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Blackhawk 2016 Season Update

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Blackhawks Regular Season Report Card
Playoff Appearance a Huge Surprise

by Caitlen Sullivan
Chicago Tribune Sports
September 7, 2016


The expectations in the Chicago front office were low – a .500 season would have been deemed an optimistic outlook. But the Blackhawk players had other ideas. They finished the regular season with a third place finish, 45-39, and now face the St. Louis Blues in the playoffs for a chance to get to the championship round and be promoted to the Silver League. Here’s a report card on how players did this year.

First Base

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Alfredo Rodriguez, pictured above, missed four weeks of the season, his first ever injury and the first time he missed any Blackhawk games. After coming back, he hit very well, ending up at .301 although he hardly showed the power he used to exhibit. Bucky was used as the DH for most of the last half of the season. Grade: B+.

John Dingle was horrible with New York last year. He signed a free agent contract and upped his average by 75 points. His 52 RBIs led the team, and he plays a solid 1B. Will he sign an extension? Grade: B+

Second Base

Newcomer free agent Pat Wagner didn’t hit nearly as well as hoped, but he played a solid second base and stole 9 bases in 11 attempts. Grade: C+

Holdover Chris Brewer had a brief try at the 2B job, but his anemic bat couldn’t keep him in the lineup. He does provide solid defense at 2B, SS, and 3B as a utility guy. Grade: C.

Third Base

Erwin Hurst missed only two games and upped his average 25 points to .267. He’s a brilliant fielder anywhere in the infield. Grade: B

Shortstop

Bob King was frequently sought after by other teams, but the veteran is highly valued in Chicago for his glove and his bat. He hit a solid .283, stole 11 bases in 14 tries, and knocked in 42 runs. His glove at the critical shortstop position anchors one of the best defensive infields in baseball. Grade: B+

Left Field

35-year-old former LA King Eric Richardson has no power (he hit just one HR), but his .311 average make him a critical part of the offense, often hitting in the critical fifth spot in the batting order. He missed five weeks with a finger injury. Grade A-

Earl Waller is just 25 and held the starting job last season. He was supplanted by Richardson’s bat but often takes over in the late innings for defensive reasons. Grade C+

Center Field
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Jean Sanchez, pictured above, (age 35) re-signed as a Blackhawk after testing the FA market. He had his best year ever as the lead off hitter, hitting .322 and stealing 19 bases in 20 attempts. He’s a better corner outfielder forced by circumstances to patrol; center field. Grade A-

Young Phil Perkins started the year in AAA but was promoted to shore up the outfield. He’s a brilliant defender and takes over in CF in the late innings. Grade C

Right Field

Logan Ballard, the team’s number one draft pick last season, was expected to spend the year developing at AAA, but he was called up when Richardson was injured. While he still needs to improve his contact skills, he showed tremendous power, hitting 17 HRs in 69 games. His defense in right field is faultless. He had seven assists with his cannon arm. Grade: B

Catcher

Alex Campbell is another guy who left for free agency but eventually re-signed a Blackhawk contract. He’s a solid defender behind the plate. The number nine hitter, he’s never going to be considered a threat at the plate. Grade C-

Ex-Bruin Tom Symons has just enough offensive and defensive skill to keep his job as backup receiver. Grade: D+

Rotation

John Wilson (age 35) hardly looked like he was worth his $600K FA salary at the start of the season. On July 16th he was 1-6 with an ERA of 7.86. But he was 7-4 from that point on and got his ERA down to 5.08. He has extended at a discount for two more years. Grade C

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Luciano Henriques, pictured above, was little short of brilliant, dropping his ERA from 5.47 to 3.43 while winning 12 of 15 decisions. He led the team in innings pitched. Grade: A

Tim Ricks was 0-9 last year. The transformation was dramatic as he finished at 10-4 with a 2.80 ERA. Somehow he overcomes walking more than he strikes out. Grade: A

António Rodríguez was the fourth starter for most of the year, ending up with a 2-7 mark and an ERA of 5.69. Grade: D

Bullpen

At age 37 Mike Stewart joined the team as the closer. With enough pitch selection to be a starter, he used them to good advantage in relief, saving 24 games in 27 opportunities. He had an ERA of 3.35 and a WHIP of 1.00. Grade: A-

Mathieu Lefranc had a brief and unsuccessful fling in the rotation, but he was much more successful coming out of the pen where his ERA was under 4.00. Grade: C.

Francisco Huerta finished up with an impressive 1.80 ERA out of the bullpen. Late in the season he moved into the rotation and won his only start 8-2 in a complete game effort despite giving up 13 hits. Grade: A

Patrick Reid struggled for three years with Anaheim, but he proved to be a capable middle reliever, ending up with an 3.86 ERA. Grade: B-

Pepe Valenzuela is still only 21. His has brilliant stuff, but his control and his tendency to throw home run balls continually do him in. He was lacking both as a starter and a reliever. Grade: D-

Bill Henneberry will retire when the season is over. He appeared in just 16 games, mostly in mop-up duty, but he showed he still has some skills. Grade: C-