Yesterday marked a historic first for the Dayton Dragons. Never before in the Dragons 12 year history have the borne the title of 2nd Half MidWest League Eastern Division Champion. The title is quite a mouthful but this Dragons team has earned it with remarkable play on the back of a commitment by the Reds organization to build camaraderie among this talented group of players by keeping them intact, for the most part, all season. Considering the turbulence throughout the organization stemming from injuries to the major league team this was a tough commitment to keep but one that seems to be paying dividends. The Dragons finished last season 32 games below .500 and during the first half of this year they were a pedestrian 35-35. The Dragons record has improved, today lets see if individual performance demonstrates a team of players ready to move up in the organization.
The Dayton Dragons offense has grown through experience. Eight of the twelve position players with the most at bats during the season have improved their OPS as the season has progressed most notably Chris Berset who has improved his improved his performance by .364 from the first half to the second half. Donald Lutz has also improved dramatically as he now has raised his OPS to .820 for the season. Another Dragon who looks ready to move to the next level is Billy Hamilton. He has always been known for his speed and contrary to his massive error count, I have seen how good he can play shortstop. He still lacks the consistency needed everyday but he is making great progress. After a terrible start to the season he now has 143 hits only 4 behind the MidWest League leader on the season.
On the negative side, I am not concerned about the August drop off by Ronald Torreyes. No one is going to bat .400 all season and he is still productive just not as productive. Jaren Matthews is a bit of a concern as he has been forced to fight off a number of injuries this season that have limited his performance. Yorman Rodriguez has also suffered from his injuries. His injury occurred just as his performance was peaking in July. It remains to be seen if he can The biggest question in my mind is the steady decline of Tucker Barnhart. Not sure what may be the cause of this but it is a reason to look closer at him. He is a better fielder than Chris Berset but Berset seems to have flipped a switch and is suddenly a productive roster piece for manager Delino DeShields.
Let’s take a look at the pitching staff.
Smith and Corcino are the remaining backbone of the starting staff with Daniel Renken promoted to Bakersfield. Both have seen their performance slip a bit in July but both have come on strong to close out the season and look forward towards the playoff run. Tanner Robles has pitched better in August as well after returning from an injury as well.
But the major changes in performance come from the relief corps. Closer Drew Hayes leads the league in Saves and has been exceptional all season long. Blaine Howell was good in the first half but has raised his game in the second half. Chad Rogers has also blossomed as the season has progressed after a tough month of May but has done exceptionally well in August. But it is Daniel Wolford who earns the prize for the best adjustment from the first half of the season to the second half. In fact he simply quit allowing runs. He has not allowed a single earned run since June 9th. He has amassed a total 34.1 consecutive scoreless innings. He is closing in on the equivalant of four shutouts in a row. An amazing feet by any accounting.
This group have developed into an effective team, something that does not often happen in Class A ball. Twice before the Dragons made it into the playoffs on account of winning in the first half of the season. This second half championship is a first though and it is the team with momentum in the second half that has the advantage in the playoffs. The Dragons have never won a League title before and this might be the season that they finish the job.
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