It doesn’t show up on highlight reels as often as scoring runs and throwing shutouts, but defense has been a major reason why the Augusta GreenJackets have a winning record this season.
The GreenJackets have committed the fewest errors and have the highest caught stealing percentage in the South Atlantic League this year, two examples of a consistent defensive core.
“These guys have played tremendous defense all year long,” manager Mike Goff said. “I keep telling my pitching staff every day, ‘How can you ever walk a guy with these guys playing behind you?’ All the way around the field, these guys have been tremendous.
“It’s one of the best fielding ballclubs I’ve ever been around at any level.”
High praise coming from a former major league bench coach and Double-A manager, but numbers and observation back Goff’s support.
Goff and his coaching staff continuously preach making the routine plays, and while errors aren’t the best stat to determine defensive ability, having the lowest number in the league is an indication the GreenJackets are making clean plays behind their pitchers. Augusta is one of three teams to have fewer than 100 errors in the league. It’s total of 84 entering the week is the league’s lowest.
The GreenJackets also have the highest caught stealing rate in the league at 38 percent, a sign of good-throwing catchers and pitchers who hold runners well.
Former GreenJackets catcher Eric Sim continues to lead the team with a 47 percent caught rate, a very high mark over 59 games. While he is now in San Jose, the combination of Eliezer Zambrano, Ben Turner and Trevor Brown have filled in well behind the plate, providing steady defense and establishing a solid connection with pitchers.
“We’ve got some smart catchers,” Goff said. “The reason we play great defense is our catchers keep our pitchers in a good rhythm. We try to keep them 12 to 15 seconds between pitches to keep our defense on its toes. They’ve done a pretty good job of that.”
While the outfield has few assists, it has played steady all season, making the routine plays and avoiding bad routes and first steps in most cases.
The infield benefited from the steady play of shortstop Matt Duffy, who was recently promoted to San Jose. But infielder Alberto Robles has filled in well, and second baseman Trevor Brown has made great strides in his first season at the position, according to Goff. The corners have also been consistent.
GREENJACKETS PROMOTION: Former Atlanta Braves closer John Rocker will be in attendance at Lake Olmstead Stadium on Wednesday to sign autographs and throw out the first pitch.
Rocker, who had a 2.63 ERA with 83 saves in four seasons with the Braves, will be available for autographs during the game against the Rome Braves. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
The GreenJackets are offering a special package for mentioning Rocker while purchasing tickets that includes admission and a visor.