Lugnuts Notes: The Wisconsin (Appleton/Fox Cities) Timber Rattlers

The Lugnuts start the second half of the season by hosting the best team in the league for a four-game set. Thursday’s game will have a giveaway (sports bottle) and a Dash for Cash; Friday’s will have fireworks. Thursday’s game will be televised on WLNS (Lansing Channel 6).

The Timber Rattlers are affiliated with the Seattle Mariners and are owned by many local shareholders.

FanLink’s Rattlers Page [long since gone] is a typically excellent Jeff Williams production. The Mariners Farm System pages [also gone] have some information. The Timber Rattler Index [still another missing link] is less useful. There’s a National Association page [link broken], and it’s like all their pages.

The Rattler’s manager is Mike Goff. Coaches are Joaquin Contreras and pitching coach Pat Rice. Goff also managed this team last season.

Worth noting: Lugnuts Manager Brian Poldberg managed this team in 1988 and 1989, when it was affiliated with the Royals and known as the Appleton Foxes. He coached in Appleton in 1987.

The Ballpark

Fox Cities Stadium was new last summer. It seats 4,000 (plus lawn seating) and its outfield dimensions are 330-400-330. STATS says it favors neither offense nor defense, though it does favor home runs somewhat. I haven’t seen it, so I won’t attempt a description.

There’s a review of this ballpark in Dustin Schubert’s Single-A Ballparks page [gone, and sorely missed].

Directions: The park’s actually in Grand Chute. Leave US 41 at Wisconsin Avenue; go west. Turn right at Casaloma. Parking is inexpensive.

The Team

All-Stars: Jose Amado (3b), Joel Ramirez (ss), Karl Thompson (c), Luis Tinoco (of), Brent Iddon (p), Greg Wooten (p).

Statistics quoted are thru Sunday, June 16.

The Timber Rattlers are the best team in the league, judging by their first-half record. Their 46-20 (.697) record won the Central Division by nine games. This team has excellent hitting and spotty pitching; the hitting has so far overcome the shortcomings of the pitching staff.

The Mariners’ farm teams were not particularly successful last season. Only Everett, Washington’s team in the short-season Class A Northwest League, finished in the first division. Many of this year’s Timber Rattlers played for that team.

Every starting position player hits well. Outfielder Scott Smith has power and speed, while first baseman David Arias is near the league’s lead in extra-base hits. Outfielder Luis Tinoco is having an excellent offensive year. Second baseman Chris Dean is the most potent base thief, but many of the players are dangerous on the bases. Other players with generally excellent numbers include third baseman Jose Amado, outfielder Joe Mathis, and catcher Karl Thompson. In general, an excellent offense; everyone can and does score runs and knock them in.

The Rattlers use their pitching staff differently than many teams; while the workload’s not evenly spread, everyone gets a lot of work. The best pitcher is Brent Iddon (a truly strange stat line, though); Greg Wooten is also excellent. These two are among the best in the league. Denis Bonilla and Aaron Scheffer seem to be closers, but used differently and differently successful. Beyond these pitchers, there’s chaos; lots of wins, but obviously more due to good offense than the pitchers’ skills.

On paper, this looks like a stronger version of our team. Probably their defense is better, but I haven’t got those numbers, and their offense is a notch more productive. But this team can be beaten; that pitching staff….


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1 Response to Lugnuts Notes: The Wisconsin (Appleton/Fox Cities) Timber Rattlers

  1. joel says:

    Finally a team writeup. As I mentioned in the previous post’s commentary, I posted these writeups as series previews during the 1996 season, and wrote similar reports for the MWLguide website for years.

    Broken links are going to be the norm on these pages. The Rattlers’ website, like most MWL team sites, is now hosted on the Minor League Baseball (ie, National Association) site, but in ’96 the NA team pages were perfunctory. It took the Association years to figure out what it wanted to do on the web (I’ll talk about this again in a few days).

    David Arias grew up to be David Ortiz, and is a reasonable candidate for the 1996 Midwest League player who’d have the best major league career. This wasn’t particularly clear in 1996, of course.

    Jose Amado would be traded to the Royals organization–that is to say, to the Lugnuts–during this series, and would finish the season with Lansing. We’ll talk about him later.

    Amado and Joe Mathis would have long careers in the minors and independent ball.

    I think nine Lansing games were televised in 1996 by WLNS; Dave Ackerly and Mickey Lolich worked the mikes. Mick was a joy; David not so much.

    The Brent Iddon comment drew a note from someone wondering what I’d seen. The point I was making that the earned run average didn’t seem right in the context of the rest of his stats; he was allowing more baserunners than his ERA seemed to indicate. Probably it was the high strikeout rate, and a dose of luck. In terms of his career, 1996 was an anomaly, and by far his best season.

    Another oddity about the stat line was manager Goff’s usage pattern for his best pitcher: Iddon was being used as a two inning reliever, often with the game on the line. An untypical usage pattern in the Midwest League at any time, and in any league in the 1990s.

    In the event you’ve just stumbled onto this entry, here’s an explanation of what I’m up to. With an index!

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