Week: 6 G, 27 AB, .296/.345/.704, 8 H, 2 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 2 BB, 5 K, 0/1 SB (Triple-A)
2023 Season: 103 G, 436 AB, .289/.338/.493, 126 H, 28 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 27 BB, 87 K, 19/25 SB, .323 BABIP (Triple-A)
It’s been one crazy season for Ronny Mauricio.
He started off the season en fuego, hitting .327/.370/.604 with 6 home runs and 4 stolen bases in 26 April games and followed that up by hitting .367/.407/.541 with 1 home run and 5 stolen bases in 25 games in May. There were some concerning underlying trends beneath the surface, but it would be hard to not take notice of a .344/.385/.563 batting line, .948 OPS and 132 wRC+ through the first two months of the season.
Since then, things haven’t been so rosy. In June, Mauricio hit .202/.260/.360 in 21 games with 4 home runs and 3 stolen bases and in July, he hit .256/.322/.451 in 19 games with 5 home runs and 4 stolen bases, a 48 wRC+ in June and an 89 wRC+ in July, a combined .228/.290/.404 batting line, good for a 68 wRC+.
Coincidence or not, Mauricio’s struggles began around the same time the Syracuse Mets first began playing the same teams for the second time, something that Mets evaluators specifically said they wanted to expose him to. On May 29, Syracuse began a series against the Rochester Red Wings, the first time they played a team that they had already played before in 2023. Prior to that, they had played a series against a new team every week, taking on the Worcester Red Sox in the season opener, followed by Rochester, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Durham Bulls, the Toledo Mud Hens, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Buffalo Bisons, the Norfolk Tides, and the Louisville Bats.
Not helping matters any, on June 4, Mauricio was removed from the game in the bottom of the seventh after Rochester right fielder Cody Wilson collided with him while trying to steal second. Wilson slid headfirst and collided with Mauricio’s left leg. Things looked bad at first, but Ronny but left on his own power, tests on his leg showed he only had a bruise, and he ended up not even missing a single game as Syracuse had their next two games postponed due to poor air quality upstate from the Canadian wildfires. He did get a breather a few weeks later, sitting out the majority of the early July Worcester Red Sox series that immediately proceeded the All-Star Break.
Mauricio struggled against the Red Sox in the series immediately preceding this one, going 5-23 with a double, 3 stolen bases, and 1 walk to 7 strikeouts, but he has had the RailRiders’ number this week. Scranton is one of the better pitching teams in the International League, with the fifth best ERA (4.89) in the league and the third best in the division.
What does it all mean? I still don’t know.
Week: 2 G (2 GS), 13.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 11 K (Triple-A)
2023 Season: 10 G (10 GS), 51.0 IP, 35 H, 22 R, 21 ER (3.71 ERA), 8 BB, 57 K, .220 BABIP (Double-A)/10 G (10 GS), 44.1 IP, 43 H, 27 R, 27 ER (5.48 ERA), 25 BB, 49 K, .307 BABIP (Triple-A)
Individual pitchers throughout the season have pitched games with higher Game Scores (85), more strikeouts (7), fewer walks (2), but none have taken a no-hitter into the ninth inning like Mike Vasil did on Tuesday night against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He walked Scranton third baseman Jamie Westbrook in the third on five pitches and left fielder Brandon Lockridge in the sixth on four pitches, but until the ninth inning, that was it.
Lockridge led off the ninth and took Vasil’s first pitch, a 91.8 MPH fastball for a ball, as the pitch wasn’t even close. He scorched the right-hander’s next pitch, another 91.8 MPH fastball back up the middle for a single, this pitch just at the bottom of the zone. At 94 pitches, 61 which were strikes, manager Dick Scott removed Vasil from the ballgame. Sam Coonrod finished off the RailRiders 1-2-3 and Vasil earned a well-deserved win, his second of the year with Syracuse and his tenth of the year in general.
And for good measure, Vasil pitched against the RailRiders on Sunday afternoon. Once again, he was excellent, tossing five more scoreless innings, not allowing a hit until the fourth inning. All in all, he had a twelve-inning scoreless streak that came to an end in the sixth inning, when he walked two batters and then gave up a three-run homer to Jake Lamb.
Promoted from Binghamton to Syracuse in mid-June, Vasil hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire. He made 10 starts with the Rumble Ponies from April until June and posted a 3.71 ERA in 51.0 innings, with 35 hits allowed, 8 walks, and 57 strikeouts. In 9 starts with Syracuse, he posted a 5.59 ERA in 38.2 innings, with 39 hits allowed, 22 walks, and 45 strikeouts.
The run environment in the International League is extremely favorable to hitters this season. The average batting line is .263/.358/.444 with an OPS of .802, as compared to the Eastern League, where the average batting line is .239/.331/.391 with an OPS of .732. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are one of the more offensive-oriented teams in the league with team batting line of .264/.360/.463.
Vasil faced the RailRiders two times prior to this week. On June 28th, his third game in Triple-A, he allowed four runs in four innings, scattering 6 hits, walking three, striking out 4, and allowing 3 home runs. He faced Scranton in his next start on July 3rd, and fared only marginally better, allowing a run in three innings, giving up 2 hits, walking 2, and striking out 5. All in all, in six innings against them, he allowed 5 earned runs on 8 hits and 5 walks, with 9 strikeouts. What was Vasil doing differently in this game?
In his Tuesday start, Vasil relied more on his fastball than he did in his other outings against Scranton, throwing the pitch 60% of the time, as opposed to his June 28 start where he threw it 17% of the time and his July 3 start where he threw it 45% of the time. The pitch sat in its usual low-to-mid-90s velocity band, averaging 93.6 MPH, with virtually the same amount of horizontal and vertical movement but unlike his other starts, Scranton batters were having a hard time making contact with it. Of his 56 fastballs, 30 were swung at and 10 were whiffs. In his prior two outings against the RailRiders, he threw 48 fastballs, with 25 swings and just 4 whiffs. He also pounded the zone more with the pitch, and fewer balls were put in play- clearly, only one was put in play.The same thing happened on Sunday, where he threw his fastball 61% of the time, though he got fewer swings and misses on it. His slider was more effective that day, with 11 swings and 5 whiffs on the 21 he threw. As was the case earlier in the week, he pounded the zone with his pitches and his command of his pitches more or less paid off.