The South Bend Silverhawks have had great pitching all year, and in August things didn't change. Steven Jackson was 3-0, though his 5.08 ERA in the month was a little high. Try lefty Kellen Raab, who was so brilliant in game one of the playoff series on Wednesday, who was 4-1 with a 4.06 ERA. Okay, perhaps the bullpen then where you could find Josh Perrault and his 2.75 ERA and .154 opponents batting average in nine appearances. Still searching? How about a lefty specialist like Todd Stein, who was 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in a whopping 12 games. Okay, fine then try closer Matt Elliott, who was just 2-1 with seven saves, a 2.13 ERA, a .163 opponents average and struck out 16 in 12.2 innings. That's pitching, and we haven't even gotten to the best part.
Starter Koley Kolberg was flat out incredible in August. He was 2-0 with a 2.59 ERA, averaging over six innings a start and striking out 22 against only eight walks. Opponents hit just .204 off him during August, all of his starts were down the stretch in a playoff race, and possibly most impressive, for Kolberg specifically, was that three of his five August starts came on the road.
To say that Kolberg has struggled on the road is a bit of an understatement. Kolberg has flat out been a different pitcher away from Coveleski Stadium. His ERA sits nearly four full runs higher on the road, and he averages nearly two innings fewer per start. He's walked more on the road, and struck out barely half as many, it has just been miserable.
Until August that is. Though Kolberg's one bad start (a six run, 3.1 inning outing on the 5th) did come on the road, after that he was stellar, allowing just one earned in 15 innings between his other two road starts in the month.
Kolberg, who missed time early in the year due to injury, has certainly put himself on the radar, essentially becoming South Bend's 'Ace' after A. J. Shappi was promoted to Lancaster, and he will almost assuredly get a promotion next season, the question becomes will the Diamondbacks risk a double bump, like they gave Matt Chico last year, to Double-A for Kolberg, or proceed more cautiously, letting Kolberg loose on the California League next season. We've betting on the latter, but if Kolberg continues to attach hitters in his relentless fashion, and finds a way to improve his performance away from home, we'd also be willing to bet Kolberg gets a promo to Tennessee before the end of '06.
Position Player--Cesar Nicolas
Orlando Mercado hit .348, slugged over .500 and walked more often than he struck out (12/8). Carlos Gonzales was as always incredible, hitting three homers, driving in 17 and scoring 19 runs, and both Wilkin Castillo (.302/.406/.330) and Alberto Gonzalez (.324/.448/.368) were on fire, but nobody on the Silverhawks produced as well, or as often, as first baseman Cesar Nicolas.
Nicolas was insane. He hit .313, slugged .600 and carried a .450 on base percentage. He hit for power, leading the team with five August dingers, he drove runs in, tying with Gonzales for the team lead (17), and scored more runs than anyone else on the squad last month (23).
At a position that appears to be locked up for some time by Conor Jackson there are questions about where Nicolas might fit in to the long term plans of the Diamondbacks. But whether or not Nicolas becomes an attractive piece of trade bait, or makes Jackson one, the Diamondbacks can't possibly be disappointed with his production, and because of Jackson and fellow first base hopeful Chris Carter, he'll have plenty of time to develop.
Perhaps most impressive about Nicolas' season numbers is that they aren't for a full season. Think about it this way, anyone watching the Diamondbacks broadcast Thursday morning heard Thom Brennaman and Mark Grace go on and on, deservedly, about Tony Clark and his 25 homers and 70+ RBI in 295 at bats. Nicolas broke his hand on April 21st and missed six weeks of the season. He finished his regular season with a .302 average, 21 homers and 70 RBI in 325 at bats. That's production on a budget, and something the Diamondbacks will certainly take notice of.