Familiar Rotation Continues to Take Shape
During the 2013 Atlantic League playoffs, the Ducks relied on a formidable starting pitching rotation to help lead them to a championship. John Brownell, who was voted as the Team MVP during the regular season, would be the ace of the staff. Newcomer Shaun Garceau would start Game Two, providing the Ducks with an arm that most in the league had not seen since he joined the team in September. Atlantic League veteran Bob Zimmermann would take the ball in Game Three and be followed in Game Four by Bobby Blevins, who won two decisive Game Fives during the 2012 championship run. If it got to Game Five, Brownell would take the ball on short rest.
As of Tuesday, three-quarters of that playoff rotation is now back with Long Island in their quest to be the league’s first-ever team to ‘three-peat.’ After Blevins and Brownell re-signed with the Ducks last week, Garceau officially joined the Flock for a second season on Tuesday. There is still plenty of work to be done before finalizing the roster for the 2014 season, but you can’t ask for a better 1-2-3 in your rotation than those three.
We’ve already detailed the playoff success of Blevins here on the blog, but let’s focus a little on Brownell. He first joined the Ducks late in 2012 and had some ups and downs in six games (four starts) to close the season. In the playoffs though, he was rock solid in two Game Four performances. His lines:
Game 4 Liberty Division Championship Series – Ducks lost 4-3
ND, 6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 105 pitches, 61 strikes
Game 4 Atlantic League Championship Series – Ducks won 9-3
W, 6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 101 pitches, 59 strikes
The right-hander left both of those games with the lead. On the friendly mound of Bethpage Ballpark, Brownell put together a pair of strong performances including a must-have start with the team facing elimination against Lancaster in the league finals. He followed that up with a strong 2013 season with the Ducks, posting a 3.89 ERA, 133 strikeouts and a league-high seven complete games. Again though, it was the playoffs where Brownell truly elevated his game:
Game 1 2013 Liberty Division Championship Series – Ducks won 6-2
W, 9.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 12 K, 136 pitches, 89 strikes
Game 1 2013 Atlantic League Championship Series – Ducks won 4-3
W, 8.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 120 pitches, 78 strikes
Game 5 2013 Atlantic League Championship Series – Ducks won 6-4
W, 8.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 105 pitches, 66 strikes
Brownell’s playoff performances last season were remarkable. He pitched into the ninth inning twice, including a complete game effort where he set a franchise postseason record by striking out 12. He essentially had no pitch count and gave everything from start to finish. Two wins to bookend the ALCS made him a clear choice for the Series MVP award, especially when he followed up two heartbreaking losses by the Ducks with a strong start in the final game. Two seasons, five outstanding playoff starts and a final postseason line that looks like this:
4-0 Record, 2.87 ERA, 37.2 IP, 27 H, 12 R, 12 ER, 10 BB, 27 K
There is every reason to get excited about having a clutch performer like that back on the Ducks roster for this season. He is the hands-down ace of the pitching staff as the roster currently stands.
As for Shaun Garceau, he joined the Ducks late in the 2013 season, just like Brownell did in 2012. The addition of an unfamiliar arm to the league proved to benefit the Ducks the year prior and would do so again last season. When the righty joined Long Island, the team had still yet to clinch a playoff spot. Needing a lift to the rotation, Garceau provided it with three quality starts in September:
September 3 at Southern Maryland – Ducks won 5-3
W, 7.0 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 92 pitches, 67 strikes
September 8 vs. Sugar Land – Ducks lost 2-1
L, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 118 pitches, 74 strikes
September 14 at Somerset – Ducks won 4-0
W, 9.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 105 pitches, 72 strikes
Garceau pitched well enough to win all three, but a dominant start against the division rival Blue Crabs and a masterful complete game, two-hit shutout in Somerset were extremely important victories. It would have been a major blow to the organization to miss the playoffs a year after winning a championship, but the addition of Garceau helped avoid that possibility. Come playoff time, he had some bumps in the road but ultimately started two more Ducks victories:
Game 2 2013 Liberty Division Championship Series – Ducks won 6-5
ND, 6.2 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 97 pitches, 72 strikes
Game 2 2013 Atlantic League Championship Series – Ducks Won 3-2
W, 7.0 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 101 pitches, 77 strikes
His first outing of the postseason did not feature the same dominance as his previous three starts in a Ducks uniform, but he was able to give the Ducks length despite allowing 10 hits. That prevented the Flock from using a lot of their bullpen early in the series. He also limited the damage enough that the Blue Crabs could not blow the game wide open, allowing the Ducks to rally back for a win. Then against the Patriots, he was back to his dominant self, out-dueling lefty Roy Merritt to give the Ducks a 2-0 lead in the series. In five starts with the Ducks, Garceau pitched phenomenally well:
3-1 Record, 2.21 ERA, 36.2 IP, 33 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 5 BB, 28 K
After two seasons of arriving on Long Island in September, Blevins has signed on for a full year in 2014. After coming to the Ducks in September of 2012, Brownell returned for a full 2013 season and is back again this year. Garceau was another late season addition during the 2013 campaign and has now made it clear he wants to spend a full season at the Duck Pond. What’s the common theme here? These guys WANT to be here. Ducks president and general manager Michael Pfaff has made it a point over the last three seasons to sign guys that have a burning desire to play on Long Island. In that time, the team has gone to three Atlantic League Championship Series and won two of them. It is too early to predict any outcomes for this year, but it is clear how much many from last year’s championship squad want to be back. The hope is that it will once again lead to good things. Get excited Ducks fans!
Posted on March 4, 2014, in Player Signings and tagged 2014, Atlantic League, Bobby Blevins, Championship, Duck Pond, John Brownell, Kevin Baez, Long Island Ducks, Michael Pfaff, Shaun Garceau. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.