Clutch Performer
New Goldeyes’ pitcher Ryan Chaffee is expected to fill a prominent role at the back end of Rick Forney’s bullpen, and the veteran right-hander has been coming up clutch since before his professional career even began.  As a 19-year-old freshman at Chipola College (Marianna, Florida), Chaffee led the Indians to the 2007 NJCAA Division-I National Championship by pitching a complete game five-hitter in the title game over New Mexico Junior College.  It was the first National Championship for any sport in Chipola’s history.  The following spring, Chaffee pitched Chipola back into the NJCAA World Series with an 18-strikeout performance in Florida’s state junior college championship game.

After the Los Angeles Angels drafted Chaffee as a third-round pick in 2008, the Bellevue, Nebraska native went on to reach the postseason in five of his first six professional seasons.  Chaffee has reached two league championship series as a pro (High-A California League in 2010 and Double-A Texas League in 2013), and owns a 2.66 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 23.2 career postseason innings.

You can hear from Ryan Chaffee on Wednesday’s edition of The Inside Pitch, which begins at 7:00 p.m. on 93.7 FM CJNU

Suarez Named Railroaders’ Manager
On Monday, the expansion Cleburne Railroaders introduced Gabe Suarez as their inaugural manager.  Suarez enjoyed an 11-year playing career, which included parts of three seasons in the American Association.  The 32-year-old Suarez made his managerial debut last summer with the Joplin Blasters.  The longest tenured American Association managers with their current teams are Doug Simunic (Fargo-Moorhead, 22 years), George Tsamis (St. Paul, 15 years), Greg Tagert (Gary SouthShore, 13 years), and Rick Forney (Winnipeg, 12 years).  The remaining eight managers have been with their respective clubs for six years or less.

Could Power be Down in 2017?
Major League Baseball saw a dramatic uptick in home runs during the 2016 season, and the power surge trickled its way down to the American Association.  Last year, the American Association averaged 0.79 home runs per game, which was nearly a 26 percent increase from 2015.  In fact, the 0.79 average is tied for the highest rate in the league’s 11-year history.  The American Association last reached this high in 2010, a year in which five individual players either tied or passed what had been the league’s single-season record.

But could the league be in for a decrease in power this summer?  One element to consider is the departure of the Joplin Blasters and hitter-friendly Joe Becker Stadium.  During its two years in the American Association, Joe Becker Stadium owned a home run park factor of 194, meaning it produced 94 percent more home runs (or almost double) than the average ballpark in the league.  To put that in perspective, Sioux Falls Stadium, which is well-known as a launching pad, has a home run park factor of 146 (since 2011).  46 percent above league average is astronomical in its own right, but still significantly less than Joe Becker Stadium.

The dimensions for The Depot at Cleburne Station have not yet been revealed, but assuming the park is close to average, the American Association could see fewer home runs per game in 2017.  It would be like replacing the MLB’s Coors Field with a more neutral park.

Park factors are a simple way of objectively determining how one stadium is more (or less) offensive than another.  Park factors are not an exact science, in that they cannot guarantee “player x” will hit 46 percent more home runs just because he signed with Sioux Falls.  However, park factors do provide educated estimates of what we can expect in a given year.  For example, we know that Sioux Falls is a great place for home run hitters and that Gary SouthShore is a great yard for pitchers.  Utilizing park factors helps us answer the question, “by how much?”  In case you’re wondering, Shaw Park has been slightly favourable towards power with a home run park factor of 113 (or 13 percent above the league average) since joining the American Association in 2011.

Saints Reveal 25th Anniversary Jerseys
The St. Paul Saints introduced special alternate jerseys for their 25th anniversary season.  The uniforms meld the primary colours worn by the franchise during the last quarter century, and honour Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant, one of the first settlers in the area that is now known as St. Paul.

Relief Ace Returns to Sioux City
Earlier this week, the Sioux City Explorers re-signed relief pitcher Rob Wort.  It will be Wort’s fourth season in Sioux City, and the hard-throwing right-hander has been arguably the most dominant bullpen arm in the league during that timeframe.  Wort’s 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings is the best ratio in American Association history (minimum 150.0 innings pitched).  The Goldeyes’ Edwin Carl ranks tied for fourth on that list with 9.4 strikeouts per nine frames.  Wort has a 0.00 ERA head-to-head against the Goldeyes in 15.1 innings, striking out 24 and allowing just five hits.