The 2010 Yakima Bears went 43-33 overall, including 25-13 in the second half. That overall record tied them with Spokane for the best record in the East division, tied the record of their 2000 playoff squad, and fell just two wins shy of Yakima's 45-31 mark in 2003, their winningest season as a Diamondbacks affiliate. This success culminated in the Arizona Diamondbacks extending Yakima's player development contract through 2012 in September.
Days after that extension, the Bears got swept by Spokane in a best-of-three series to determine the East Championship. It's fair to say that the offense choked, as they went just 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position, stranding 21 runners on base in the two games. They were only able to manage one run in each game due to those struggles in the clutch, and reliever Jake Hale's worst outing of 2010 put game one out of reach for Yakima.
FutureBacks.com Pitcher of the Year - Jake Hale
Hale allowed three runs on two hits while striking out one and walking two to suffer the loss that game. The crazy thing is that Hale had only allowed three runs all season, and only one of those was earned. Over 38 innings, that calculates to a 0.24 ERA, and it's hard to deny a pitcher with a legitimate 0.24 ERA Pitcher of the Year honors. But it was actually a closer battle than one might expect, as the 24-year-old Hale was a little old for the Northwest League and the rest of the Bears bullpen was nearly as dominant as Willie Paul Hale was.
Kable Hogben, for instance, had nearly identical walk and strikeout rates to Hale. Hale fanned 44 batters and walked seven in his 38 innings, while Hogben struck out 43 and issued seven free passes while working 37.1 frames. Hogben led the team with 10 saves and allowed three earned runs (five total), giving him a 0.72 ERA. He did hit eight batters, but that showed more of a willingness to pitch inside than a lack of command. Still, Hogben's miniscule WHIP of 0.64 would essentially be equal to Hale's if hit batsmen were included in the calculation.
Eury De La Rosa finished just one save behind Hogben for the year. His ERA was a clean 1.00, higher than both Hale's and Hogben's, but still awfully impressive. De La Rosa was more of a workhorse, having pitched 45 innings. He also relied on his defense less than the H-heads did, leading the team with 56 strikeouts.
You couldn't go wrong selecting any of these three as Pitcher of the Year; they were as dominant as any trio of relievers in pro baseball this year. One final stat on them: Hale, Hogben, and De La Rosa combined to throw over 120 innings this year. They did not allow a single home run between them.
Other Notable Pitchers
If you are wondering why no starting pitchers were discussed as Pitcher of The Year candidates, it's because none of them is deserving of consideration. Not only did a reliever lead the team in strikeouts, but relievers Gregory Robinson (7) and Keith Cantwell (5) finished first and second on the team in wins. Only two Bears starters finished the year with more than two wins, and neither of them had a winning record. Brad Wilson went 3-3 with a 4.06 ERA after a forgettable four games at higher levels. Miguel Pena, the team's ace, went 4-6 with a 3.45 ERA and led the Bears with 75.2 innings. He did allow 15 unearned runs to cross the plate, however.
Arguably the most effective "starter" was Italian righty Andrea Pizzicioni. He only made six starts and seven relief appearances with the club before getting reassigned to Missoula, but he went 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA during that time. Andrew Berger deserves a mention as well. Although his 2-2 record and 5.60 ERA won't win him any awards, his 49 strikeouts to 18 walks was easily the best among Yakima starters. We therefore might be able to attribute the high ERA partly to bad luck, especially since he only allowed one unearned run to score in 54.2 innings.
FutureBacks.com Position Player of the Year - 2B Mike Freeman
As if choosing between three dominant relievers weren't difficult enough, the Bears also had three position players clearly leading the way for the rest of the team. Any one of shortstop Zach Walters, first baseman Yazy Arbelo, or second baseman Mike Freeman would have made a terrific Position Player of the Year.
Walters was the first position player selected by the Diamondbacks, and he appeared to be a bit of a disappointment at first. Although Walters was batting .280 at the end of July, his on-base percentage was only .308 due to his reluctance to draw a walk (six in 156 PA). This was a shame, because Walters was a perfect 9-for-9 in stealing bases at that point. Not only did the 20-year old shortstop draw more walks in August than he had in June and July combined, but he also hit .362 for the month, matched his triples and home run totals from the first two months combined, and increased that combined doubles output by four. He finished with the team lead in runs, hits, doubles, and triples.
While Walters was the high-average guy, Yazy Arbelo was the slugger. Unlike Walters, Arbelo wasn't taken until fairly late in the draft, falling all the way to the 26th round. Arbelo did not play like a late-rounder, however, leading the league with 55 RBI and finishing one shy of the home run leader with 14 bombs. He led the Bears in slugging (.521) and OPS (.898) by a wide margin in both cases. Whereas Walters needed time to adjust to this new level of play, Arbelo was a consistent threat in the lineup throughout the summer.
Freeman did not make his Bears debut until July 8, as Clemson's run in the College World Series delayed the infielder's contract negotiations. The Bears were 10-9 prior to Freeman's arrival, then lost three straight with him at the bottom of the lineup. Manager Bob Didier inserted Freeman into the #2 hole in the batting order, and the Bears went 33-21 the rest of the way. Freeman finished with just enough plate appearances to qualify for the rate stat leaderboards, so he ranked second in the league in batting average (.333) and fourth in on-base percentage (.403). He also stole 20 bases in 23 attempts, the resulting 87% success rate ranking higher than anyone in the league who swiped at least 10 bags on the season.
Mike Freeman and Raoul Torrez
All three were phenomenal in RBI situations. With runners on base, Walters hit .344, Arbelo hit .325, and Freeman batted .347. Defense finally sets them apart. Walters and Arbelo combined to make 35 errors for the season, but Freeman committed just four in 49 games at second base for a sparkling .982 fielding percentage. Michael Freeman did everything you could want in his rookie season except hit for power. His combination of stellar defense, clutch hitting, on-base ability, and efficient speed make him the Bears' Position Player of the Year.
Other Notable Position Players
Three other speed burners are worth mentioning on a team that stole nearly twice as many bases as the next-fastest squad in the Northwest League (The Bears swiped 156 bags to Spokane's 85).
Roberto Ortiz led the Northwest League with 23 steals, getting caught only four times in doing so. He also went 2-for-2 in the Dominican Summer League prior to joining the Bears, giving him an 86% success rate for the season. He reached base in 40% of his plate appearances with Yakima, which gave him a lot of base stealing opportunities despite the fact that he rarely led off. There may also be some home run power in Ortiz' future, as the Puerto Rican outfielder finished second on the team with 14 doubles.
Westley Moss was tied for second in the league with 21 steals. He was caught stealing six times and slugged just .291 for the season. What made Moss' season remarkable was his defensive play. His speed allowed him to range to a lot of balls that other outfielders would not have reached yet still made just one error in the process, giving him a superb .991 fielding percentage.
Justin Hilt fanned 92 times in 230 at-bats, which is way more than you would like someone with Hilt's blazing speed to whiff. He did lead the team with 39 walks, however, which is exactly what you look for out of the leadoff spot. Those walks gave Hilt a solid .347 on-base percentage despite his low .230 batting average. While on base, he successfully swiped 17 bags in 23 attempts. Hilt also showed some pop in his bat, tying Henry Zaballa for third on the Bears with 19 extra base hits.
All of the stolen bases combined with the lockdown bullpen to make the 2010 Yakima Bears an incredibly exciting team to watch, and obviously a very successful one as well. They managed to field this playoff team without many high-round draft picks or older minor league veterans contributing. If the players on this squad can continue to draw walks and steal bases efficiently as the advance to higher levels, they could become important parts in the facelift of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. At the very least, they can all say that they were a part of one of the very best baseball seasons in Yakima Bears history.
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