Owen Caissie – Picture by Todd Johnson

And then there was one…

There are only three games left in the first half for the Pelicans and they hold a1 game lead over the Charleston RiverDogs for a first half playoff spot. South Bend has been eliminated and so have the Smokies. Both are still above .500…barely. Tennessee is at 33-30 while South Bend is 32-31. It’s been a long time since we’ve had three teams in the race for a playoff spot in the first half.

Iowa, meanwhile, Is nine games back in their division. Their playoff spot won’t be determined until the end of September. So, they have a lot of time left.

Some Observations…

It used to be that unless I went to South Bend, I would only get to see the the Cubs play whenever they came to the Western Division of the Midwest League, which was only a few times a year. Now that South Bend is IN the Western Division, I am really enjoying them playing in Appleton, Beloit, and the Quad Cities more frequently as I have seen them 7 games so far. Starting the 28th of June, South Bend will be in Beloit for a week and that’s just a little over half an hour from the house. They’ll come west next month to Peoria and then in August they’ll be in Appleton again and finish up the year in Cedar Rapids.

But I am noticing a few things from seeing the team every couple of weeks as compared to previous seasons.

1. Turnover Is Gradual but Constant

Last year was the outlier in terms of roster turnover because of the insane amount of injuries and Covid issues in Tennessee. Over 70 different South Bend Cubs suited up. This year, they’re not even close to that. But every time I go see a game there’s always 2 to 3 new guys to get pictures of and tell their story. I have a feeling the pace of change will pick up in the second half, especially after the draft.

2. Technology

It has changed so much in the last five years it’s enough to make your head spin. Almost every facet of pregame is measured. Every single player wears a device in their shirt that gives feedback to the trainers about the energy they are producing, their heart rate, blood pressure and other things. Every pitch in the bullpen is tracked and every swing in BP is recorded. It’s not insane, but these guys are being measured from the beginning of practice until the end of the game. 

3. Hats and Uniforms 

On a lighter note, it used to be that the starting pitcher got to pick what everybody wore for the game, especially the hat. For South Bend, they have three different hats that they take on the road and two different jerseys. However, it seems like every time I see them, they are in their road grays. I am missing that blue alternate jersey to give my pictures some pizazz. It would be cool, though, if they added another alternate jersey. I’d be more than happy to help them design it, just for some variety. I doubt they will come calling, though. But I am in the mood for something else, too.

4. Ebb and Flow

Back to a more serious topic, I am finding it extremely fun to watch 19-year-old Owen Caissie develop at different rates in person this year. I saw him in April where he saw the ball well but hadn’t put it together at the plate. I saw him in late May when he was on a tear on his way to Player of the Month. Then I saw him at the end of a slump at the beginning of this week. By the end of it, he was back on a hitting binge even though he said he hated hitting in Davenport (He hit .333 with a .455 OBP this week). There is an ebb and flow to the constant change and the change is never constant. For Caissie, this will be his season in a nutshell. It will be a grind for him mentally, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he will be fine in the end and the better for it.

Hitter of the Week

Jared Young of Iowa hit .385 with 2 HR with 7 RBI on the week to take the honors, his second time this season.

Reliever of the Week

Chris Clarke of Tennessee threw 5.2 scoreless IP with 8 Ks and he did not allow a run. The key for Clarke’s resurgence the last few outings is a an improved changeup.

Starting Pitcher of the Week

Luis Devers went 6 scoreless innings with 9 Ks to grab the award for this week. I would not be surprised to see him win the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week this afternoon. If that happens, I will report it.

Team of the Week

Both Iowa and Myrtle Beach went 4-2 on the week, but the Pelicans take the nod as they are doing it under great pressure in a playoff race. They still hold a one game lead over Charleston.