Sacramento River Cats - 2018 End of Season Notes
2018 in Review: The River Cats finished their 19th season in Sacramento with their lowest winning percentage in franchise history (.393), breaking a record established back in 2002 when the second-year River Cats went 66-78 (.458) before turning it completely around and posting a 92-52 record in 2003.
The 2018 club played their best baseball in May - a month that featured the team's longest winning streak (5) - when they went 15-16 and were at one point just 2.5 games out of first place in the Pacific Northern Division. They ended the year 27.5 games behind the first-place Fresno Grizzlies, finishing in fourth place in the division for the third straight season.
Clearing the Fence: The team hit 12 fewer home runs than they did a season ago, but had their first 20-home run hitter since 2015 in OF Chris Shaw. At 24 bombs, Shaw finished tied for seventh in the Pacific Coast League, five behind leader Jabari Blash. Shaw's total was the most in the Giants' organization by five, surpassing Gio Brusa of San Jose by five and former teammate INF Jerry Sands, who hit three with the River Cats, by eight. The club hit just one grand slam compared to three last season, and this year's version came from rehabbing OF Hunter Pence on May 22 in a 10-7 loss to Las Vegas at home.
The team did, however, go back-to-back six times, up from just two in 2017. The longest home run of the season went to INF Chase d'Arnaud, whose 464-foot shot on April 11 against Reno landed on top of the umpire's building in left-center field. Though not holding the spot for longest of the year, Shaw had six in the team's top-10, including No. 2 just two feet behind d'Arnaud at 462.
The Pride of Yuba City: Acquired on August 12, Yuba City High School standout INF Brock Stassi joined the River Cats to play the remaining month-ish of the season roughly an hour south of his home- town. Stassi was an on-base machine during the 21 games he played with Sacramento, reaching base in all 21 of them for a .536 on-base percentage. Stassi totaled 25 hits, including 10 doubles, as well as 19 walks to just 14 strikeouts in his stint, averaging a run scored every other game. Only Fresno OF Kyle Tucker had a higher on-base percentage during the final 30 days of the season other than Stassi.
Kelly, The Workhorse: Leading the rotation in starts by eight with 24 this year, RHP Casey Kelly served as the team's workhorse for the majority of the season, averaging exactly 5.2 innings per start. Kelly pitched six or more innings 15 times, and seven or more innings six times for a total of 136.0 throughout the year, putting him in ninth place in the Pacific Coast League. Kelly had a run from May 24 to June 14, a string of five straight starts, where he allowed just five earned runs on 25 hits and five walks in 34.0 innings for a 1.59 ERA. He was rewarded for his role in the rotation when his contract was purchased by the Giants on August 10, where he made his first appearance in the big leagues since 2016.
Back in Black: Flame-throwing right-hander Ray Black broke out during the 2018 season, first making an immediate impact at the Double-A level with the Richmond Flying Squirrels. The product of the University of Pittsburgh appeared in 10 games with Richmond and struck out more than half of the batters he faced (20 of 38). He was then promoted to Sacramento, where he instantly became of a staple of the back end of the bullpen. Black struck out 46 of the 98 batters he faced with the River Cats for an incredible 46.9 strikeout rate to go along with a 3.16 ERA and .167 opposing batting average. Among Pacific Coast League pitchers with at least 25 innings pitched, Black's mark of 46.9% was the highest by 4.2%. He earned his first major-league call-up on July 8 - one of eight River Cats players to make their big-league debut in 2018.
Not-So-Good Records: The River Cats broke eight records and tied one during the 2018 season, and none of them are worth putting up on the mantle. Beginning with the tied record, in 2017 the offense posted the lowest batting average (.263) in team history, and the most recent squad managed to equal that. Though, considering the club played one fewer game than a season ago, that means the record for fewest hits in a season, also set in 2017 (1,272), was surpassed in 2018 as this year's bunch totaled just 1,255. Other franchise lows for Sacramento include runs (605), RBI (565), wins (55), winning percentage (.393), and saves (22), as well as two franchise highs: batter strikeouts (1,242) and losses (85).
Team of Swiss Army Knives: The 2018 squad managed to possess an unusual number of players capable and willing to handle multiple positions, including the most versatile of them all - INF Myles Schroder. After finishing the 2017 season having played all eight non-pitcher positions for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, Schroder saw his opportunity to reach all nine become possible as he made his minor-league pitching debut on April 15 with a scoreless 1.1 innings. Though he never managed to get in as a catcher, despite having more than 600 innings behind the dish logged in his eight-year career, he did play everywhere else for eight positions once again, man- ning first and second base most often.
INF Chase d'Arnaud logged innings at seven positions, spending the most time at second base. INF Orlando Calixte mixed it up, as well, avoiding just first base and catcher.
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