Veteran Arms Lead Blue Crabs 2019 Review

Record-breaking pitching performances and signs of growth washed away the bitter taste of a 7-24 start to 2019.

After their 6th managing turnover in 6 years, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs stumbled out of the gate in their quest for the organization’s 1st Atlantic League Championship. Manager Stan Cliburn began his 2nd stint as Blue Crabs’ manager (he previously managed the club in 2015) by overseeing 24 losses in the team’s first 31 games of the 2019 season. Mercifully, the Blue Crabs would gather themselves in late-May. Though the team finished 2019 with the 2nd worst record in the ALPB (59-81), the Blue Crabs went 52-65 after their 7-24 start and completed the season’s second half with a 33-37 record. Only a 5-game losing streak to end the season kept the club from a .500 second half record.

A brutal start to 2019 was flipped by late-summer, as the Blue Crab’s 2nd half remained over .500 for the majority of July through September.

Some decidedly ugly numbers came out of the Blue Crabs’ 2019 season, but also some extremely impressive performers and positive indicators for the Blue Crabs’ future. It’s only appropriate that the 2019 Blue Crabs Review, like their season, should start by quickly confronting the bad before moving on to appreciate all the good that came from the Southern Maryland campaign.

In short, the Blue Crabs’ offense was problematic. For context, let’s take a look at the numbers…

The Blue Crabs managed to plate 60 less runs than any other team in the Atlantic League.
By leading the ALPB in strikeouts and coming in last in walks, the Blue Crabs’ Strikeout-to-Walk ratio was the worst in the league by 30%
The Blue Crabs finished 2019 last in the league in all 3 slash categories and OPS.

Looking past all that negativity, there was plenty of silver-lining to see. While the Blue Crabs’ pitching was middle of the pack overall, the top arms on their pitching staff were dominant at times during 2019.

Highlighting the action on the mound in 2019 was Blue Crabs’ veteran Daryl Thompson and mid-season addition Kyle Simon. The pair of right-handers each threw 4 of Southern Maryland’s ALPB record 14 complete games. These 8 combined complete games alone would have been enough to up-end the previous league record of 7. Daryl Thompson would go on to win 2019 Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year after leading the league in wins (15) and starts (28). Thompson’s 192 innings pitched were by far the most in the league, while his 162 strikeouts fell 2 Ks shy of a single season ALPB record (a record he would have had if not for a missed start due to illness).

2019 team totals for complete games shown with where Blue Crabs pitchers would stack-up against entire ALPB pitching staffs.
A comparison of Kyle Simon and Daryl Thompson’s stats in their 4 shutouts indicates how differently the pair delivered their results. Simon gave up plenty of contact, but refused to put the burden on Southern Maryland’s bullpen. On the other hand, Thompson dominated opposing teams completely during these games. He posted a 1.45 ERA, while striking out 28 and walking only 1 batter.
Daryl Thompson was a workhorse for Southern Maryland in 2019, masterfully pitching 18% more innings than any other ALPB pitcher while on his way to an Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year award.

Mat Latos ended his 1st ALPB season with the league’s 2nd best WHIP (0.647), hits per 9 (4.2), and saves (25). Kevin Munson was a stellar mid-May bullpen addition posting a 2.60 ERA, which was good enough to earn a contract with the Mariners earlier this week. Similarly, Craig Stem and Pat Dean both had their contacts purchased mid-Summer after impressive first half performances.

As a staff, Blue Crab pitching gave up the 2nd fewest home runs in the ALPB and would have posted more impressive numbers if they could find more consistent control (they led the league in both walks and wild pitches).

Life wasn’t all doom-and-gloom for the Blue Crabs away from the pitcher’s mound. Middle Infielder Edwin Garcia won ALPB Defensive Player of the Year in his 3rd season with the club. Garcia even capped a solid offensive season with a terrific September, posting a .338/.390/.493 slash in 77 PA. Also in his 3rd season with Southern Maryland, Cory Vaughn had an above-average year at the plate; leading the team with a .483 SLG and .839 OPS.

Despite 7 trips to the playoffs in their 12 year history, the Blue Crabs still lack a League Championship in the trophy case at Regency Furniture Stadium.

The 2019 season started bitter for the Blue Crabs but ended with reasons for optimism. Of course, some questions still need answering. Can the team build on last season’s 2nd-half improvement? Will the Stan Cliburn’s 2nd season at the helm bring the club some much-needed consistency in leadership? Can last season’s offensive struggles be reversed with smart player acquisitions and continued talent development? These questions may seem daunting, but if a few answers are all that’s standing between the Blue Crabs and a playoff chase for their 1st ALPB title than I’m willing to bet the club can make some noise in 2020.

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