After the first eight games of the season, Clearwater Threshers Ulises Joaquin is tied for the most saves in all of minor league baseball. The hard throwing right hander with a 95 mph fastball is three for three in save opportunities. He picked up saves the last two nights against Jupiter, the Miami Marlins Florida State League farm team.
A strong bullpen usually means a good team. Helped by the likes of Mark Leiter Jr., Lee Ridenhour and Cody Forsythe out of the pen the Threshers are off to a good start. They are 5-3 and sit tied for first place in the Northern division. Last season they were never over .500, starting the season 1-10 and would finish 40 games under .500.
I have been particularly impressed with Leiter Jr. who has come in throwing a low 90’s fastball and a power slider. He had never before come out of the pen after starting last year the but has adapted well in his new role. He has a 1.93 ERA in three appearances.
We watched Leiter retire all ten batter he faced last week in a game against the Dunedin Blue Jays. Last night he went four shutout innings and retired the last ten batters he faced. The Threshers pulled the game out in the top of the eleventh on an rbi single by Dylan Cozens driving in Andrew Knapp who had tripled. Then Joaquin put down the Hammerheads in order in the bottom of the 11th to save the game for Leiter.
Winning baseball is all about good defense, timely hitting and strong pitching. Though they are in the middle of most team offensive and defensive FSL team categories, the Threshers pitchers lead the league in fewest walks allowed and its defense has committed only four errors over the first eight games of the season, including one error by Domonic Brown who is no longer with the team. Those strong metrics usually help set the stage for a winning team.