Bayou Brief: Looking for help at trade deadline

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Updated: August 26, 2014

Trendsetters trading at deadline

Trendsetters

Craig Hampton was sitting in front of his locker.  He had just been informed that after playing for Fargo his entire career (minors and up) he was being shipped to New Orleans. “I guess the writing was on the wall when the moved me out of the rotation and into the pen,” he mumbled as reporters gathered around to get the scoop.

Hampton has been somewhat of an enigma at Fargo. Despite starting 177 games for the team he has won just 60 and lost 63, meaning that in 54 of those starts he received a no decision. Hampton had two great years, but for the most part his label was dependable rather than ace.

“Craig, can you describe the emotions you are feeling right now?” came the hurried request. After all deadlines which included constructing clever tweets were fast approaching.  “I guess it’s all just a little surreal. I mean I am going to a team with virtually the same record, but here in Fargo, we are already looking towards next year. In the Dixie, everyone is still in the race. I am excited about getting back into the starting rotation. But sad, because Fargo has been good to me.”

Hampton is right about the curious world of Dixie baseball in its current permutation. Whether it has been general manager turnover or injuries or poor management decisions or some combination of each, as the trade deadline looms there is no team that is really out of the race for top team in the division.  Make no mistake though, there will be only one playoff team to come out of the Dixie as no record is currently good enough to equal even third place in the Pan-Atlantic.  New Orleans can hit, but can’t pitch. Florida can pitch, but has had injury decimate their hitting. Kentucky has pitching, but hasn’t got the hitting side down and Charleston has gone 50/50 on both aspects, as has San Antonio.

For New Orleans it makes for an exciting trade deadline. They trail Florida by six games, but if you were to trust ol’ Pythagoras, then you would believe that they have just been extremely unlucky and should be leading the division. In reality, it is probably less due to bad luck and more due to the fact that the Trendsetters have been let down in every aspect of pitching this season.  What was hailed as a youth movement at the beginning of the year has become a train wreck almost too difficult to watch. But Tanner has finally decided to not just sit idly by and with the acquisition of Hampton is sending Adams and Martinez back to AAA for a little more seasoning.  In their stead, Austin Williams will be joining Hampton in the starting five. Of those who remain Joe Wolfe and Greg White have been most effective though that is a funny sentence to write about pitchers who can barely keep an earned run average under four fifty.

The bullpen has offered little relief to the team, though this may have more to do with the amount of use they have suffered through due to the ineffectiveness of the starting pitching. Or they are really terrible. For the second year in a row, closer by committee was put to the test with everyone and anyone available to close games. And for a second year in a row, it worked out pretty terribly. Now fan favorite Bernardo Alarcon will get the chance to work on his closing chops, until a better option presents itself.

The best news is that even the average fair weather fan is still interested in seeing how the team will do in this second stretch of the season. Attendance is up from last year by about 30% and if the trend continues gate revenue for this year will surpass last year’s by more than 20 million.

All of this leads to New Orleans being cautious buyers at the trade deadline, at least so far. They are ten games under .500 and they haven’t done well on the road despite having the top offense in the PEBA. And the next two months are not willing to take it easy on them either. Of the remaining 62 games, 34 are on the road. New Orleans road winning percentage is a paltry .319. If New Orleans continues winning on the road and at home at their current pace then they will definitely fall out of the race and finish somewhere around the 72-90 mark. Which would no doubt be disappointing to excited fans. However, it is a 17 win improvement from 2019.

Regardless of how the season ends up the offensive powerhouse that has been collected will go down as one of the best lineups to wear the Trendsetter orange, blue, and brown. Near the end of July the team has powered out 158 homers, 4 more than the team total from the entire season of 2019. The team record for home runs in a season is 200 and Florida’s 249 in 2019 are the most ever hit by a PEBA franchise in a season.  The Trendsetters are averaging 1.58 home runs a game, which puts them on pace to beat Florida’s mark (1.53 hr/g) by nearly 10 home runs (if they keep pace).

But the schedule looks to conspire against such gaudy numbers as the Trendsetters will end July and start September with 14 straight road games. In fact 23 of 29 games in September are on the road. Missing during that stretch will be all-star catcher Jack Collins who is out for the next three weeks and 2B/3B Al Edwards who is out for about the same length. Honestly, it is during that stretch of games that New Orleans will either make or break the season and for a team that has not fared well on the road, it could be a bone crushingly hard experience in early September.