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Published: Tuesday, 12/29/2009

Mud Hens reflect on completed season

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The rule of thumb when judging baseball teams is that most squads aren't nearly as good as they look when things are going well, but they also aren't nearly as bad as they look when things are going wrong.

So it stands to reason that the Mud Hens probably shouldn't judge the season based on their 8-2 start or the 17-5 run the team cobbled together to start the month of August.

Likewise, the Hens probably weren't as bad as they seemed when they went 12-28 following that 8-2 start.

The truth of the matter is that the Hens probably were the .500 club their 73-70 record suggests they were.

In fact, pitching coach A.J. Sager felt that the team deserved kudos for reaching the break-even mark following that poor start.

"It's tough when you're

struggling in April and May, because it's early and there's a long way to go," he said. "It can be easy to fold up the tents, and it's easy to have discontent in the lockerroom.

"But we were able to get it back on track, and we got it back on track with basically the same guys who were struggling."

Manager Larry Parrish said the swings his team had were the results of the offense either having success during the good times or struggling during the bad.

"We've had some hot spells with the bat, and it's been a team thing," he said. "When we hit, we hit as a team - and when we don't hit, we don't hit as a team. It's not a case where two guys here or there are hitting or aren't hitting."

It's interesting to note that the players who hit most consistently during the season were surprises. For example, shortstop Brent Dlugach hadn't played in almost two seasons, yet batted .294 with nine home runs and 59 RBIs.

Outfielder Jeff Frazier began the season in Double-A, yet performed well when promoted to Toledo, hitting .308 with 11 homers and 54 RBIs.

And while Don Kelly began the season without a position, he ended it as arguably the team's best hitter, finishing second in the International League batting race with a .331 mark.

"If someone would have bet you in the spring that [Dlugach] would hit .290 this year, you would have said, 'How much do you want to bet?'•" Parrish said. "Jeff Frazier had played only a few games at this level, and he did have a great spring, but no one could have foreseen the season he's had at this level.

"And Donnie Kelly has come out of nowhere. In the spring he was valuable because he can play a lot of positions. But he's become a regular, and he's played himself into a position where he can help a big-league club."

The problem was the players expected to be the big bats in the lineup - most notably third baseman Mike Hessman and outfielder Brent Clevlen - didn't match their production of past seasons.

"I don't know if you can call it bad years, because they've put up big numbers in streaks," Parrish said. "But they haven't been consistent."

The pitching was a concern before the season began, but by season's end the staff had posted a 3.93 ERA despite using 30 different pitchers, including 14 different starters.

Lefty Lucas French was the team's best starter in the first half of the season, posting a 4-4 record and 2.98 ERA before earning a promotion to Detroit. Right-hander Ruddy Lugo stepped forward after the All-Star break, going 7-1 with a 2.30 ERA in nine starts.

"Ruddy's been pretty consistent when he was healthy," Parrish said. "His ERA has suffered because there have been a couple of times where he's gone out there and the arm hasn't bounced back."

But starters such as right-handers Eddie Bonine (4-5, 4.41 ERA) and Chris Lambert (6-7, 3.55 ERA) didn't measure up to past seasons.

The same could be said for the bullpen, where RHP Freddy Dolsi blew five of 15 save opportunities and finished 4-3 with 10 saves and a 3.83 ERA.

But the staff did improve as the season warmed up, bouncing back from a 4.42 ERA in the first two months of the season to post a 3.67 ERA from June 1 forward.

"I felt in most cases our pitchers got better," Sager said. "Statistically we were at the bottom [of the league in ERA] early but we moved up."

Mud Hens LHP Ryan Ketchner was named International League pitcher of the week, the league office announced yesterday.

Ketchner won the award by earning victories in his only two starts of the season, allowing just 11 hits and one earned run in 16 innings for a 0.56 ERA.

On Sept. 2, Ketchner limited Indianapolis to five hits and one run in seven innings, striking out four. In the Mud Hens' finale at Columbus on Labor Day, Ketchner threw a complete-game shutout, holding the Clippers to just six hits while fanning a pair.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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