Isotopes Notebook: Mid-Season Report Card

By THE ISOTOPES TIMES

We’re halfway through the 2012 Sandlot Softball League season and the Rose Alley Isotopes are 10-4 and sit in first place. They’re outscoring opponents 131-102, have at least a two-game lead on the second-place team, playing good defense and getting big, timely hits.

“So far so good,” coach Jon Darling told The Isotopes Times. “I couldn’t ask for anything better at the half-way point of the season. We’ve won blowout games and won ugly games, and we’ve been right in each of our four loses. I said it in Spring Training: ‘The Isotopes are the best team in this league,’ and we’re playing like it.

“The scary part,” Darling continued, “is we’re still not playing as good as we can. There’s a lot of softball left and we have yet to play our best ball.”

At the midpoint of the 28-game season, The Isotopes Times is busting out the report card. Grades are based on a number of factors, including on-field performance (hitting, fielding, running, awareness) and off-field performance (attendance, attitude and character).

“The off-the-field stuff is just as important as what we do between the chalk,” Darling said. “The Isotopes are a class organization and we strive to set a good example on and off the field.”

All stats are current but do not include last Tuesday’s 3-2, walkoff win over the Sand Demons. Some numbers mean more than others. An example is batting average, which is good but not as important as combined on-base percentage (KMPOBP), which factors errors into how frequently people are getting on base.

Here are the mid-season grades for the Rose Alley Isotopes, in alphabetical order:

Jordan Chabot: C+

Busy times at the Rose Alley Ale House have limited Jordo’s games this year and his numbers have taken a hit because of it. Unable to get in a groove because of work commitments, Jordo has posted the lowest KMPOBP on the team at .389. With work settling down, Jordo will play more games in the second half of the season and find his rhythm at the plate to bounce back hard. Jordo gains big points for attitude and hustle but lost big points for leaving Bonaroo before Phish went on stage Sunday night.

Ry Chabot: B

Ry’s made some fantastic plays in the outfield this year, several of which would have made SportsCenter’s top-10. He has arguably the best eye in the league and always knows what is a ball and a strike, but the luck of the draw has lowered his walk numbers; he is on pace to walk only eight times this year compared to last year’s 14. His ability to work the count and make the pitcher battle is getting him in a lot of two-strike counts, making it hard to get solid contact on the ball. However, his KMPOBP remains near the .500 mark (.474). Expect big things from Ry in the second half, both offensively and defensively.

Jeff Dacosta: B+

Dacosta is making a big impact on the team in hs first year in the league. His hustling on the basepaths is causing havoc on the other team’s defense and his ability to play multiple positions in the infield gives the Topes a lot of defensive flexibility. At the plate, he’s coming up with big hits, as is evident in his 13 RBIs (among the team leaders). His always-100-percent effort gets him into trouble at times, though, as he has on occasion let a throw get away, resulting in extra bases for the opposition. Going forward in the second half, look for Dacosta to improve on his .463 KMPOBP and continue to drive-in runs.

Jon Darling: C+

Coach’s season at the plate has been very disappointing (.333 average with only two RBIs) but his KMPOBP of .444 is decent, as is his team-low six flyouts, meaning he’s doing a good job at hitting the ball down. As the pitcher, he’s averaging less than a walk per game, which is outstanding. He shows his frustration on the mound when errors start happening, dipping his attitude score a little bit, but is doing a good job in the field-maintenance and team organization department.

Dave Gagliardi: A+

Gags gets the top grade in the Mid-Season Report Card after an absolutely outstanding first half of the season in which he leads the team in batting average (.628), RBIs (16) and KMPOBP (.659). Combine that with perfect attendance and the highest standards of attitude and character, and you’ve got the ideal Isotope. Gags is tied for the team lead in total bases with 36 and prevents the other team from taking bases with his laser-rocket arm in the outfield. Left-center field is the spot in the outfield where most of the balls go, and Gags does the best job of anyone in the league at tracking and catching those balls. He also gets high marks for his pizza-making ability, which is unmatched across the Eastern Seaboard.

Ethan Gifford: B+

Gifford’s been known through the years for his offense, and this season has been no different. He’s one of only three Topes to have a home run this season and one of only six to have double-digit RBIs. Add those numbers to a .519 KMPOBP (one of six Topes above .500) and you’ve got an outstanding hitter in the lineup. Giff’s defense at second could use some work, but he makes up for it with outstanding attitude, character and hustle. Expect Giff to continue delivering big hits in the second half.

Mike Hochella: B-

Mike will be the first one to tell you he’s not happy with the way he’s performing so far, but he has rebounded from a slow start and is finally starting to get comfortable at the plate. He’s a good example of what can happen when you hit the ball hard: He’s reached base seven times on errors, posting an above-average .459 KMPOBP, meaning he’s hitting the ball hard and making it hard for the defense to make a play. Mike’s attitude is top-notch and his attendance has been perfect, making him a great addition to the team. Expect big things in the second half, and here’s one prediction The Isotopes Times would put money on in Vegas: He will hit a ball over the fence at Cushman before the year ends.

Kurt Homer: A-

Homer has done an outstanding job getting on base this season, making him the perfect No. 2 man in the order and the right choice to leadoff when Kenny Jacobsen isn’t around. He leads the team with seven walks and is third in KMPOBP with an outstanding .583. Defensively, he’s been superb in right-center field, making adjustments on hitters and taking away short bloop singles by getting good reads off the bat and breaking hard on balls. The only place he loses points is attitude, which is far below the standards set forth by coach. When things don’t go his way or there’s a bad call that goes against him, he tends to flip out and throw things in a temper tantrum, such as tossing around coach’s trusty handtruck like he owns it. Despite his less-than-ideal attitude, no one plays harder, no one hustles more and no one wants to win more than Homer, making him one of the most valuable and consistent players on the team.

Tom Jachimczyk: A-

Yim continues to hit the ball hard and with authority almost every time at the plate and earlier this season delivered one of the most memorable moments in Isotopes history, launching a two-run, walk-off homer in the team’s first win of the season. He is the most feared hitter in the league, as evident from the intentional walk he was given in the seventh inning of a close game last week. He’s tied for the team lead with two home runs despite only playing in six games — a number that lowers his grade from an A+ to an A-.

Kenny Jacobsen: A-

Kenny’s the prototype leadoff hitter, getting on base with a .528 KMPOBP at the top of the lineup. He also has been great defensively at third base, where he is making solid defensive plays at the most demanding (and most dangerous) position on the field. Jacobsen also possesses the highest standards of character and attitude, a true team player who will do anything to help the team win. Playing third is a great example: Some would say he’s playing out of position there, but when coach Darling had a hole in the infield and needed a reliable, solid player to fill it, Kenny stepped up and has done a fantastic job. He consistently has good at-bats and is a sold baserunner. In a close game Tuesday against the Sand Demons, Kenny led off the final inning with a full-count walk, tagged up on Homer’s flyout to deep right and scored the winning run two hits later.

Patrick Long: B

Long has a unique skill that many in the Sandlot league with they had: The ability to place the ball at the plate. Long has taken advantage of opportunities by hitting the ball down the right-field line, left-field line and up the middle. If there’s a gap in the outfield, chances are Long will find it. He also boasts a good eye at the plate with five walks — second on the team — that raises his KMPOBP 140 points higher than his batting average.While not possessing the strongest or most accurate throwing arm in the outfield, Long makes up for it by making nice catches, and isn’t afraid to hit the turf to make an out. Pat gets big points for attitude and dedication (despite all his meetings, appointments and business obligations, he still has perfect attendance) but loses some points for not naming his soon-to-be-born son Jonathan.

Eric Marshall: A

Marshall is a newcomer to the league this year but in just half a season has already gotten a reputation for being one of the best players in the league. At the plate, he’s flat-out crushing the ball: He is tied for the team lead in homers (two) and would have many more if the fence at Cushman were a few feet shorter. He is second on the Topes in batting average (.605), leads the team in runs scored (18), and has the most extra-base hits (eight) on Rose Alley. In the field, he is playing absolutely outstanding defense in the outfield, coming out of no where with diving catches and showing a strong, accurate throwing arm. He has become a force in the middle of the lineup, making the Yim-Eric-Gags middle of the order murder’s row. The only thing keeping him from a perfect A+ is the one game he missed this year.

Eric McAndrew: B+

Plumber has perfect attendance, is among the team leaders in RBIs, runs scored and walks, has a great attitude and has played good defense at shortstop. So why doesn’t he a higher grade? Ask him and he’ll tell you: He’s not hitting the ball as good as he can, and he’ll be the first to admit that. His KMPOBP of .467 is very solid but ask him and he’ll tell you it’s not good enough. He’s hitting only .400 this season but has been doing a good job at getting big hits — his three triples is third on the team. Expect big things from Plumber in the second half of the season, his average has been on the rise since a horrible start, and he’ll have more RBI opportunities hitting behind Yim, Eric and Gags. Plumber also loses points for the continued delay of Plumber and the Guys’ new album, “Sheetrock Moldings Vinyl Siding,” which has yet to hit stores and iTunes.

Ryan Walsh: B

Despite his recent slump, Mr. Walsh is still getting on base at a very good clip, posting a .484 KMPOBP while playing a very decent first base. Expect Mr. Walsh to bring more pop in his bat in the second half (he has only one extra-base hit this season) and bounce out of his slump in a big way. He also gets points for being one of the best-dressed Topes.

Quick Hits

Ry Chabot’s strikeout Monday gives him the lead in the beers category. Through the first half of the season, Chabot owes 48 beers, tops on the team. Behind him are Mr. Walsh (42), Jordo (30), Mike Hochella (30), Dacosta (24) and Pat, Homer and Kenny with 12 each. … Home is definitely where the heart is for the Topes: They are 8-2 at the Main Street side of Cushman this season … One team to look out for are the Red Eyes, who entered last week in third place at 7-7 after winning four straight games. The team is led by “Cricket” Mike Girouard, who leads the team in triples, homers and RBIs and is the only one on the team to have a double, triple and homer. Don’t remember him? He hit a grand slam that still hasn’t landed yet in a win over the Topes a few weeks ago. … KMP’s win over the Wrecking Crew Thursday put them back at the .500 mark after a four-game losing streak dropped them below .500 for the first time since 2005. Don’t sleep on KMP: The Isotopes Times would bet its weight in gold that they will be near the top of the standings when the season ends and one of them most dangerous teams come playoff time. … Get well soon to Waldo on the Misfits, who broke a rib in a game against the Red Eyes recently. With their left fielder on the DL, The Fits’ have been using Kruger in left, putting the Cobra on the mound in his place. … Despite all the rain this summer, Rose Alley has only two make-ups to play, one of which is this coming Tuesday. The other is set for July 25 in Westport against the Bulldogs.

Looking Back

From time to time, The Isotopes Times will look back at a notable game of yesteryear. Today, we take the DeLorean from Back to the Future to 2008 for a home game against KMP under the lights at Cushman Park.

This notable game of yesteryear wasn’t memorable because of a huge win, but the exact opposite: The Topes scored 21 runs … and lost.

KMP jumped out to an early 8-0 lead after a rough first inning but the Topes battled back to trail by only one, 12-11, after four innings. Rose Alley fell behind again, 14-11, until the sixth inning when five consecutive runners scored, highlighted by Nick Mitcheson’s two-run double to pull ahead, 16-14.

The lead wouldn’t last, however, as KMP exploded for 14 runs in the top of seventh, and the Topes rally fell short in the bottom of the inning. Mitcheson platted two more with a single but Chris Desmarais was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double after five runs crossed the plate for a 28-21 loss. The 49 combined runs remain a Topes record. Ym led the charge with a 5-for-5 day with two RBIs while Plumber and Chris Pinault also had five hits each.

Looking Ahead

The Isotopes have a big few weeks coming up. Tuesday, they will host the Misfits for a one-and-one doubleheader at 6 p.m. at Cushman Park before heading to Westport Thursday for a matchup with the Wrecking Crew. The rival Bulldogs come to Cushman the week after for a 7:30 contest on June 26 followed by three straight games against KMP on June 28 and a doubleheader on July 3.

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