Dissecting History: Salem’s Winning Formula

Let’s start with this: Minor League Baseball hasn’t called. The Carolina League President hasn’t touched base. Heck, not even blogmaster Ben Hill has inquired about Salem’s current 15-game winning streak.

Yes, there’s a part of this that’s a little contrived. And let’s be honest, while the fans always want their team to win and the players like winning themselves, the baseball establishment pays little attention to minor league victories. It’s all about the big club, and in pursuit of a World Series, the farm system often takes its lumps to develop prospects. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but it’s simply the way it is.

As far as I know, there’s been no increased media mission to cover Salem’s home opener because of the context of the current winning streak, and many of the players are not even aware of the remarkable run that has spanned two seasons.

But here’s what I do know:

It’s been 222 days since Salem last lost. Sure, the Sox have only suited up on 15 of those days, but they have won all 15 times, a feat no Carolina League team has accomplished since 1959. On Tuesday, the Sox will return to LewisGale Field for the first time since clinching a championship on September 10. And while re-introducing themselves to their fans, they will also be playing for a permanent spot in the Carolina League record book as they look to match the 1950 Winston-Salem Cardinals, the only club in the 70-year history of the circuit to win 16 games in a row.

The magic of the internet reveals the 1950 Winston-Salem Cardinals roster. A glance at Baseball Reference shows that 19-year-old Earl Weaver hit .276 in 127 games for Winston, 64 years ago. Aside from the future Orioles Manager, there were four others who would eventually make it to the big leagues, but certainly no future major league greats on the otherwise forgettable roster.

*****

Let’s take a look at the players who’ve been a part of Salem’s 15-game winning streak.

There are have 42 different men to take the field during this stretch, 22 position players and 20 pitchers.

Here are the 22 position players, with their hits and at-bats during the streak:

Mookie Betts 16/35
Carson Blair 4/18
David Chester 13/50
Sean Coyle 5/12
Keury De La Cruz 5/36
Ryan Dent 5/14
Vladimir Frias 3/12
Matt Gedman 11/43
Reed Gragnani 7/12
Dreily Guerrero 0/5
Kevin Heller 3/8
Jayson Hernandez 0/4
Matty Johnson 12/57
Cody Koback 4/12
Mario Martinez 4/12
Nick Natoli 6/31
Henry Ramos 12/40
Jonathan Roof 3/9
Blake Swihart 6/29
Aneury Tavarez 1/11
Jose Vinicio 1/6
Stefan Welch 6/34

Collectively, if my arithmetic is correct, that’s 127 hits (roughly 8.5/gm) in 490 at bats — .259 team average over the past 15 games.

Here are the 20 pitchers, with their innings pitched and earned runs allowed:

Mike Augliera 11.2 IP 0 ER
William Cuevas 18 IP 3 ER
Dayan Diaz IP 0 ER
Luis Diaz 20 IP 0 ER
Justin Haley 3 IP 2 ER
Brian Johnson 14 IP 5 ER
Kyle Kraus IP 0 ER
Corey Littrell 4.2 IP 0 ER
Austin Maddox 2 IP 0 ER
Kyle Martin 3 IP ER
Simon Mercedes 3.1 IP 0 ER
Mike McCarthy 9 IP ER
Nefi Ogando 3 IP 0 ER
Matty Ott 3.1 IP 0 ER
Matt Price 6 IP 0 ER
Heri Quevedo 11 IP 0 ER
Robby Scott 5 IP 0 ER
Nate Striz 2.2 IP 2 ER
Kyle Stroup 5 IP ER
Madison Younginer 8.1 IP 0 ER

Again, if my math is accurate, that totals to 143 IP  and 15 ER = 0.94 ERA.

Defensively, Salem has made 15 errors in those 15 games.

Adding up all the runs scored, Salem has outdone its foe by a margin of 70-22 during the streak, with six wins over Myrtle Beach, three over Potomac, three over Frederick, and three over Lynchburg.

Where does that all leave us? Obviously, the pitching has been absurd. There have been six shutouts in the 15 games. Offensively, the team’s only batting .259 in this stretch and if you eliminated Mookie’s madness, that drops to .244. (For perspective, the mean average in the Carolina League last year was .254.)

Five of the victories have been by one-run, all coming down the stretch last year. In the new season, the Sox have won every game by at least three.

And here we are, with the 2014 Winston-Salem Dash traveling to the Roanoke Valley on Tuesday, aiming, most likely unbeknownst to them, to preserve the town’s 64-year-old Carolina League record.

As Mercury Morris might put it, we’re not simply in their neighborhood. We’re on their front steps. Ringing the doorbell.

On Tuesday, we’ll see if we can step inside the house. Even if it’s not a highly coveted space, it’d be nice to give them company.

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