2014 “Quack of the Bat” Long Island Ducks Team Awards

Ford-Team-MVP

Lew Ford receives award after being voted the 2014 Delmonte-Smelson/Ducks MVP by fans

Atlantic League baseball has officially come to an end for the 2014 season. That became the case after the Lancaster Barnstormers completed a three-game sweep of the Sugar Land Skeeters on Friday night in the Atlantic League Championship Series. Game Three, which was at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, featured a 13-inning thriller that was ended on a walk-off home run to right field by Gabe Jacobo. Walk-off homers to win a championship are about as exciting as it gets.

For the Barnstormers, it is their second title in franchise history and first since 2006. Lancaster celebrated their 10th Anniversary Season in 2014 and capped it off with a championship. From their run to the playoffs to their nail biter of a series against Somerset in the first round to their performance in the Championship Series, it was an exciting run for Lancaster. Congratulations to manager Butch Hobson and the rest of the Barnstormers on winning it all in 2014. In addition, a tip of the cap as well to the Freedom Division champion Sugar Land Skeeters on a great season and their first ever appearance in the Atlantic League Championship Series.

So, with the season in the rearview mirror, it’s time to take a look back at which Ducks stood out the most during the 2014 season. There were several players who had standout seasons with the Flock this year both offensively and on the mound. Prior to the end of the season, the Ducks handed out two awards on Fan Appreciation Day. Lew Ford was voted by the fans as the Delmonte-Smelson/Long Island Ducks Most Valuable Player. Fehlandt Lentini also won the P.C. Richard and Son Whistle Player of the Year after scoring the most runs when he was the Whistle Player of the Game. As we close the Blog’s first-ever season (don’t worry, more posts to follow), here are our picks for the First Annual “Quack of the Bat” Ducks Team Awards:

Player of the Year: Lew Ford
Ford-Batting-White

This one was a no-doubter. Many players in the Long Island Ducks’ 15-year history have put together outstanding seasons. Few have put up a year as impressive as Ford’s was in 2014. The former Major Leaguer became the first player in Atlantic League history to appear in all 140 games during a single season, doing so as he transitioned from 37 years old to 38. Not only was he an “Iron Horse” in the lineup, he also was one of the most feared hitters in the league. The fifth-year Duck set a league record with 189 hits, led the league in doubles (40) and finished second in the league in batting average (.347), RBI (95), runs (100), total bases (278) and on-base percentage (.415). May was his most dominant month, as Ford earned league Player of the Month honors after batting .402 and compiling a .470 on-base percentage. His defense (more on that a bit later) was also outstanding, and in his first year as Hitting Coach, he helped lead the best offense in the Atlantic League in terms of batting average (.279). Whether or not he is named the league’s Player of the Year is still to be determined, but he is surely deserving of that honor for the Ducks.

Honorable Mention: Adam Bailey

Pitcher of the Year: Bobby Blevins
Blevins-Pitching-8-3-14

Several Ducks pitchers had standout years in 2014. John Brownell set franchise records in starts (29) and innings pitched (202). Shaun Garceau posted a 13-4 record. Jared Lansford compiled a 3.22 ERA and 123 strikeouts in his first full season as a starter. However, no one was more consistent on the mound for the Flock than Bobby Blevins. The right-hander posted a 2.95 ERA this past season, which was the third-lowest in the Atlantic League.  He was second in the league with 189.1 innings pitched and three complete games, tied for third with 27 starts and sixth in strikeouts (119). Ulimately, Blevins finished with a 9-5 record that was simply not representative of how dominant he was. Blevins took 13 no-decisions in 2014. Of those 13, he left with the lead in eight of them. In the five where the Ducks were not ahead, they gave Blevins just two runs or less of support. Eight of his first 10 starts in 2014 were quality starts, and he followed that up by tossing 12 consecutive quality starts from July 4 to September 3. During that second stretch, he was also named the league’s Pitcher of the Month for August after going 4-0 with a 1.10 ERA. While he may not have had the highest win total among Ducks pitchers, his consistent dominance earned him this honor.

Honorable Mention: John Brownell

Most Improved Player: Adam Bailey
Bailey-Watching-Ball

No one on the Ducks in 2014 had a turnaround quite like Adam Bailey from the previous year. His first season with the Flock in 2013 ended with a championship, and he put together solid numbers for the most part. He had played in 133 games, hit 15 home runs, drove in 57 runs and compiled 130 hits. However, Bailey batted just .254, compiled a .292 on-base percentage, drew just 28 walks and struck out 112 times. A year later, he became one of the vital pieces of Long Island’s offense. Bailey hit .301 in 2014, an increase of 47 points, and finished with a .355 on-base percentage, an increase of 63 points. He led the Flock with 20 home runs, collected 89 RBI, had 147 hits and scored 65 runs. Not to mention, he drew 41 walks, an increase of 13, while striking out just 88 times, a decrease of 24. In addition, he was named the league’s Player of the Month in August after batting .330. His season was worthy of an All-Star Game selection and of the distinction for being the Most Improved Duck in 2014.

Honorable Mention: Jared Lansford

“Rookie” of the Year: Fehlandt Lentini
Lentini-High-Fives

This “Quack of the Bat” Blog award is being given to the player who put together the most impressive season while in his first year with the Ducks. For 2014, the honor goes to Fehlandt Lentini. The outfielder did not have the same dominance at the plate as guys like Ford and Bailey, but he was a consistent presence and force in the Ducks lineup. Lentini appeared in all but three games during the season, third-most in the Atlantic League behind Ford and Cody Puckett (138), and finished among the league leaders in several categories. Most impressive was his perfect mark on the bases. He stole 46 bases in 2014, second-most behind Wilson Valdez (55, York), but Lentini was never caught stealing. The 37-year-old led the league in at-bats (593), a new Atlantic League record, and finished second in hits (172), third in runs (96) and fourth in doubles (36). Lentini was a terrific tablesetter at the top of the Ducks lineup, and outside of a rough month of September, he was the biggest contributor among Ducks “rookies” this season.

Honorable Mention: Cody Puckett

Reliever of the Year: Brett Lorin
Brett-Lorin-Pitching

The Ducks bullpen had several highs and lows during the season. Despite losing too many late leads this year, as the relievers themselves would concur, most of the bullpen arms put together solid years and came up in some big spots along the way. Of them all, Brett Lorin was the one who stood out the most to “Quack of the Bat.” In his first season with the Flock, the 6-foot-7 right-hander appeared in 53 games, second-most on the team behind Eric Niesen (59). He finished with a strong 2.77 ERA, saved two games and struck out 35 batters over 52 innings of work. Despite being hampered at points by a groin injury, Lorin yielded only 16 earned runs and did not allow a single run in his first 16 appearances of the season. He then went 14 straight games without allowing an earned run from July 11 to August 6. Lorin’s consistency and versatility out of the bullpen earns him the nod as Reliever of the Year.

Honorable Mentions: Eric Niesen

Gold Glove Award: Adam Bailey/Lew Ford
Bailey-Ford

The Blog award for best defensive player on the Ducks was extremely hard to determine. Several players frequently made marvelous plays in the field and stood out from the pack. After much internal debate, we’ve decided to share the award between Ford and Bailey. Ford’s defense was strong throughout the season in center field, and he did not commit a single error in the 97 games he played in the field. The former big leaguer also finished the year with four outfield assists. As for Bailey, he appeared in the outfield in 124 games this season and committed just four errors. In addition, he compiled seven outfield assists and frequently turned in outstanding diving and running catches on an almost nightly basis. Long Island’s outfield was arguably the strongest piece of their team in 2014, and both Bailey and Ford demonstrated top-notch defense from April to September.

Honorable Mention: Dan Lyons

Breakout Player of the Year: Tommy Organ
Tommy-Organ-Pitching

The Ducks had several players join the team this season and make impressive debuts. However, no one in our mind was quite as eye-opening as Tommy Organ. The left-handed reliever, who was acquired from the River City Rascals of the Frontier League in the trade for Jon Myers, dazzled out of the bullpen in the second half of the season. Organ appeared in 20 games with the Flock and allowed runs in just two of them (August 24 against Somerset and September 21 against Southern Maryland). He compiled a 2.28 ERA and struck out 18 batters in 19.2 innings while walking just five. When Long Island was fighting for a playoff berth in early September, Organ became an arm that manager Kevin Baez relied on to pick up big outs, and he came through in a big way. Not to mention, he did this all at the age of 23 and in his first season of professional baseball.

Honorable Mention: Evan Crawford

Community Award: Eric Niesen
Niesen-Kids-Clinic

One of the most integral aspects of the Long Island Ducks is their presence in the community. Players, coaches and staff can frequently be seen at hospitals, schools, bowling alleys, grand openings, expos and many more locations throughout Long Island. In the humble opinion of this blogger, no player showcased his desire to be a part of that community presence more than Niesen. The left-handed reliever was frequently seen at community events, whether bowling with fans at the annual Bowl with the Ducks, teaching little leaguers at the Ducks Baseball Clinics or posing for pictures with young Ducks fans at Kids Club Day. In addition, Niesen could also be found quite often signing autographs before home games at the Bethpage Federal Credit Union Autograph Booth.  The third-year Duck has always enjoyed joining the Ducks in the community.

Honorable Mention: Sergio Miranda

What do you think of our selections fans? Do you feel there is another award we should add to this list? Let us know by leaving your comments at the end of this post. In addition, be sure to keep your eyes out for this year’s Atlantic League awards to see which Ducks might by honored by the league for their performances in 2014. Once announced, they will be posted on AtlanticLeague.com and we will be sure to update you here as well.  Until then, we hope everyone’s offseason is off to a great start!

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Posted on October 10, 2014, in Feature Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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