PERENNIAL slow starters Adelaide have hit the midpoint of the season at exactly .500 for the second straight season.
The Bite have negotiated a road-heavy first half of the season and sit in a strong position to challenge for postseason action for a third consecutive year.
But with several of the sides around them adding gun players, Adelaide will have to improve from within in the second half of the season.
What’s gone right
Manager Steve Mintz has never been afraid to throw the ball to locals. The Bite finished last season with an all-Aussie rotation featuring Steven Chambers, Matthew Williams, Nick Talbot and Josh Tols. With the odd-quartet split up Mintz has turned to 16-year-old local Jack O’Loughlin to fill a starter role. The Detroit Tigers signing has performed extremely well, showing maturity beyond his years.
What’s gone wrong
The aforementioned all-Aussie rotation gave Adelaide stability in the run home last season. This season there has been weekly changes to the starters group. Steven Chambers has also been slightly down on form and import Taylor Hawkins started slowly. The Bite’s starters have allowed nearly two more hits per nine innings this season and have struck out opposition hitters less frequently than 2015. They have still put together a 7-5 record but need to lift for Adelaide to finally crack a championship this season.
Imports always come as somewhat unknown quantities. Last season Kyle Petty probably put up better numbers than expected when heading down under. This season, catcher Marcus Greene Jr has been somewhat of a surprise performer for Adelaide. Greene Jr is tied at the top of the league with five homers and has hit .282 in 20 games. The 22-year-old leads the ABL with 17 runs batted in and has given the Bite plenty of punch.
Veteran Hei Chun Lee has had a few poor – and unlucky – outings for the Bite. The 37-year-old did not allow a run in two outings on opening weekend but then blew consecutive saves despite not giving up an earned run. He was then beaten up by the Cavs, allowing five earned runs on seven hits in two painful innings. Since then Lee allowed two runs away to Perth and one against Brisbane before leaving Greg Mosel with with a couple of runners on base. Lee’s ERA to the midway point of the season is 7.20 and hitters are batting .348 against him.
Texas Rangers’ prospect Josh Altmann tops the Bite’s batting chart and is hitting .312 with 11 runs batted in this season. Altmann has hit safely in 17 of 20 games and has six multi-hit games.
What to watch for in the second half
Consistency. Adelaide’s game-by-game record within each series is telling. The Bite are 1-4 in game one and three, 3-2 in game two and 5-0 in game four. They have put together a couple of three-game winning and losing streaks but otherwise travelled down a win-loss-win-loss path. To be a genuine playoff chance they need to string together more wins and move above .500.
How would you rate the Bite’s first half of the season? Comment below.
Follow author David Penrose on Twitter at @David_Penrose