AFTER a hot start to the season it has been far from smooth sailing for reigning Claxton Shield winners Brisbane.
Late (or not at all) arriving imports, struggling starters and cold bats have plagued the Bandits’ title defence.
They became the first team to lose a home series to Melbourne and are 4-8 since the start of December.
The talent is there and a couple of handy additions in the run home will help but Brisbane needs to pick up quick else it will no longer be in control of where it finishes.
What’s gone right
Visa issues deprived Brisbane of two imports to start the season and despite the addition of Donald Lutz there has been a gaping hole. Locals Mitch Nilsson, Logan Wade and Aaron Whitefield have filled that and are the Bandits’ best ranked hitters amongst ABL league leaders. Nilsson is hitting .354 with 12 runs batted in and Wade .329 with 10 runs batted in. Without them standing up Brisbane would be in a far worse position.
What’s gone wrong
The Bandits’ pitching has surprisingly been a weak link this season and one of last year’s stars, Rick Teasley, has been among the biggest culprits. Teasley went 7-4 last season with an ERA of 3.01 but has put up a 6.38 ERA this season while losing three of five starts. All up, Brisbane starters are 4-6 this season and sporting a 5.46 ERA (fifth-worst in the ABL).
Daniel Nilsson continues to grow following his promotion in the Bandits’ starting rotation. The 23-year-old returned to Brisbane after a season in Adelaide’s bullpen and picked up an impressive win against his former team last outing. The right-hander tossed six scoreless innings and did not allow a hit as he picked up a first career ABL win. Nilsson allowed two earned runs across his first two starts of the season (both no decisions) but was beaten up in his next two before rebounding against the Bite.
The Visa issues that deprived Brisbane star prospect Lucius Fox and catcher David Rodriguez during the first half of the season. Rodriguez will finally join the Bandits this weekend.
Ryan Searle leads the league with six saves and has helped Brisbane into the position it is. Reverse the result in a few of the games he saved and they would be in a dire position. His ERA is 0.84 and he has struck out 19 hitters in 10.2 innings. The series the Bandits struggled most in was when they knew Searle was not in the bullpen and able to close out games.
What to watch for in the second half
Whether the additions of David Rodriguez, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Trent Oeltjen in the second half of the season have come too late for Brisbane to make a serious title tilt. At this point playoffs are no guarantee and even if they make it it will most likely be the hard way and on the road.
How would you rate the Bandits’ first half of the season? Comment below.
Follow author David Penrose on Twitter at @David_Penrose