June 21st, 2024

The Muscled Mashers of Medicine Hat: Mavs showcase early offensive abilities

By JAMES TUBB on June 1, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Medicine Hat Mavericks right fielder Jordan Phillips launches a home run in the Mavs' 20-7 win Thursday at Athletic Park over the Saskatoon Berries.


Baseballs be warned, the 2024 Medicine Hat Mavericks have a vendetta for offence and a desire for moonshots.

The Mavs have kicked off the season in offensive fashion, insulting only to those they’ve mashed against but featuring an offence that leads the Western Canadian Baseball League in production.

Through four games, entering play Friday, the Mavs lead the WCBL in runs scored (48), hits (57) and total bases (91). They’re second in home runs to the Brooks Bombers who have hit nine and third in RBIs with 32, behind the Sylvan Lake Gulls (38) and Okotoks Dawgs (34).

They’ve averaged 12 runs through their four games, led by a 13-8 win Wednesday over Saskatoon and a 20-7 drubbing of the same Berries on Thursday, both at Athletic Park.

It’s been an offensive outburst that head coach Kevin Mitchell could only sit back and smile at.

“We can bang the baseball, I expect to see a lot more of that,” Mitchell said after Wednesday’s win. “It’s a lineup from one to nine, everyone’s capable of putting the ball out of the yard, which is really uncomfortable to be in the other dugout. We’ll have that reputation, we can score a lot of runs and hit the ball really hard.

“With that there’s a really aggressive approach from our guys. They understand what they’re capable of and they’re looking for it, they’re at the plate looking to do damage. I think when that’s the default, good things tend to happen more often.”

The 2023 Mavs hit 20 home runs in their 56-game regular season. This year’s squad is already up to almost half of that and is still missing the bat of Brady Bean who played DI at Portland and is expected to return to Medicine Hat soon.

It’s an aggressive approach that second baseman Marshall Burke, who hit a two-run home run Thursday, describes as ‘getting rowdy.’

“I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a team that can hit as much as we do,” Burke said. “Everyone putting the ball in play and everyone putting the ball in play for hard contact consistently is very good. It’s very good to see.”

It’s that hard contact and putting balls in play that can be measured using a sabermetric stat the WCBL tracks, called runs created. RC estimates a player’s offensive contribution in terms of total runs by combining a player’s ability to get on base with his ability to hit for extra bases. Then it divides those two by the player’s total opportunities.

Mavs’ right fielder Jordan Phillips leads the WCBL in runs created with 12.

Phillips also leads the Mavs with three home runs, hitting one in both games against the 0-5 Berries. He credits his success to an approach of staying up the middle and if he catches one, doing damage. He says he’s seen the same from the rest of the team on both sides of the ball.

“We have a bunch of guys on this team that can really swing it, pitch it. I mean, as long as we fill up the zone, throw strikes, defence is gonna be there. And, I mean, from the guys I’ve seen, everybody batting in the lineup. Take it out of the yard, that’s a good thing.

Second in the WBCL in runs created behind Phillips is Mavs’ catcher Nick Thibodeau. He says he isn’t trying to hit home runs (he had two against Saskatoon Wednesday) but is focused on just putting bat on ball.

The Mavs’ high product of offence and 12 runs per game isn’t sustainable but to Thibodeau, it’s something they can continue to almost match through practice and sticking to their approach.

“It’s just trust, once somebody gets on we practise moving them over, hit and run, just doing situational stuff and we’ve clearly shown it throughout the games so far,” Thibodeau said. “Just passing each time one batter to another to another, the trust that we have for one another and just going out there and just swinging it, not really caring about if you strike out, fly out or ground out. Just going up there taking hacks and see whatever happens, happens.”

The offensive production has been a positive beyond the runs and long balls electrifying the crowd at Athletic Park, it’s also put the Mavs’ pitching staff at an ease. Their outburst on the bats against Saskatoon allowed starting pitchers Jack Novak and John Walsh to work with some more ease and it gave the bullpen a cushion to get work for when they are in a close game.

The lineup has given Mitchell nothing to question and the Mavs’ starters have found success, the only blip being a loss in their first game pitched by Walsh who bounced back with six scoreless innings Thursday.

Pitchers coming out of the bullpen have surrendered 21 of the 33 runs the Mavs have allowed this season. They haven’t been hurt by that yet with the offence creating that cushion. Mitchell says the lopsided games have changed approaches as they work to figure out bullpen roles and he says they’re still waiting on more pitchers to join the team.

“When games get sideways like they did (Thursday), it does kind of change the stakes and it changes the approach a little bit, but it’s something that’s on my mind that we need to figure out,” Mitchell said. “Find out how guys can best fit into the overall pitching plan. But it’s also really nice when we are doing what we’re doing offensively. We’ve got some freedom to let guys go out and figure some things out.”

Share this story:

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments