California League playoff scenarios with 4 games left

I just had an exchange of e-mails with Matt Blaney from the California League office to clear up the potentially confusing playoff scenario in the Cal League’s South Division w.

So far, Lancaster and Lake Elsinore are in the playoffs, but the 66ers, Quakes and High Desert are still in the running for the division’s last playoff spot, with 4 games remaining, including tonight.

Here’s how it breaks down.

  • The 66ers (tied for 2nd with LE, 1 game back of Lancaster), need to win the 2nd half to make the playoffs. BUT, they only need to tie for the 2nd half title. Matt said that if the 66ers tie with Lake Elsinore (they can’t tie with Lancaster, because they are playing Lancaster), for the 2nd half title, there would be NO 1-game playoff, because Lake Elsinore is already in the playoffs. The 66ers would get in and play Lake Elsinore in the first round.
  • The Quakes and High Desert can only get in if the 66ers are not involved in the 2nd half title. They WOULD have a 1-game playoff if the 66ers aren’t involved and if the Quakes and HD are tied. HD leads the Quakes by 1 game, with 4 left.
  • Here’s who plays who: 66ers at Lancaster, Quakes at Lake Elsinore, San Jose at High Desert.
  • In the North Division, it’s between Visalia and San Jose for the last playoff spot, with Visalia leading by 3 games. Bakersfield and Stockton are already in.

66ers manager Denny Hocking enjoys all-star experience

It was last week  that 66ers manager Denny Hocking managed the California League all-stars to a win over the Carolina League and he enjoyed the event.
“You never know when you’re going to be able to coach one of these again,” said Hocking. “It might’ve been different if I didn’t get to see my family all the time, but I really enjoyed it.”

Hocking managed the team and his coaching staff was his all-star staff) because the 66ers won the league title last year, even though Hocking wasn’t the manager. He is from Southern California and as a result is able to see his family all the time, so the all-star game didn’t keep him from seeing his family for one of the few times all season.

Hocking really liked the camaraderie the team showed.

“The guys really came together. It wasn’t like, a group of Lancaster players over here, Lake Elsinore players over there. They all came together as a team,” he said. “And i got a chance to learn a little bit more about some of the guys in the league.”

Garey graduate named Cal League Pitcher of Week

Garey High School graduate Vincent Velasquez of the Lancaster JetHawks is the first California League Pitcher of the Week of the new season.

Velasquez, 21, appeared in three games. In 13 innings he gave up just three hits and one earned run while striking out 16.

He spent most of 2013 in the Houston Astros Low-A affiliate but earned a promotion late in the season to Lancaster.

Velasquez appeared in three games for the JetHawks late last season, going 0-2 with a 6.14 ERA.

He has obviously learned well.

His numbers this season are even more noteworthy, given that two of those three appearances came in hitter friendly Lancaster.

Velasquez, 6-foot-3, right-hander, is the Astros No. 9 prospect according to Baseball America.

Quakes, 66ers lose a day after 14-inning marathon

On Wednesday, the Quakes and 66ers played an epic 14-inning game, finally won by the Sixers despite needing to pitch the final three innings with two different position players: infielder Brian Hernandez and outfielder Andrew Ray.

A day later, in the 66ers first home game of the season and the Quakes’ first road game, both teams lost.

The Sixers (2-6)  loss was 8-3 to High Desert (6-2) as the Mavericks pounded out 18 hits and the Sixers committed three errors and went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Wade Hinkle was 2-for-2 with a home run, a double and two walks. Jordy Lara had four hits, finishing a double short of the cycle for the Mavericks.

The Quakes lost in more excruciating fashion. Playing at Modesto (1-7), they carried a 5-4 lead to the bottom of the ninth against Luis Meza (0-1).

With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth, Wilson Soriano singled and stole second. After a walk, a fielding error by Quakes first baseman Chris Jacobs allowed the tying run to score and put runners on second and third. Sean Dwyer’s single to center scored the game-winning run.

For the Quakes (3-5) , Pratt Maynard hit two doubles and drove in two runs.

Inland Empire 66ers 2014 Opening Day Roster

Here is the 66ers roster Opening Day Roster for 2014 opener is Thursday Apr. 3 at High Desert
Manager: 7 Denny Hocking
Pitching coach: 38 Matt Wise
Hitting coach: 18 Brenton Del Chairo
Bullpen coach: 35 Steve Hernandez
Athletic Trainer: Omar Uribe
Strength and Conditioning coach: Sergio Rojas
Pitchers
21 Austin Adams right-handed relief pitcher
37 Cameron Bedrosian RRP (No. 10 prospect)
19 Jake Boyd RRP
26 Ryan Crowley LSP
29 Tyler DeLoach LSP
17 Jairo Diaz RRP
22 Grant Gordon RRP
24 Alex Keudell RSP
12 Kyle McGowin RSP (No. 29)
23 Chris O’Grady RRP
25 Danny Reynolds RRP
15 Nate Smith LSP
20 Kurt Spomer RRP
Hitters bats/throws
Catchers
9 Abel Baker L/R
13 Cal Towey L/R (No. 19)
5 Zach Wright R/R
Infielders
4 Alex Allbritton R/R 2B-SS-3B
14 Brian Hernandez R/R 1B-3B
16 Wade Hinkle L/L 1B
10 Sherman Johnson L/R 2B
27 Jose Rondon R/R SS (No. 12)
Outfielders
2 Chevy Clarke S/R RF/CF
1 Rolando Gomez L/R CF/RF
8 Brennan Gowens L/R RF/CF

6 Andrew Ray R/R LF (No. 28)

 

 

Hocking, Wise expected to join 66ers staff

The Angels haven’t made the official announcement yet, but the word is that Denny Hocking will manage the 66ers in 2013.

He is expected to be joined by hitting coach Brent Del Chiaro, and pitching coach Matt Wise and bullpen coach Steve Hernandez. Del Chiaro and Hernandez were part of the 66ers’ 2013 California League championship team.

Hocking, 43, was the Angels manager in the rookie-level Arizona League last year, leading the Angels to a 30-26 record. He was a big-league infielder from 1993-2005, primarily with the Minnesota Twins but also briefly with the Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Royals. He batted .251 with 25 home runs and 226 RBIs in his career. He went to West Torrance High School and El Camino College.

His pitching coach in the Arizona League last year was Wise, a Bonita High graduate was a big-league pitcher from 2000-2008 with the Angels, Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets.

After the 66ers won the title, manager Bill Haselman and pitching coach Brandon Emmanuel were let go by the Angels.

Elmore back in charge of Bakersfield Cal League affiliate

D.G. Elmore is back in control of the Bakersfield Blaze of the California League, reclaiming ownership of the franchise he operated for seven years after a bid by new local ownership to build a new ballpark for the club crumbled last week.

New owners Chad Voiland and Gene Hathaway bought the Blaze from Elmore for an undisclosed price in March 2012, with the intention of building a new stadium to replace 72-year-old Sam Lynn Ballpark. The pair managed to raise just $18 million of the $30 million they said they needed for the project, however, and called off the project last week.

Elmore said the new owners failed to make a loan payment that was due Oct. 1, reverting control of the franchise back to him. Voiland and Hathaway said they simply exercised an option in the purchase contract to sell the team back to Elmore at the original sales price if they could not secure a new home for the team. Either way, the team is back under Elmore’s control, with its future in the city looking doubtful.

“I had every hope that Gene and Chad would build a great new ballpark for the Bakersfield community,” Elmore said in a press release.

Where the franchise goes from here is uncertain. Continuing at Sam Lynn Ballpark is not an option, California League president Charlie Blaney has said, as the stadium no longer meets Minor League Baseball facility standards. Blaney told the Bakersfield Californian that he will search for other markets within the league footprint, but a shortage of public money to use for local construction projects in California makes finding a location a challenge.

Last week, Blaney said the league has not considered revisiting a previous plan to shift to franchises to the high Class A Carolina League.

Angels oust Haselman, Emmanuel of Sixers staff

Some of the decisions the Angels have made are dumbfounding. Here’s another one. Despite winning the High-A California League Championship, the organization has severed ties with Inland Empire manager Bill Haselman and pitching coach Brandon Emmanuel.

The organization has done very little right at the major league level the past few years, one would think they’d reward those that did a superb job at the minor league level. Well, think again.

The Sixers had a very unique team chemistry. All teams say they have it but this team REALLY had it. It was obvious in watching the team as much as I did this season. Players had nothing but good things to say about the coaching staff. One player even told me at the end of the season he would rather NOT get promoted to Double-A because he enjoyed playing for this team and coaching staff so much and wanted to compete in the playoffs with them.

The Sixers did finish two games under .500 at 69-71. But that isn’t necessarily an issue. Players get injured. Players get promoted and demoted. Winning really does take a back seat to player development.

Look at what the team did in the postseason. The Sixers had to beat Rancho Cucamonga, coming from behind in the final inning of the decisive game.

Then they beat Lancaster in the same manner, winning a 15-inning thriller in the decisive game. And that was a Lancaster team loaded with top-notch Astros prospects and heavily favored to win it all.

To win the title the  Sixers knocked off San Jose, a team that the Giants annually makes sure is loaded  for a postseason run.

The only good thing about this farce of a decision is it comes early enough Haselman and Emmanuel will both have no trouble landing jobs with other organizations.

The Mariners would be a good bet for Haselman. Not only did he play in that organization, but he lives in the Northwest. He did some television analyst work there before going to the Angels and was very well received.

The Mariners organization is in transition so that moves makes the most sense.

The others let go were

Double-A Arkansas hitting coach Ernie Young
Class A Burlington manager Jamie Burke
Class A Burlington pitching coach Trevor Wilson

 

 

Unlikely or not, 66ers won Cal League title

Although admittedly I didn’t get to cover many games in the last half of the season, I have been considering how surprising a run it was for the 66ers to win their sixth California League title, sweeping San Jose in the best-of-five finals on Saturday night.

It was the franchise’s first and the first for an Angels affiliate since Lake Elsinore in 1996.

There are some similarities with this team and the last Sixers team to win a title, in 2006 as a Mariners affiliate.

That 2006 team, managed by Gary Thurman, won the first half in bizarre fashion. Poor scheduling left the Sixers a game short in the first half an a half game behind High Desert. So the Sixers’ last game of the 1st half (and High Desert’s first of the 2nd half) was a Sixer victory that tied them for the first half title. So the next game, also against High Desert was another Sixer win, and the first half title, clinching a playoff spot.

Then the team was gutted. Players were promoted and what was left was a rag-tag group primarily of non-prospects.

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66ers take South title, beat Lancaster 4-3 in 15 innings

Given the stakes, it could go down as one of the greatest games in California League history, which began 72 years ago.
Abel Baker’s fifth hit of the game, a double with two outs in the top of the 15th, scored Angel Rosa with the go-ahead run and the 66ers downed Lancaster 4-3 in Game 5 of the South Division Finals.
The Sixers will host San Jose in the best-of-5 South Division Finals beginning Thursday at San Manuel Stadium, after San Jose downed Visalia 9-5 in Game 5 of the North Finals on Wednesday. Game 2 of the Championship Series is also in San Bernardino. Games 3, 4 and 5 are in San Jose Saturday-Monday, if necessary.
Here are some of the remarkable aspects of the game:

  • The game not only lasted 15 innings, but 5 hours, 31 minutes.
  • The Sixers were down to their final out before Brian Hernandez singled home Zach Borenstein from second base in the top of the ninth to tie the score 3-3.
  • There were plenty of opportunities, but some remarkable pitching (or poor clutch hitting depending on how you look at it). The Sixers had 22 hits but left 22 on base and were 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position. The JetHawks had 13 hits but left 16 on base and were 4 for 16 with RISP.
  • Sixers reliever Ty Kelley (1-1) pitched out of not 1, but 2, bases-loaded, no-out situations, 1 each in the 13th and 14th innings. The first time was a strikeout then a double play, the second time was a double play and then a strikeout.

The Sixers had a losing record in the regular season, but are advancing to the Cal League Championship Series. Is that rare? It is, but not as rare as you might think. Lake Elsinore did that in 2011 en route to winning the league title, the San Bernardino Stampede did it in 1997 before falling in the finals. Bakersfield did it in 1984 before losing in the finals.