Old Friends

Edwin Diaz

Hard to believe that the season is just around the corner. The Generals open things up two weeks from Thursday with a game against the Birmingham Barons April 6. But we are far from the doldrums of Spring Training. Sure, there are relatively pointless games going on and everyone is talking about Tim Tebow. But there has been compelling action almost nightly thanks to the World Baseball Classic.

The international tournament has featured fantastic players, drama and emotion not seen during much of the MLB regular season. It’s not often that we get to see that kind of enthusiasm in March.

One of the more effusive players in the tournament is none other than former General Edwin Díaz. Less than a year, ago he was Jackson’s Opening Day starter. Now, he’s throwing 100 miles per hour while closing games for the Mariners and Puerto Rico.

Díaz pitched a pair of scoreless innings Monday night, earning the win that sends Puerto Rico to the finals Wednesday night. In the semifinal round, he earned a save against the American team with strikeouts of Buster Posey and Paul Goldschmidt.

The rest of the world is starting to see what Southern League hitters had to deal with last year.


Some other familiar names are making headlines in Spring Training. Though this is our first year with the Diamondbacks, we’ll be keeping a close eye on happenings in Seattle. With the amount of talent that came through Jackson last year, there will be a lot of guys in that organization who make noise at the Major League level.

Tops on the list of players we’re watching in 2017 is Tyler O’Neill. The Canadian slugger rewrote the Jackson record book last year en route to a Southern League MVP award. He’ll more than likely begin the year in Triple-A, but hopefully he’ll get a shot to play in the majors sometime this season. He gave everyone a taste of what he can do last week with this absolute bomb against Clayton Kershaw.

To recap: Last week, a 2016 General struck out Paul Goldschmidt and another one homered off of Clayton Kershaw. Not bad.

Later this week, we’ll look ahead at some of the guys we can expect to see in Jackson this year. But after winning a championship, looking back ain’t so bad.

Advertisements

By the Numbers

IMG_9847

The First Half of the season is over, and what a 70 games it was for the Jackson Generals. The team clinched a playoff berth with eight games left to play, and then proceeded to make a little bit of history. Lets run down what this team was able to accomplish by the numbers.

46: The number of wins the Generals finished with in the First Half, a franchise record. The West Tenn Diamond Jaxx won 45 games in the Second Half of the 1999 and 2000 seasons. It is not technically the best half in franchise history as 46-24 amounts to a .657 win percentage while the 2000 squad went 45-33 in 68 games (.662). The all-time record for wins in a season is 84, also held by that 2000 squad which has the only Southern League Championship in franchise history.

A couple other notes: The Generals were the first team to win 46 games in a half since Huntsville in 2014. The last time a team won more than 46 in a half in the league was 2009. Birmingham won 48 in the First Half and Jacksonville won 47 in the Second Half.

25: The number of home wins for the Generals in the First Half alone. The team is a league-best 25-8 at their home yard in Jackson. This is all the more remarkable considering the fact that the team won just 23 games at home all season long in 2015. They did this despite losing a pair of home games. Hopefully, the team will get 35 in West Tennessee after the break.

30: The number of quality starts thrown by the pitching staff in 70 games. That’s crazy. The team got at least six innings and three earned runs or fewer in almost half of hte games they played in.

The numbers comparing this year’s team to last are staggering. The Generals finished the First Half only seven wins shy of the 2015 total. Last year, the team had 29 total quality starts. In 138 games. This year’s team surpassed that in 70 contests.

9: The number of games the Generals won in a row from May 26 to June 3 and the number of shutout wins the team has. We’ll start with the winning streak because that was pivotal. All nine games were on the road and it took the Generals from 2.5 games up in the division to a nine-game advantage. They wound up winning the North by 10 games. It was the longest winning streak for the team since becoming the Generals in 2011. In 2010, the Diamond Jaxx won 10 in a row.

The Generals lead the league with nine shutout victories and they’ve only been shut out once, which is the fewest among teams in the league. That one loss was in a seven-inning game to boot. This is after a year in which the team was 10-21 in shutouts.

176: The number of walks allowed by Generals’ pitchers this year, by far the fewest in the Southern League. Chattanooga, which ranks second, has issued 200 free passes. Control the Zone has been the mantra throughout the Mariners organization this season, and Jackson has certainly taken to it. The team ranks among the top three in walks and strikeouts for both hitters and pitchers.


After Tuesday night’s All-Star game, the Generals are back at it for the Second Half. Things get started Thursday in Chattanooga before the team returns home the following week for a series against Dansby Swanson and the Mississippi Braves.

Here’s to a Second Half that matches, or at least comes close to matching, a historic First Half of 2016 for the Generals.

 

 

Diaz Dominant in Debut

Diaz Smile

That was awesome. I got home last night just as Edwin Diaz was entering for the Mariners in his Major League debut. And what a debut it was. Edwin ramped it all the way up to 101 miles per hour, retiring all three batters he faced with a strikeout.

I can’t explain how surreal it was to watch. Edwin made it to Jackson last May, so I was fortunate to spend a year with him before he made the jump to Seattle (first player to do so in-season since 2010). I’ve watched the highlights approximately 75 times today.

Wow. Everything was perfect. The inning. The velocity. The standing ovation. His family taking pictures. And that smile. Gave me chills.

He took the the relief role so well. It took Edwin, at 22 years of age, just 10 appearances out of the bullpen in Double-A before he was summoned to The Show.

Here’s to a long, productive Major League career for Edwin Diaz. Just seeing him pitch in Seattle was so special. I talked to him on Friday and saw him pitch last Thursday. Days later, I saw what I had seen in person for a year on TV.


The big news today is that the Generals had seven — including Diaz — named to the North Division All-Star team. It was the most of any team and the most for Jackson since 2012. We’ll talk more about those guys as the game, which is on June 21, gets closer.

For now, I’ll just go back to watching Diaz dominate big league hitters like, well, Southern League hitters.

More Interviews!

A09Q2459

Things continue going well for the Generals. As of this post, the team sits atop the North Division by 2.5 games over Montgomery and their 16-8 mark is only a half-game behind Biloxi for the best record in the Southern League.

Three players — Tyler O’Neill, Zach Shank and Tim Lopes — have active on-base streaks of at least 16 games. The rotation has turned in nine quality starts over the team’s first 24 games, which is the same total the team had in the entire First Half last year.

I could go on and one. Seriously. The stats that illustrate the turnaround from last year to this year are remarkable, but I don’t really feel like writing a novel at the moment. The architect of the change throughout the organization is Seattle’s new Director of Player Development Andy McKay. He stopped in Jackson last week and took the time to talk to me. It’s an interesting interview if you have the time.

Rick Waits was also in town. After spending the past two seasons as Seattle’s big league pitching coach, Waits is the minor league pitching coordinator. David got to pick his brain.


With a win tonight, the Generals would equal the number of home victories they had in the First Half last year. This is the last series for the team at home before May 19, as the squad heads on the road for 11 games starting Monday.

 

One Series in the Books

Heredia GS 640

We’re four games into 2016j and things are off to a good start for the Jackson Generals. The team won its first three games of the season for just the second time in the now decade-long affiliation with the Mariners. The other time was in 2012, when the Generals made it to the Southern League Championship Series with the likes of Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.

The team has already spent more days above .500 than last year’s squad, but enough about 2015. The theme of this season in the organization is “Control the Zone,” and that’s already paying dividends for the Generals. Through four games, the team’s staff has combined to strike out 34 while walking a league-low eight batters through four games. On offense, the team isn’t giving up at-bats. Jackson’s 25 strikeouts are the fewest of any Southern League squad.

Perhaps tho most impressive player thus far has been outfielder Guillermo Heredia. The Cuban has shown no signs of rust despite having only played a handful of games after defecting in January. Heredia has reached safely to lead off all four of Jackson’s games thus far, and he came through with the decisive hit in Friday’s 9-2 win over the Biscuits.

Over six years playing in Cuba, Heredia hit just 23 home runs but his bat has been much better than advertised. Through four games, he’s 7-for-14 with team-leading six RBI.

Heredia was one of a number of topics David and I touched upon in episode two of the Generally Speaking Podcast. Give it a listen below!


Big thanks to the local media in Jackson for all the coverage they’ve given the team to start the season. Lots of excitement, and hopefully the play keeps up. Brandon Shields of the Jackson Sun wrote a nice profile of Clarksville native Ryne Harper, who played at The Ballpark at Jackson as part of an OVC Champion Austin Peay squad in 2011. Give it a read.

(Credit for the awesome photo after Heredia’s grand slam: Steven Van Worth/Van Worth Photography)

New Beginnings

2016 BA Top 10 640

Hey, everyone! It has been awhile. For that, I apologize. I have not done a good job keeping up with the system in a busy offseason for the Seattle Mariners, but here is to a fresh start beginning with a new website. I decided to move Generally Speaking to an MLBlog template to match up more with other MiLB blogs.

A new URL pales in comparison to the changes that have taken place in the Pacific Northwest. The Mariners have almost an entirely new front office. Jerry Dipoto, the team’s new General Manager, has made a number of trades in an attempt to shake up the Major League roster. He hired Scott Servais as manager of a largely new coaching staff.

The effects should trickle down to Jackson and the entire system as well. Andy McKay is the team’s new Director of Player Development, and he figures to overhaul the team’s approach in that area. There’s a lot to read up on as the McKay hire has been dissected from every which angle, and there are a number of great profiles for those interested. What has struck me most is the emphasis put on having an overarching and consistent organizational philosophy. It appears everyone will be on the same page when 2016 starts.

It is difficult to draw too many conclusions without any baseball being played, but the excitement is palpable in the organization after a disappointing 2015. With Spring Training less than two weeks away, it seems like as good a time as any to start previewing the upcoming season. I joined all the other broadcasters in the organization in the first edition of Seattle System Scoop last week, a new podcast covering all the goings on from each Mariners’ affiliate.

In the first episode, Mike Curto of the Tacoma Rainiers, Dan Besbris of the Bakersfield Blaze, Greg Mroz of the Clinton LumberKings, Pat Dillon of the Everett AquaSox and I talked about the organizational changes and the top 10 prospects in the system according to industry standard Baseball America. Listen below, and let us know what you think. We’re looking forward to doing this all season long.