Maryland Mounders Year-End Report

November, 2003-11-02


The Mounders completed a strong inaugural Brassworld season by going 97-65 in the regular season, second to the Aspen Rainmakers in the Mays Division and the second best overall regular season record in the National League.The team followed up its strong regular season by winning its first round series against arch-rival West Oakland before falling to second seed Lafointaine Park in seven exciting games.The 2003 teamís success was based on its offense, which finished first in the NL.The team batted .275 and scored 815 runs, led by all star starters Todd Helton (.331, 111 runs, 60 doubles, 22 HRs 118 RBI) and Tim Salmon (.305, 96 runs, 44 doubles, 24 HR, 88 RBI).Jeff Kent (.287, 102 runs, 43 doubles, 31 HR, 105 RBI) also had a very strong offensive season.The offense was based on high onbase percentage and doubles power, but a lack of speed hurt some in the playoffs.


Also critical to the teamís success was a great bullpen, spearheaded by all stars John Smoltz (1.60, 33 saves) and Alan Embree (1.41, 4 wins, 4 saves), and the underrated Darren Holmes (1.59, 10 wins 3 saves).The teamís top three starters, Hideo Nomo (3.05, 14-9), Matt Clement 3.73, 21-6), and Mark Redman (3.72, 18-6), also were effective, particularly Clement, who went 12-1 in the second half of the season, but the back end of the rotation (Andy Pettitte, Brad Radke, and Jason Marquis) kept this from being a top-tier group.Nonetheless, the teamís 3.83 ERA was good enough to finish in the top 5 in the NL, which is not too shabby.


The disappointment of the playoff loss to Lafontaine Park is tempered by the realization that Maryland will contend again in 2004.The infield, which was such a strength in 2003, will again be the heart of the team in 2004 (and beyond), with Helton, Kent, and Corey Koskie joined by rookie Alex Cintron.Chris Woodward and Royce Clayton, last yearís starters at SS, will provide infield depth.At catcher, Damian Miller returns to provide good defense at catcher, while Victor Martinez begins his development as the backup to Miller.The Bernie Williams and Tim Salmon will return to anchor the corner outfield spots, but injuries have reduced their effectiveness a bit.Danny Bautista and Quintin McCracken were 2/3 of a very effective centerfield platoon in 2003, and Bautista will help some in 2004, but McCracken has fallen off the face of the earth.Luckily, rookie Larry Bigbie made some big strides and will be able to take the majority of the playing time in center in 2004.


The starting rotation will be very strong, with five asterisk starters and a sixth starter who just missed qualifying with 29 starts.Nomo, Redman, and Clement will return at the top of the rotation, and this time Pettitte and Radke should be better compliments in the 4th and 5th spots.Matt Kinney and T.J. Tucker made significant strides in their development and will provide depth to the rotation, as well as solid middle relief help.Smoltz will return as an elite closer, but the 2 studs who helped get to Smoltz (Embree and Holmes) are both lost to free agency.In their stead, rookie Brad Lidge will be expected to help set up Smoltz.The team also needs to add bullpen depth through free agency and the rookie draft.


The teamís minor leaguers also showed some promise in 2003.Lidge, Cintron, and Bigbie emerged as key parts of the 2004 team, and the system is especially stocked in quality left handed starters, with Macay McBride and Andy Sisco behind Pettitte and Redman.Grady Sizemore is an exciting outfield prospect who will hopefully replace Salmon soon, and Walter Young, Lew Ford, Dee Brown, and David Kelton also show some promise.Justin Wayne adds righthanded depth to the system and should get another opportunity in Florida as the Marlins move some veterans to keep payroll down.


Despite a need for bullpen depth and bench strength, the Mounders will not be very active in free agency or in the offseason trading market.The team will try and add a couple of relievers through free agency, and Royce Clayton may be moved to a team in need of at bats at shortstop, but most of the teamís offseason energies will be focused on the draft, during which Maryland plans to add at least 10 new players to the system.Given the limitations engendered by the salary cap, and the money committed to the offensive stars in the lineup, this is likely to be the teamís philosophy for at least a couple of more years and Maryland expects to add at least 10 rookies a year for the foreseeable future.But, if you have a trade idea, I am always willing to listen, and I do have an asterisk starter that I could deal for the right price.


Meanwhile, we plot our revenge against the Diamonds (ďup and in to Tejada; that must have gotten away from NomoĒ).