average against (4th in the EL), but decidedly bad for his former team.

His replacement (for now) is Arbiso, who has performed well as a starter of late. That said, with a quintet of youngsters at Tampa beating on Double-A's door, I sincerely doubt he'll be in the rotation for the rest of the season.

On the flip side, here's what New Hampshire will throw at its opponents*:

1. Shawn Hill
2. Randy Boone
3. Reider Gonzalez
4. B.J. LaMura
5. Kyle Drabek

*Zach Stewart will probably be in there somewhere, but he was placed on the Temporarily Inactive List yesterday, for a period of time unbeknownst to me.

Even though he's No. 5 on the above list, there's no debating that Drabek is the team's ace, or that he has absolutely no business in Double-A. Over his last 10 starts, the 22-year-old Texan has racked up a 5-4 record, a 2.52 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and has held hitters to a mind-blowing .181 average against.

If he and Stewart are in the New Hampshire's starting rotation for the playoffs, and the only thing that would prevent it is a promotion, the Thunder could be in for a quick exit. Witness, if you will, how the Cats' twin aces have performed against the team with the league's best record.

Drabek: 19 IP, 12, H, 4 R, 4 ER, 7 BB, 10 SO
Stewart: 22.1 IP, 20 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 6 BB, 22 SO
Total: 41. 1 IP, 32 H, 13 R, 13 ER, 13 BB, 32 SO

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