By the Numbers: Recapping the 2014 Season
The 2014 season has come and gone and with it, 140 more games of Long Island Ducks baseball have been added to the history books. Despite a 73-67 record (.521 winning percentage) during the regular season, Long Island’s best since the 2011 campaign (78-47, .624), the Ducks will not be playing postseason baseball this year. With the Somerset Patriots being moved from the Freedom Division to the Liberty Division following the 2013 season, the Ducks fell short in both the first and second half to the team they defeated last year for the Atlantic League title. In addition, late season surges by the Sugar Land Skeeters and Lancaster Barnstormers vaulted both into the Second Half Freedom Division title and Wild Card slots, respectively.
Although Long Island cannot make history by winning their third consecutive Atlantic League title, as they would have been the first team ever to do so, there were many positive moments that came out of the 2014 season. Whether it was milestone wins, attendance records or individual achievements, there were many memories created during the 15th Anniversary Season. On the flip side of things, there were various reasons as to why the Ducks fell short of a playoff berth this year. 2014 featured a handful of heartbreaking losses and untimely turns of events for the Ducks that ultimately proved too much to overcome. Let’s take a look back at some key numbers, both positive and negative, that defined Long Island’s 15th Anniversary Season:
On Tuesday, June 17, the Ducks put together one of their best offensive performances of the season. As a team, they racked up 15 runs and 17 hits in a 15-8 blowout of the Camden Riversharks at Campbell’s Field. However, the more meaningful number was 1,000, as in the 1,000th win in franchise history. Long Island became the third Atlantic League franchise to reach that milestone after the Bridgeport Bluefish and Somerset Patriots, both of whom began play in the Atlantic League in 1998, two seasons before the Ducks. Among those wins were 11 half-season division titles and two years in which the Ducks held the best overall record in the Atlantic League (2000, 82-58 and 2011, 78-47). As many players said after the game, no matter what league or organization you are a part of, 1,000 wins is a terrific accomplishment.
No team in Atlantic League history has welcomed more fans through its gates than the Long Island Ducks. On May 30 of this year, Ted Nellis of East Northport became the 6 Millionth to do so. Despite having begun play in the league’s third year of existence, the Ducks became the first team in Atlantic League history to surpass the 6 Million fan mark. Long Island then treated the crowd to one of their most thrilling wins of the season, rallying from a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Patriots 6-5 in waddle-off fashion with three runs in the ninth inning off of Jon Hunton. Joash Brodin’s walk-off single capped the comeback.
140 and 189
Prior to the 2014 season, no player in Atlantic League history had ever appeared in all 140 games during a single season. Ray Navarrete (Ducks) and Wayne Lydon (Riversharks) both came close in 2009, each finishing with 139 games. However, at the age of 37 (38 by season’s end) and in his fifth season with the Flock, Lew Ford became the single season Iron Horse. Ford played in each of the Ducks’ 140 games during the 2014 season, and not only did he play in each one, he started them all too. Thanks to his constant presence in the lineup and an outstanding season at the plate, the former big leaguer also finished his season with 189 hits, which was also an Atlantic League record. That number was 10 higher than Victor Rodriguez’s total of 179, which he achieved with the Patriots in 2004. In an All-Star season, Lew Ford was the Ducks’ Team MVP and might well be the Atlantic League’s Player of the Year too.
29 and 202
Offensively, Lew Ford was a record breaker in 2014. On the mound, that man was John Brownell. Long Island’s ace, who broke franchise records strikeouts (133) and complete games (seven) in 2013, would break two more this past season. The right-hander made 29 starts during the 2014 season, which surpassed the franchise record of 28 set by all-time Ducks wins leader Randy Leek (2008) and matched by B.J. LaMura (2009). In those 29 starts, Brownell compiled 202 innings pitched on the mound. That number shattered the 179 innings tossed by Bob Zimmermann in the championship season of 2012. It also came within just five of the Atlantic League record of 207, set in 2000 by Bridgeport’s Alan Sontag. While he fell short of the franchise wins record by one and of the strikeout record by three, he certainly put together a magnificent season for the Flock.
A team’s success can often be defined by how they perform in close ballgames. Specifically, teams that win the majority of their one-run games more often than not will go on to play postseason baseball. In 2014, the four teams that made the Atlantic League playoffs all had winning records in one-run games:
Somerset Patriots: 26-15
Lancaster Barnstormers: 25-17
Sugar Land Skeeters: 24-10
York Revolution: 23-19
However, the Ducks finished the year with 33 one-run losses, going 19-33 in those games (.365 winning percentage). Only the Bridgeport Bluefish finished with a worse winning percentage (.333), but they had 28 one-run losses. Many came due to late leads that were lost by either the starters or bullpen. Many came due to the pitchers turning in strong performances but the offense struggling. Still others came in high scoring affairs in which the Ducks barely failed to pull even or take a lead. Regardless of how they came about, the number of one-run games and losses were difficult to fathom. Had the Ducks won a third of those 33 games that they lost (11 games), their overall record would have been 84-56, which would have been good enough for a playoff berth.
This number will account for two reasons as to why the Ducks fell short of the postseason in 2014. The first, and most obvious, was the 13-game losing streak that the team suffered after winning the first two games of the second half. Long Island had just won seven straight games, improving to 2-0 in the second half and bumping up their overall record to 42-29. However, the skid dropped them back to .500 at 42-42 and knocked them seven and a half games behind the Patriots in the division, a hole they would be unable to climb out of. Seven of the 13 losses were by one run or in extra innings, which made the streak that much tougher to bear. In addition, 13 accounts for the number of games the Ducks lost this year when leading after seven innings. It was the most by any team in the Atlantic League. Lancaster was second with nine, but they also racked up 68 victories when leading after seven compared to just 57 for the Flock. Part of this could be contributed to not having a healthy or solidified closer throughout the second half. Jon Meloan’s arm injury and Leo Rosales being signed in May by the Mexican League certainly hurt. Ultimately, 13 was just an unlucky number for the Ducks in 2014.
When you look at a record of 37-33, you usually are feeling pretty positive about yourself. This year, that was the Ducks’ record in home games at Bethpage Ballpark. The Ducks did a great job on the road this year, going 36-34, which was tied for the fourth-best mark in the Atlantic League. Unfortunately for the Ducks, their inability to win more games in front of their home crowd proved to be a difference between making the postseason and not. Their 37-33 record was fifth-best in the league behind the four playoff-bound teams:
Sugar Land: 40-30
The 37 wins at home were also the third-fewest in franchise history. Long Island had gone 35-35 in 2010, the last time they failed to reach the postseason, and 36-35 a year ago. Although they did make the playoffs and win a championship in 2013, a big reason for that was going 4-0 at home during the playoffs. This year, the Ducks won’t have that opportunity. While this statistic wasn’t as glaring as the previous two numbers, it certainly played a role in this season’s outcome.
There are plenty of other statistics we can discuss in this post, but why use them all here? Stay tuned to “Quack of the Bat” for more posts about the 15th Anniversary Season, including our awards for this season, top games/moments and features about individual players and what they accomplished. In addition, let us know some of the things you would like to see on the blog this offseason. Feel free to comment on this post or send in a contact form by clicking “Contact” at the top of the page. We look forward to hearing from you!
Posted on September 26, 2014, in Feature Articles and tagged 1000 Wins, 2014, 6 Millionth Fan, Atlantic League, John Brownell, Lew Ford, Long Island Ducks, Records, Season Recap. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.