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Round Four Review
Math looks good for Heat
12/12/2017 4:00 AM ET
 (James Worsfold SMP-Images)

PERTH - The recipe for success in baseball is often quoted as "win your series at home and play .500 on the road." Through the first four rounds of the Australian Baseball League, that has for the most part been the case for the Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat.

Ok, maybe it has been more to the point of just win series, which the team has done in three of four rounds, while playing above .500 on the road. Either way the math still seems to be working, along with plenty of other numbers for the season. Simply put, what a difference a year makes.

The math looks good, real good. Let's take this past weekend for example. The offense scored 11 runs in two games, and after blowing a late lead, the team came back to win the opener 6-5. The team has the bats rolling and came out of the round second in the ABL with a .300 average and first in runs scored with 113. It has an effect on the entire club. "It (the offence) allows you to pitch even if it is zero-zero, and you are into the fourth inning and you haven't scored that you know that in the back of your mind, we are going to score run, it is just a matter of time," said pitcher Tom Bailey.

While there were a few good moments last season, the team never really put together back-to-back-to-back games or got any sense of traction. The longest winning streak was three last season--that came in January against Sydney during round eight. Fresh off a seven-game winning streak that came to a halt on Sunday, the Heat had a successful run not seen since 14-15 when the team notched seven in a row.

In 14-15, the team won their last five, winning the final game of the series on 18 January at Canberra, then swept Brisbane at home in four games to close out the year on the 22nd through 25th. The Heat then won the next two in round one of the playoffs over Sydney to make it seven in a row. Of note, that was the last time the club won the shield. The last two seasons the Heat have had three winning streaks of three games. One last season and two the previous, both non-playoff seasons. The longest winning streak for the team in the new ABL is 11 games in 2011-2012. That club had a pair of six game streaks as well in winning the Premiership. The second longest streak is eight games. The team has won twice in 2010-2011 year one and 2013-2014. The team also won seven in a row in 2013-2014, but that included playoff games as well. The longest regular season winning streak is eight games in 2013-2014, also the same year the team had a seven- gamer with playoffs tossed in.

Longest winning streaks:

2011-2012 - 11 games

2013-2014 - 8 games

2010-2011 - 8 games

2014-2015 - 7 games

The lineup this season from number one through nine is solid. It could be the mix of Tampa Rays imports one inning or a veteran Heat mainstay the next or one of the next wave of WA kids the next. Often, it has been a combo of all three. While Mike Brosseau, Jake Fraley, Zac Law, Garrett Whitley, Luke Hughes, and Tim Kennelly all may show up in the top 10 numbers in various stats, it was none other than two situations of four youngsters that may sum up just where the Heat are this season.

In game two Saturday night with Zac Law on the bench and not catching because of being hit by a pitch in game one, second year catcher and 18-year-old Alex Hall was put into the fire once again. He caught Team Australia member Tom Bailey with ease in game two, and in game one with veteran import Kyle Simon on the mound, Hall called time out after Simon fell behind 2-0 in the count. Hall raced out to chat with Simon to make sure the pair were on the same page. Simon would go on to retire the batter in a stretch of five straight scoreless innings after having a rocky first.

The second sequence happened in game two of the double header Saturday. The Heat and Bite were scoreless in the fourth when 19-year-old Jake Turnbull singled to start the inning. Second year Heat outfielder and 19-year old Ulrich Bojarski then followed with a single off Greg Mosel. It was then 18-year old Jessie Williams, who followed with an RBI single to drive in a run and turn the lineup card over to the top, and Jake Fraley as the Heat would put up a six spot on Adelaide in the inning, scoring five more in the frame.

The three youngsters all are now part of Major League organisations with Turnbull with the Cincinnati Reds, Bojarski a Detroit Tiger, and Williams a newly signed Milwaukee Brewer. When young players start to contribute, it has to take fans back to a time when the Heat had most of their lineup in the North American MiLB. Currently the west has nine players in affiliated ball with Warwick Saupold and Liam Hendriks leading the way in the "Show". No other state can claim that number in Australia.

"It is impressive, and it is what we spoke about before the season. We wanted to get these guys at bats and give them opportunities, and they are having big at bats in key situations, said Andy Kyle. "Hall (Alex) got a big walk Friday night and Jesse (Williams) had the big RBI tonight. These guys are grinding it out and getting the big hits for us."

It might be an embarrassment of riches, when the Heat were able to bring in veteran Matt Kennelly to grab his first save of his career in game two Saturday or get a single in game one at the plate. "Matty" is second on the Heat all-time hit list. Kennelly was also player-manager last season and went through the struggles that the club went through first hand, tossing young players out there for their first ABL season. That move paid off and has given the team depth that has not been seen in several seasons.

Sunday may have been a letdown in the 8-5 loss in the searing western heat wave, but taking three of four leaves Perth a half game off the pace heading into round five. The team did come out with a few question marks and one that still hangs over the team's head. Zac Law was hit in the helmet by a Max Beatty pitch and did not play after early in game one on Saturday, and both Jesse Williams and Ulrich Bojarski were held out of Sunday as precautions with some bump and bruises from the weekend. Law suffered a concussion, and his status is still up in the air for round five.

It may be "nit picking" a little when 10-5 start is on the current Heat ledger and we are looking at the warts. The one issue that seems to not go away is that the bullpen remains a work in progress. Matt Kennelly did provide some help, but he is not available for road series at the moment. Benn Grice is still on the mend, and the team is missing his presence. Scott Mitchinson has been solid until this past round and got knocked around a little by the Bite. Daniel Schmidt seems to be taking a page out of the Grice story line from last season as the "big lefty" has given up just two earned runs all season and may be the missing piece at the moment.

Garrett Whitley made a heck of a bid for player of the week in the ABL, going 7-for 12 with three runs scored and a home run, five walks, a double and two triples to top it all off. Batting behind Luke Hughes, the pair have teamed up to go first and second in the ABL in walks. When you add Jake Fraley into the mix, that is a big part of why the club came out of the weekend first in on base percentage at a .393 clip.

As was mentioned earlier, the Heat also scored plenty of runs once again this weekend and came out of the round first in runs scored at 113. That may be a bit of a surprise to some as it seems like every time we turn around Brisbane or Canberra are putting up footy scores every half inning. What is encouraging about the runs is that it once again is not just Mike Brosseau and Jake Fraley and the 23/Sixteen duo of "TK" and Hughes. Jesse Williams. The young short stop is now 10th in the ABL in hits.

What the club is doing on the base paths is also scary. We saw the frustration in round one when Allan de San Miguel and the young Sebui prospect Tomoya Mori had their hands full when the Heat stole seven bases. This weekend the team passed last season's mark of 27 stolen bases reaching the 28 mark. The club swiped nine in the round as a club. The team leads the ABL with 28 stolen bases out of 37 attempts and a 76.0 % success rate. The next closest club is Brisbane with 13 team stolen bases.

Leadoff hitter Jake Fraley is leading the way with 16 stolen bases, and he leads the Bandits Aaron Whitefield by 10 (16 to six) The club has two players with three stolen bases, two players with two, and another three have one each. Seven of the 10 regulars in the lineup have a stolen base with last year's co-leaders Tim Kennelly and Ulrich Bojarski yet to get a bag this season.

The re-born ABL stolen base numbers for Perth are and the leaders:

29 -2010 (6 - Mitch Graham)

75- 2011   (15 - Michael Givens) of note James McOwen stole 14 at the time the second most all time in a single season.

52- 2012   (10- Carter Bell, Corey Adamson)

52- 2013 (9 - Geroge Barber, Tucker Nathans)

49- 2014 ( 9- Tim Kennelly, Joey Wong, Tim Smith) (Adelaide stole 80 the most all time in ABL in a single season)

45- 2015 (11- Anthony Caronia)

27- 2016 (6- Ulrich Bojarski, Tim Kennelly)

For perspective sake, Jake Fraley is doing something no other player has done for the Heat, much less for the ABL. Jon Berti stole 31 back in 13-14 for Canberra, and Michael Givens had 15 for the Heat in 2011-2012 both longer seasons. Those are the ABL single-season leading totals and the Heat single season total. With six rounds to go, the former LSU Tiger is half way to the all-time mark and already holds the franchise mark in the re-born ABL.

Luke Hughes had arguably his best season for Perth last season, where he had to do so much to help the team. He hit .313 and managed six homers, matching his season high he had hit twice in his career, and he drove in 15 runs in 37 games. This year the average in at .265, but he comes out of round four leading the league in walks, and his five home runs leads the ABL and is just one off his career mark. His .463 on-base percentage is his highest of his career, and with the lineup around him his numbers are helping to translate to wins this season.

The math is working for Perth who will look to keep the formula intact with the trip to the ACT this weekend. We will talk about what waits for the Heat later in the week.

This stroy appeared first in Talking Baseball Australia - #BaseballsBestMate

 

 

Dan Vaughan makes his return to Perth and He teams up with Paul Morgan as the Heat media team and will join Morgan on air as the Heat play-by-play broadcast due for all home and away games in 17-18. Follow him on twitter @DanVaughanJr. This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.