The Dust Devils are one of the top teams in the Northwest League, one season after having the worst record (30-46) in franchise history. Generally, it’s pitching that leads the way for Tri-City, playing in a spacious Gesa Stadium. This year is no different, except that the hitting and fielding have done their part as well. After going 11-13 in their first 24 games this season, the Dust Devils have caught fire and are now near the top of the NWL with a 27-18 record. Here are some numbers showing how the Dust Devils turned their season around, going 16-5 in their last 21 games.
-Since going 8-6 in June, Tri-City went on a tear in the month of July, going 19-11. Tri-City played 16 games at home and 14 on the road, including their longest road trip (eight games) and home stand (eight games) of the season. The positive play came at just the right time, with the first half ending on July 25, as the Dust Devils rode their hot play to the playoffs.
-When scoring first, the Dust Devils are 19-10 this season, with those 19 wins being the most in the league. Being able to score first and hold on to win is not only good for the team’s record, but good for their mentality as well. When the 2011 NWL playoffs come around in September, being able to get on the board first and know that you can keep that lead becomes a big advantage in a best-of-5 or best-of-3 series. Also, the fact that the Dust Devils have scored first in 29 of their 45 games is a good sign that when the game starts the team is ready, rather than coming out slow or unprepared.
-When leading after six innings this season, Tri-City is 25-1. That is the most wins in the league when leading after six and is a good reflection of how solid the Dust Devils’ bullpen is as well as their ability to close out games. Sometimes good teams aren’t able to capitalize on their talent because they can’t put teams away and win games without a struggle in the later innings, which leads to surprise losses. Being able to lose one out of 26 games in which they’ve led after the sixth inning is yet another good sign that come September the Dust Devils can close games out and secure a few playoff wins.
-On defense, a place that is often forgotten when looking at a team’s rise or fall from success, the Dust Devils are at the top of the NWL. Tri-City has a .973 team fielding percentage, .002 points higher than second place Eugene. The Dust Devils have made the second fewest errors (49) in their 45 games thus far and made just one error over their final 10 games in July. During that stretch the team went 9-1. Individually, Tri-City has a few players yet to make an error this season, with outfielders Leo Reyes and Jared Simon as well as first baseman Jordan Ribera all perfect in the field this year.
-The well-rounded offensive attack of the Dust Devils has put up impressive numbers as well. As a team Tri-City is third in batting average (.264), runs batted in (221), runs (249) as well as fourth in on-base percentage (.341) and has not been shut out once this season. With a pitching staff throwing as well as theirs is, being in the top half of most major batting statistics is more than enough support for a solid season. Different players have stepped up at different times, with first baseman Jordan Ribera getting off to a spectacular start in his first professional season, before going down with an injury. After Ribera went on the disabled list, Jared Simon and Tyler Massey took the torch and took over the cleanup spot in the Dust Devils’ order. In the month of July, Simon hit two home runs and drove in 19 runs while Massey hit four home runs and drove in 27 runs. Infielders Tim Smalling and David Hernandez have done well at the plate as well, batting .304 and .322 respectively.
-Although all of these numbers are good, it is the pitching staff of the Dust Devils which has been great. Tri-City has four pitchers (Nelson Gonzalez, Vianney Mayo, Tyler Gagnon and Christian Bergman) in the NWL League Leaders pitching top 10, all of which, except Gonzalez, have been regular starters in the Tri-City rotation all season. As a team the pitching staff has the lowest earned run average (3.19) in the league and the fewest runs (180), earned runs (144) and second fewest walks (142) allowed. Also, after shutting out the talented Vancouver Canadians three times in their five game series, the Dust Devils have the most shutouts in the NWL with five. The pitching staff is the anchor of the Dust Devils and the team will go as far as the staff takes them, which could be quite a ways this season.
All of these statistics make the Dust Devils turnaround from last season and even earlier this season that much more impressive. They show that the secret to their success is that they have no secret. Good pitching, solid and timely hitting as well as good defense all creates an obvious recipe for success at any level and the 2011 Dust Devils seem to have all of the right ingredients.