I wish I could tell you exactly what it means for a player to succeed in the New York-Penn League.
But I can't. The short-season New York-Penn league represents the second-lowest rung on the Astros' developmental ladder, and perhaps one player in 30 who plays in the league even has a cup of coffee in the majors.
It can also be hard to tell which player that one is going to be.
Sometimes, it's obvious. Jason Hirsh is gonna be a star, it looks like, and he made his professional debut in the NYPL in 2003. It was a successful debut, too: Jason notched himself a 3 - 1 record with a 1.95 ERA that year, and a 33:7 strikeout to walk ratio, to boot.
But, fact is, it would be a mistake to assume that the brightest talents always dominate at the lowest levels. Billy Wagner was 1 - 3 with a 4.08 during his time in the New York-Penn, with barely more strikeouts than walks.
Although he had a good ratio, Roy Oswalt was 2- 4 with a 4.53 during his first stint in the League, and showed a propensity for hit batsmen and wild pitches.
And success in short-season ball is sometimes deceptive. Take the case of one Blaise Ilsley. Ilsley pitched for the 1985 NY-Penn League Auburn Astros, and he flat out dominated, going 9 - 1 with a 1.40, with 116 strikeouts to co-lead the league, and 32 walks. Ilsley was named Auburn's most valuable player as well as to both the league and the Topps rookie All-Star teams.
But Ilsley never made the majors with the Astros, and his stint in the majors, when it came nine years after his dominant season in the New York-Penn, was strictly of the cuppa cawfee variety.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, beyond the fact that I'm naturally long-winded, I'm trying to tell you about Chris Salamida, and I wanted to make sure I'd established what it all meant.
Or didn't mean.
Or may not ever mean, to be most precise.
But man, Salamida tore up the New York-Penn League.
Tore it up.
You may have seen that the Tri-City ValleyCats won their League playoff opener last night vs. Auburn.
What you may not have seen was that it was a 1 - 0 game, and that once again Chris Salamida gave up no runs in a start.
He's done that a lot.
Salamida is a lefthander who was drafted in the thirteenth round of this June's draft. He is a native of the Upper New York region where he now pitches for Tri-City, having attended Hudson Valley Community College and later, SUNY at Oneonta, where he went 8 - 2 with a 1.70 in 2006.
He is possessed of a low-90's fastball, maybe up to 92, and a serviceable changeup, and a decent curve. It is said that the Astros have been trying to teach him a cut fastball, as well.
Regardless of whether he's picked up the cutter by now, or not, the results have been fantastic so far. Salamida has yet to give up more than two earned runs in any professional start, and in a remarkable 14 of 15, he has yielded a single run, or none at all. Given that, it may not be surprising that he was able to put two separate 17-inning scoreless streaks together as he cut his way through the NYPL.
By the end, he had led the league in victories and in ERA, and finished eighth in WHIP.
Salamida was chosen to start the New York Penn League All-Star Game, and will quite likely be named its Pitcher of the Year when the playoffs are concluded. But in the meantime, there is the matter of extending his budding reputation as a big game pitcher. The ValleyCats had a five-game lead as the NYPL season wore down, but ran into a slump, as they struggled to clinch. Before it became too embarassing, however, Salamida won the clincher. It was his last start, and his tenth victory.
Now comes the news that he held Auburn scoreless yesterday over six innings of scoreless tie, before the V-Cats won the game 1 - 0 for a reliever. There is considerable argument about the relative merit that should be given to a pitcher for pitching well in a tight lowscoring ballgame.
But I am a fan of the Houston Astros, and there is no doubt about how I feel about it: it is a real skill, and it is to be highly valued. Roy Oswalt is one who has it, and perhaps Chris Salamida has it, too.
He's got a long way to go, and may never make it, but boy, has he given hmself a good start.
|22-Jun||Oneonta||3||2||0||2||0||2||2||1.33||0.00||L, 0 - 1|
|2-Jul||Lowell||5||0||0||2||0||0||5||0.97||0.80||W, 1 - 1|
|13-Jul||State College||5||0||0||1||0||3||4||0.94||0.81||W, 2 - 1|
|23-Jul||Aberdeen||5||0||0||2||0||1||5||0.88||0.66||W, 3 - 1|
|29-Jul||Oneonta||6||1||1||5||0||1||7||0.90||0.81||W, 4 - 1|
|3-Aug||Aberdeen||5 2/3||1||1||6||1||2||5||0.97||0.92||W, 5 - 1|
|8-Aug||Oneonta||5||1||1||4||0||2||7||1.00||1.02||W, 6 - 1|
|13-Aug||Mahoning Valley||6||0||0||4||0||1||3||0.98||0.90||W, 7 - 1|
|20-Aug||Lowell||5||0||0||2||0||2||3||0.96||0.82||W, 8 - 1|
|25-Aug||Lowell||6||0||0||4||0||1||0||0.95||0.74||W, 9 - 1|
|4-Sep||Hudson Valley||5||2||2||3||0||2||4||0.99||1.06||W, 10 - 1|
|Totals||68||12||8||44||2||23||53||0.99||1.06||10 - 1|
You can find further info on Salamida and his Upstate New York roots at Minor League Baseball.com in a well-written story story by Lisa Winston right here.