While the bottom line looks fine, plenty of work remains during the second half of the season for the Quad Cities River Bandits.
"That’s what excites me about where we’re at, to see how much better we can become and how much we can improve," Quad Cities manager Chris Widger said. "I don’t believe we’ve played our best baseball."
The River Bandits reached the midpoint of their 120-game regular season schedule with a win on Wednesday night at Beloit, a victory which moved Quad Cities to 40-20 on the season.
The best first-half record in the High A Central League left the River Bandits with a comfortable six-game lead over Cedar Rapids and a double-digit lead over the other four teams in the West Division.
It’s a record Quad Cities has crafted by scoring a league-best 102 runs more than it has allowed and by playing at least .500 baseball in all but one of the first 10 six-game series of the season.
The River Bandits have also showed some grit, coming from behind to win 21 times in their first 40 victories of the season.
"There’s no quit on this team," said infielder Jimmy Govern, reassigned last week by the Royals to triple-A Omaha where he homered in 2021 debut with the Storm Chasers.
"I don’t feel like we ever think we are out of a game, which has only helped us compete."
Widger appreciates that mindset, something that has been a constant throughout the first half of the season.
"This team comes to play," he said. "They show up ready to work every day."
While Quad Cities leads or ranks in the top three in the High A Central League in a number of offensive statistical categories, it is the growth in the River Bandits’ pitching that has impressed Widger the most during the first half.
"They’ve come a long way and are continuing to make good progress," Widger said. "We’re a little on the younger side there, but all of those guys are coming along and I like the growth I’ve seen since we left Arizona (and spring training) back in late April."
River Bandits pitchers have allowed fewer hits and fewer runs than any team in the 12-team league through the first half of the season, surrendering 266 runs and 419 hits through 60 games.
Quad Cities pitchers rank fifth in the league with a collective ERA of 4.14, rank second with 634 strikeouts and have held opponents to the second-lowest batting average in the league at .219.
River Bandits pitchers have walked 277 batters, ninth in the league.
Three Quad Cities pitchers, Drew Parrish, Nolan Watson and Angel Zerpa, have been promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, while Govern, assigned to Omaha last week after batting .313 over 40 games, is the lone position player elevated to a higher level so far this season.
The River Bandits have dominated the High-A Central League offensive charts.
As a team, Quad Cities leads the league with a .259 batting average, 368 runs, 337 RBIs, a .351 on-base percentage and a .443 slugging percentage.
At the midpoint of the season, the River Bandits are second in the league with 521 hits and 113 doubles and rank third in the league with 17 triples and 75 home runs and are fifth with 258 walks.
And in contrast to the philosophies of the game today, those power numbers are complemented by a league-low 514 strikeouts by River Bandits batters. That’s 23 fewer than the next fewest and 195 fewer than the Beloit team Quad Cities concludes a six-game series against Sunday.
Despite the statistics, Widger sees plenty of room for offensive growth.
He likes what he has seen at times from the River Bandits, the only team collectively batting over .250 in the league, but the consistency hasn’t been what he anticipated coming out of spring training.
"I feel like we are starting to do some good things, but I feel like we are just scratching the surface of how good of an offensive team we can be," Widger said. "It’s that repetition, doing things from one game to the next, that we are still looking to see."
Quad Cities has shown an ability to construct significant game-changing innings, one of the reasons the team has had success in rallying for wins.
River Bandits first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino believes that the quality of the at-bats is making a difference.
"The Royals organization really stresses making the most of every plate appearance and making the defense work. You see us keep that line going, hit after hit, one guy after another, and a lot of times there is an eight- or 10-pitch at-bat in there," Pasquantino said.
"Those big innings, they’re a result of good at-bats and making the most of every chance you get to step into the batter’s box. We feed off of the energy created by each other and it makes a difference. The record shows that."