Arkansas Pitcher of the Year

The Arkansas Travelers pitching staff ended the year in the middle of the pack with a staff ERA of 4.56 but they yielded the second most homers in Texas League play and struck out the fewest batters of anyone in the league. They were, however, on the plus side of .500 leaving positives to be found in our search for Pitcher of the Year for the Angels Double-A affiliate.

Kasey Olenberger placed seventh in the league in ERA at 3.71 (minimum 115 IP) yet began the year in the pen with the occasional spot start. It turned out his true calling was as a starter where he posted a 3.59 ERA in 17 starts as opposed to the 4.13 ERA he had in 15 relief appearances.

Olenberger struck out just 69 in 123.2 innings, pitching to contact and while the opposition hit .290 off him with runners in scoring position (RISP) they were held to a .191 average with RISP and two outs, preventing the big inning from consuming the right-hander.

Joe Saunders missed out on being among the league ERA leaders by 9.1 innings but qualified for Pitcher of the Year. His 3.49 ERA was tops among all pitchers on the squad who logged 40 innings or more.

He tossed the only complete game one-hitter that the league saw and a three-hitter to boot. In ten of his 18 starts he allowed two earned runs or less and gave up four hits or fewer in six starts.

Steven Shell actually ended the year 14th in league ERA among those that qualified with a 4.57 ERA. Shell also placed third in the league with 126 strikeouts but also placed third in free passes allowed with 58.

The right-hander allowed two earned runs or less in 14 of his 27 starts but was on the hook for 26 earned runs in the first inning of his starts – accounting for 32 percent of the earned runs he surrendered on the year.

Jered Weaver would have made things interesting but only pitched in 43 innings – striking out 46 – and was not considered for the award. And Ervin Santana would have been a runaway with his 2.31 ERA in seven starts.

Promotion – award – solid season – Joe Saunders. The left-hander from Falls Church, Virginia had a solid season, earned a promotion to Triple-A in the process, saw a brief stint in the majors - nailing down the Pitcher of the Year award along with his other accomplishments.

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