Mudcats Notebook: Sulser brings smarts, poise to mound
This incarnation of the Carolina Mudcats have been difficult to figure out. One week, the team will reel off five wins in a row, and the next, they will trade victories with losses and finish under .500 for the week.
This was one of those weeks, as the team went 3-4, but took two of three in Myrtle Beach, the first half division winners.
This week, the Mudcats will be at home for two against the Wilmington Blue Rocks before traveling to Potomac for a three game set before they begin a three game set at Salem to end July.
Player Spotlight: Cole Sulser
Many players throughout professional baseball started playing straight out of high school, and many others left college early to begin their pro career.
So, it’s rare to see a player with a four-year college degree, much less two from an Ivy League school.
Cole Sulser is without a doubt an oddity in baseball, as he double majored at Dartmouth College, earning degrees in engineering sciences and mechanical engineering.
Sulser might be an incredibly smart person, but that has not helped him much this season on the field, as he has struggled to a 3-9 record with a 5.05 ERA in 18 starts.
“Definitely, my statistics were not where I want them to be, but I feel like I have definitely learned a lot,” Sulser said. “There are some things I have tried to work on with Coach Karsay and our catchers, and just try to keep improving."
In the lower levels of baseball, statistics mean very little because so many things out of the pitchers control are not done at the level they are in the high minors and the major leagues.
Sulser has been a victim of this, as many times he will be carving through a lineup with eight or nine strikeouts, but he has given up five or six runs, mostly coming in a single frame.
“It’s tough at times," Sulser noted. "In a lot of my games, it seems like there was one bad inning, and it cost me big time. It’s one of those things that I look at what I did well, and keep doing them, and I look at some of the things that got me in trouble, and try to improve on that.”
Most people cannot really say they truly understand what a players Peripheral ERA or Total Player Rating really means, but from his background, Sulser says he looks at statistics like that to try to analyze his game as much as he can.
“I look at different things, and try to analyze things as much as I can, because in my mind, it’s how my brain does work,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s a game where you have to go out there and execute, so you can only analyze things so far.”
Sulser went so far as to say at times he over-analyzes a situation or a lineup prior to a start, which he says comes from his degrees, an area where one really needs to think about everything before it happens.
“For me, I do try to think ahead and plan ahead, so for me, having some degrees where I did a lot of analyzing of different things, I think maybe is helpful at times, but at the same time you can over-think things,” he said. “Sometimes, I need to take a step back and just enjoy the game and go play it.”
Sulser might have taken an odd path to professional baseball, but you can bet he was thinking about it and analyzing the best way to get there all along.
Player of the Week
D.J. Brown (RHP): 2 G (1 GS), 10.2 IP, 11 H, 3R (2 ER), 1 BB, 5 K
Brown has been in transition all season as he attempts to become a starter. This week, he was able to perform in both roles, as he started one game and came out of the bullpen for a long relief session the next. He had a better than average start, but dominated out of the bullpen, allowing just five hits over 4.1 innings.
Jerrud Sabourin (1B): 7-19, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K
Sabourin finds himself on this list for one game. On Saturday night he hit for the cycle, something no Mudcats player had done since 2002, and just the fourth in franchise history to do so. Hitting for the cycle is quite a feat, and simply cannot go unnoticed.
Ryan Merritt (LHP): 1-0, 1 GS, 6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K
Merritt’s dominant season continued this week as he became the first Carolina League hurler to 10 wins. Even though he gave up two home runs in his only start, he only allowed two other base runners and struck out a season-high nine batters.
Clayton Cook (RHP): 2 G, 4.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
When Adam Plutko couldn’t make it out of the first inning on Tuesday, Cook came out of the bullpen, and stopped the Blue Rocks from adding to an already overwhelming lead. In 3.1 innings, he allowed two runs, but stopped what seemed to be a nearly unstoppable offense.
On the Hook
Adam Plutko (RHP): 0-1, 2 GS, 6.2 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Plutko’s first start this week was purely dominant as he scattered four hits over six innings. But any time you can’t make it out of the first inning in a start, something is clearly not going right. Plutko allowed seven runs in only two-thirds of an inning on Tuesday and picked up his fifth loss of the season.
Yandy Diaz (3B): 4-24, 1 R, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K
Diaz was signed by the Indians for his hitting prowess, and this week, he didn’t live up to the hype. After a prolonged slump coming off of the disabled list, he seemed to finally be getting into a groove last week, but hit a wall this week. Diaz needs to figure out how to consistently put the barrel on the ball, something that is much easier said than done.
Luigi Rodriguez (OF): 4-22, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 9 K
Rodriguez had a tough week at the plate, but mostly finds himself here because of the nine strikeouts. With multiple three strikeout games, he must have been swinging at anything close to the plate. Rodriguez has always been a bit of a free swinger, but that’s a bad week for anyone.
Fish Swimming Around
Two key players for the Mudcats found themselves with promotions to Double-A Akron this week. Left handerShawn Morimando and shortstop Erik Gonzalez were both promoted to Akron for the second time this season.
Morimando allowed just two runs on six hits over six innings pitched in his second start with the team to match the dominant season he has had with the Mudcats. Aside from a sport start at Akron a month back, Morimando had been with the Mudcats since Opening Day of 2013.
Gonzalez was promoted to Akron in a corresponding move when Francisco Lindor was promoted to Triple-A Columbus. Gonzalez played six games with Akron earlier this year when Lindor was down with a broken nose.
The stars weren’t the only ones on the move this week. Sulser was sent back to Carolina after a spot start with Akron.
Fish on the Line
Outfielder Logan Vick was placed on and taken off of the disabled list this week. Right hander Dylan Baker was removed from the disabled list this week after making a couple of rehab starts in Arizona. Making just his second start of the season after fracturing his right ankle before his second scheduled start, Baker allowed five runs on four hits in 3.2 innings. He did however strike out seven batters and gave up all five runs in the fourth inning.
There are now, no Mudcats players on the disabled list.
Zachary is a senior at NC State where he is majoring in communication-media, with minors in journalism and theatre. You can follow him on Twitter @RealZachFrancis.