Binghamton Rumble Ponies: 2017 Season In Review | Astromets Mind

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Binghamton Rumble Ponies: 2017 Season In Review

Taking a closer look at how the Rumble Ponies finished the season with the second best record in the Eastern League

What’s in this post:

-       Season Summary
-       Coaches
-       Team Stats
-       Rumble Ponies on the EL Leaderboards
-       Promotions/Injuries
-       Links to Astromets GIF Recaps (117)

What Happened

            The Rumble Ponies spent almost the entire season with the second best record in the Eastern League, which earned them a spot in the postseason, where they lost to first-place Trenton in four games during the EL Division Championship Series. Binghamton slumped as a team in June, but then finished the year on a 33-11 stretch to push their record to 85-54. Between the rebrand and the team’s success, Binghamton saw a 10% boost in attendance, and that number could rise again in 2018 if Tim Tebow joins the squad.
            Among 2017 Mets affiliates, the Rumble Ponies stand out as the only stateside team with a winning record – both DSL teams finished with winning records. However, the success of a minor league team isn’t measured by wins, but by player development, and there were some big performances from unexpected sources in Binghamton last year.
Unlike in recent years, Binghamton didn’t start the season with any big-time Mets prospects. Sure, there were a few recognizable names for the casual Mets fan – from Spring Training, if nothing else – but there were 11 guys new to Double-A in April, plus 10 more who made their Double-A debut throughout the season. Tomas Nido was generally regarded as a top-10 prospect in the system to start the year, and he should be about the same this offseason. But of the other players who finished the season with Binghamton, Peter Alonso is the only prospect I can guarantee will make it onto every Mets top-10 prospect list this winter. So if the team’s success wasn’t built on the back of top-rated prospects or Double-A veterans, then what happened?

            The 2017 Rumble Ponies favored speed and contact over power, but the team was otherwise very balanced. They had several strengths, but arguably the biggest factor in Binghamton’s success was the standout defense across the board. As you can see in Table 3 below, the team was by far the best in the EL defensively using traditional stats. And they definitely pass the eye test, as several key up-the-middle defenders have very good-to-great defensive reputations – Luis Guillorme at 2B/SS, Gustavo Nunez at 2B/SS, Tomas Nido (and backup Colton Plaia) at catcher, Champ Stuart at CF/OF, and Patrick Biondi at CF/OF.
            On the infield, the Ponies were extremely efficient on balls they could get to, committing just 6 total errors made at first base, 13 at second base, 12 at third base, and 18 at shortstop. Nearly every night featured David Thompson at third base, Matt Oberste at first base, and Luis Guillorme either at second base (for 72 games) or shortstop (for 58 games), with Gustavo Nunez or L.J. Mazzilli likely filling in at the other spot. Thompson made several highlight reel plays throughout the year and showed good range moving to his left on slow grounders, which allowed the Ponies shortstops to play a little deeper. Of course, few prospects were making more highlight reel plays last year than Luis Guillorme, who had his best season per errors and fielding percentage (and XBH, R, BB).
            Binghamton’s top-2 catchers were Tomas Nido (85 G) and Colton Plaia (42 G). They combined to throw out 43% of 89 potential base stealers, so teams pretty much just stopped running on them (as Table 3 shows, they allowed the fewest stolen bases in the league). Plaia was often paired with knuckleballer Mickey Jannis before his season-ending injury (Plaia went on the DL on 7/24), so his passed ball total is pretty high, but that’s to be expected with knuckleballers.
            As good as the infield defense was, and as good as the catchers were, the outfield defense was, at times, the Ponies biggest defensive strength. Baseball Prospectus’ senior prospect writer Jeffrey Paternostro put an ‘8 run, 6 glove and 6 arm’ on Champ Stuart back in June, and Champ was generally moved to LF when he started alongside Patrick Biondi. Those two out there with Kevin Kaczmarski in RF was a hitter’s nightmare. If Kevin Kaczmarski wasn’t in RF, L.J. Mazzilli was, and he finished the year with 8 OF assists (second on the team) in just 47 games. Kaczmarski also made some starts in LF, but Kevin Taylor was the majority starter out there for Binghamton. Taylor’s a former infielder without great speed, so he was a downgrade from the others, but his defense didn’t hurt Binghamton.

            Overall, the Rumble Ponies defense was a Double-A pitchers dream. Binghamton had the potential to put out a defensive lineup that was arguably better than anything the Mets fielded last year, which gave the Ponies pitchers a unique edge that they won’t always have. That’s not meant to take anything away from what the Ponies pitchers accomplished last year, but it’s worth keeping in mind as you survey individual performances that were heavily defense-dependent.
            As for the accomplishments, Table 2 shows they were arguably the second best staff in the league (behind Trenton), and the team boasted both starters on the postseason All-Star team: Corey Oswalt (named the righty-starter of the team and the overall EL Pitcher of the Year) and P.J. Conlon (named the lefty-starter of the team). Oswalt led all qualified pitchers with a 2.28 ERA over 134.1 IP and, even though Conlon (3.38 ERA over 136 IP) was moved to the pen over the final month, both were just outside the top-10 in IP. Conlon led the league with 3 of the Ponies 7 complete game shutouts – it should be noted that all 7 were thrown during double-headers, so they were 7-inning games.
            The other two mainstays in the rotation throughout the season were Mickey Jannis (3.60 ERA over 122.1 IP) and Casey Delgado (4.59 ERA over 113.2 IP). Both starters had more success with Binghamton last year than in 2016 – Jannis improved his ERA by 2+ runs and reduced his walk rate from 12.2% to 7.6% - and both were at their best during the final stretch of the season (Delgado posted a 2.37 ERA over his final 38 IP).
            Two other starters of note joined the team mid-season after getting healthy. Chris Flexen stuck around for 7 dominant starts (1.66 ERA over 48.2 IP, 50 K: 7 BB) before the Mets called him up and he proved not quite ready for the majors – not so shocking for a guy with less than 50 IP above A-ball. Flexen joined the Ponies shortly before a finally healthy again Marcos Molina (3.92 ERA over 78 IP), who got stronger as the season progressed.
            Finally, 11 other pitchers combined for 34 starts scattered throughout the season, a group that includes: 4 MLB rehabbers, 2 reliever’s making spot starts, 2 offseason depth guys that were demoted from Triple-A due to poor performance, brief cameo’s for Andrew Church and Tyler Pill, plus Ricky Knapp, who took Conlon’s spot at the end of the season.

            Binghamton starters averaged more than 5.2 IP per start last year, which left 390 IP for the bullpen (not including the spot starts), and the pen outperformed the starters. Veteran Cory Burns was essentially the closer for Binghamton, although he finished with the highest ERA of any reliever to spend the year with the team. Luis Mateo, Alberto Baldonado and Kyle Regnault were with the team briefly before promotions to Las Vegas. Scarlyn Reyes appeared to be settling into a pen role when organizational needs forced him back into a starter’s role with St. Lucie midseason.
            The ‘Ace’ of the pen was Tim Peterson, who finished with a 1.14 ERA over 55.1 IP and 53 K: 10 BB. Ben Griset (2.39 ERA over 49 IP) was the top lefty in the pen for most of the year, and Kelly Secrest was the other lefty to get significant time out there. Corey Taylor (3.61 ERA over 62.1 IP) had a few hiccups throughout the season, but he finished the year on his best stretch.
            The makeup of the Rumble Ponies pen changed drastically at the MLB trading deadline, as newly acquired Drew Smith joined the squad and then the Mets promoted Tyler Bashlor. Adonis Uceta took Secrest’s spot before the year ended too, which meant Binghamton suddenly had 3 new righties who could go mid/upper-90’s with a tough breaking ball. The Ponies pen rode the new power arms to a new level of success, finishing the season on a scoreless streak that stretched to 29.1 IP in the playoffs.

            To review what we’ve covered so far: the 2017 Rumble Ponies had great defense, consistent starting pitching, and a great pen. Given those three things, the Ponies offense really didn’t have to do much for Binghamton to rack up wins. And that was very fortunate, because the Ponies lineup was not very dangerous. They wore down pitchers by controlling the zone better than anyone in the league, and they were among the best running the bases, but they were bottom of the pack in power production.
            Ten players combined for 85% of Binghamton’s plate appearances last year, so there wasn’t a lot of turnover. Half of those players had a wRC+ above 100 (aka, better than league average), with Kevin Taylor leading the way at 110 wRC+ over 448 PA. That’s solid production from Taylor, but he’s not even in the top-third of the league among the 88 players with 300 PA in the EL last year. L.J. Mazzilli just missed that league-average cut (97 wRC+), but the other 4 regulars were in the 74-79 wRC+ range, and each had a different reason for rating that low.
            Tomas Nido (74 wRC+ over 404 PA) hit the ball on the ground too often, which led to 27 double plays and a .255 BABIP, but he kept the strikeouts down, posted a career-best walk rate (7.4%) and a nearly average .123 ISO. 29-year old Gustavo Nunez continued his decline at the plate. Patrick Biondi (74 wRC+ over 303 PA) was a low-average, low-ISO slap hitter who worked a lot of walks and finished the season on a tear. Champ Stuart (79 wRC+ over 372 PA) had a few red-hot tears, but contact and consistency problems kept his average down again.
            Taylor was a consistent presence in the lineup for Binghamton, but he never found the power stroke that’s going to take him beyond org. filler status. The same could be said for Matt Oberste, although he was Binghamton’s most consistent force for a stretch. Kevin Kaczmarski was a consistent presence at the top of the lineup for Binghamton against righties (.786 OPS over 401 PA), but Rumbletown Manager Luis Rojas often moved him to the bottom of the lineup against lefties (.593 OPS over 130 PA).
            That leaves David Thompson and Luis Guillorme, who were arguably the top-2 candidates for team MVP. The coaches gave the award to Thompson, who had a .900+ OPS for two extended stretches, but I thought Guillorme’s defense and high OBP gave him the edge (Guillorme was also named to both the mid-season and postseason All-Star teams). Thompson’s first hot stretch lasted nearly two months and featured a lot of doubles, and then he finished the regular season on his second hot streak, which included 8 homers, 9 doubles, and a triple over 38 games. Guillorme ranked 6th in the Eastern League with a .376 OBP, and he had nearly twice as many walks (60) as strikeouts (34) over his final 96 games (418 PA).
            Finally, although they were only around in August, two prospects came up from St. Lucie and made an impact at the plate in their brief time with Binghamton. Patrick Mazeika stroked 5 doubles in 6 games before an injury sent him to the DL to end the season. Peter Alonso then took Mazeika’s spot and needed just one game to adjust before regaining the beast-mode form he found in St. Lucie. These two should be at the heart of the Rumble Ponies lineup in 2018, at least for the start of the season.

            Getting back to the question of what happened, I’d say consistent Double-A pitching did work in front of a great defense, and an overall average offense provided more than enough run support for a lot of wins. I watch a lot of minor league games while following the Mets system – 291 games covered last year – and minor league teams find a lot of ways to lose games throughout the season. Among the most unique ways I’ve ever seen, the Fireflies lost on a walkoff strikeout last year in Charleston. Binghamton mostly avoided those games in 2017, and the Ponies were able to outlast their opponents when things were tight.
            Even when they were struggling to hit, they were in nearly every game thanks to the strong pitching and defense. And they were able to finish 46-30 (.605 Winning%) in games decided by less than 2 runs because of all the little things they were always doing right. So what the team lacked in overall prospect upside, it made up for with hustle and good fundies, and it was good baseball.

Astro’s Awards

MVP: Luis Guillorme.
Cy: Corey Oswalt.
Fireman: Tim Peterson.


Manager: Luis Rojas
Pitching coach: Glenn Abbott
Hitting coach: Valentino Pascucci
Other: Bob Grimes (Athletic Trainer); Kory Wan (Strength & Condition Coach)

Team Stats/Rankings


Overall: 85-54 (.612)

Home: 42-24 (.636)*
Road: 43-30 (.589)
*Attendance: 190,765 (3,289 average)

Day: 20-9 (.690)
Night: 65-45 (.591)

April: 11-9 (.550)
May: 18-10 (.643)
June: 12-16 (.429)
July: 18-10 (.643)
August: 23-9 (.719)
September: 3-0 (1.000)

One-run Games: 30-22 (.577)
Shutouts: 20-8 (.714)
Walkoffs: 9-4 (.692)

vs. AL: 52-36 (.591)
vs. NL: 33-18 (.647)


Table 1 - 12-team league, stats below per BB-Ref

Average Batter Age
Stolen Bases
Caught Stealing
On-base %
Slugging %
Sac bunts
Sac flies


Table 2 - 12-team league, stats below per BB-Ref

Average Pitcher Age
Batters Faced
Wild Pitches

Starters: 57-40, 14 CG, 803.1 IP, 764 H, 3.43 ERA, 626 K: 235 BB, 67 HR
Relievers: 29-16, 42-51 on Saves, 390 IP, 334 H, 2.79 ERA, 385 K: 134 BB, 24 HR


Table 3 - 12-team league, stats below per BB-Ref

Fielding %
Passed balls
Stolen bases allowed
Runners caught stealing
*Second best was 93 errors and a .981 Fielding %

ªHat tip to the Rumble Ponies game notes for help gathering these stats

Rumble Ponies on the EL Leaderboards


Top-10 among qualified hitters, per Fangraphs


Luis Guillorme, 70, 6th


Luis Guillorme, 136, 4th
Matt Oberste, 129, 8th


David Thompson, 29, t-4th
Matt Oberste, 27, t-7th


Kevin Kaczmarski, 5, t-3rd

Stolen Bases

Champ Stuart, 35, 1st
Patrick Biondi, 26, 3rd


Luis Guillorme, 12.9%, 2nd
Kevin Taylor, 12.1%, t-6th


Luis Guillorme, 9.9%, 1st
Kevin Taylor, 11.8%, t-5th


Luis Guillorme, 1.31, 2nd
Kevin Taylor, 1.02, 3rd
Kevin Kaczmarski, 0.73, t-8th


Kevin Taylor, .292, t-8th


Luis Guillorme, .376, 6th
Kevin Taylor, .375, 7th
Kevin Kaczmarski, .370, 9th


Matt Oberste, .356, t-5th

Swinging strike%

Luis Guillorme, 5%, 1st
Kevin Taylor, 5.6%, 2nd


Top-10 per Fangraphs, minimum 60 IP


Corey Oswalt, 12, 2nd
Casey Delgado, 11, t-3rd


Corey Oswalt, 2.28 ERA, 4th


Corey Taylor, 3.16, 7th
Corey Oswalt, 3.31, 10th

Complete Games

P.J. Conlon, 3, t-1st
Corey Oswalt, Mickey Jannis, Marcos Molina – 2, t-3rd


P.J. Conlon, 3, 1st


Corey Oswalt, 119, 6th


Corey Taylor, 5.2%, t-7th


Corey Taylor, 0.43 HR/9, t-8th


Corey Oswalt, 81.7%, 5th


Corey Oswalt, 1.18, t-10th


Mickey Jannis, 53%, 7th


Corey Taylor, 4.3%, 5th

Swinging strike%

Marcos Molina, 11.9%, t-10th


(Initial promo date)

-       Tyler Pill (4/19)
-       Logan Taylor (5/2)*
-       Alberto Baldonado (5/11)
-       Kyle Regnault (5/26)
-       Donovan Hand (6/11)*
-       Jio Mier (6/16)
-       Cody Decker (6/16)
-       Luis Mateo (7/2)
-       Chris Flexen (7/27)ª
-       Kelly Secrest (8/21)

Note: Doesn’t include rehabbers or players who finished the season with Binghamton.
*Officially started the season with the Las Vegas 51s
ªPromoted directly to the Mets


(Guys who finished the year on the DL and the date they were placed there)

-       Blake Beavan (6/8)
-       Colton Plaia (7/23)
-       Patrick Mazeika (8/23)

Free Agents/Released

-       Casey Delgado (Released 10/13)
-       Cory Burns (Elected Free Agency 11/6)
-       Blake Beavan (Elected Free Agency 11/6)
-       Gustavo Nunez (Elected Free Agency 11/6)


(113 Regular Season games coverage + 4 Playoff games)

Date – Starting Pitcher

Eastern League Division Championship Series
9/6 - Corey Oswalt


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