The Isotopes’ opening-day roster was filled with mostly relief pitchers and when the news came that several would be moved to the rotation, one Dodgers fan on Twitter remarked, “Fife, Magill and run to the hills.”
All Iron Maiden references aside, right-handers Stephen Fife (2-4, 6.03 ERA) and Matt Magill (6-2, 3.47) were seen as key pitchers though neither ended up the ace of the staff.
Instead it was veterans like Angel Castro (8-5, 3.48) and Matt Palmer (6-8, 3.84) who came to lead the rotation with a lot of help from super-swingman Red Patterson (7-4, 3.03), who made 12 starts and 27 relief appearances.
“I don’t know what our team ERA is exactly (it was 4.05) but in Albuquerque that’s something to kind of brag about if you want to,” Patterson said. “We’ve kind of had a revolving door here for a while and some guys had to pick spots up in the bullpen and the starting rotation and I have to say I think we’ve done a pretty job. Guys getting called up, coming back down, getting called up again and keeping the focus enough to be able to keep that 4.00 ERA here in Albuquerque, which is already tough to do because you throw in those variables and it can get kind of rough sometimes.”
The bullpen was pretty sharp, too, despite losing Chris Withrow (4-0, 1.71) to the big leagues for most of the season, while Josh Wall (1-2, 5.60, 3 saves) and Steve Ames (2-2, 3.67, 8 saves) were both traded to the Marlins organization.
In the end it was veterans like Javy Guerra (0-4, 3.66, 12 saves), Sean White (6-6, 3.51), Peter Moylan (4-1, 2.74, 4 saves) and young lefty Kelvin de la Cruz (3-1, 2.89, 7 saves) who kept the Isotopes in games.
“Our biggest stat that we had was when we had a lead after six or seven innings we only had three or four losses all year,” Bundy said. “The secret to that was our bullpen was really, really good and considering we didn’t have one guy that had 25 or 30 saves that gives credit to all the bullpen. All of these guys did their job when they had to. We felt good when we got the lead late, sixth or seventh inning. In that span of time we just couldn’t get the lead.”
The biggest mystery of the year did not have to do with any pitcher, but instead with the new humidor that the Dodgers had the Isotopes install to help with the pitching.
Home runs were down for both the home team and visitors in Albuquerque this season, but then again they were down all around the league and as already noted, the Isotopes did not have a power-packed lineup compared to years past.
“I think we should wait” a few seasons to fully analyze the humidor’s effect, Bundy said. “Plus I also think just because of the makeup of our ballclub this year, this club was a little bit different than the clubs we’ve had since I’ve been here and probably since the Dodgers have been here in Albuquerque. So I think we ought to wait just a little bit and give it a little time.”
Patterson said the pitching staff was unsure if the humidor helped or not.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I think it’s all mental, honestly. They say the humidor works but at the same time you still get some balls that have no business going out. Some days balls you think are going out don’t go out. Then it’s like oh, the humidor saved it.
“I don’t know if it’s so much as that emphasis on how to pitch here and making a mental note of I really have to stay down. I really need to make my stuff sharp more than it is the humidor. I think it’s more of a mental note than the excessive attention to how it plays here.”
At the end of the season Fife and Moylan were the only Isotopes called up by the Dodgers.
Coming Wednesday, a look forward to who might be back, who might come up from Double-A and what kind of team the Isotopes could field for 2014.