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How to beat the Kernels

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The Cedar Rapids Kernels are sporting a 25-11 record through the first six weeks of the Midwest League season. That's good for a .694 winning percentage. How good is that? Over the course of a Major League 162 game season, a team would have to win 113 games to match that winning percentage.

The Kernels are 12-2 at home and 13-9 on the road.They are 16-7 at night and 9-4 in day games. They've beaten right-handed starting pitchers at a 19-8 rate and have a 6-3 record when opponents have started lefties against them.

The Twins' Class A affiliate in the Midwest League is, to say the least, off to a good start. They have a 4 1/2 game lead over the Quad Cities River Bandits (Astros) and Beloit Snappers (Athletics), who share second place in the MWL Western Division with just over a month left to play in the first half of the MWL season.

Offensively, the Kernels lead the MWL in slugging percentage (.440) and OPS (.792). They are third in the league in batting average (,269) and lead the league in total bases (525) and RBI (204). Actually, they are at or near the top of the league in almost every offensive category.

The team's pitching has, overall, been pretty much a middle-of-the-pack staff in most statistical categories, but they have given up just 159 runs, which is 63 fewer runs than their offense has scored and that's a pretty nice run differential.

But nobody is unbeatable so if we dig in to the statistics a bit, can we figure out how an opponent might go about conquering the juggernaut that is the Kernels?

We've already determined that the Kernels are winning most of their games at home and on the road, in night games as well as day games and against right-handed starting pitchers and lefties. What else can you try?

Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Score first. The Kernels have only a 2-4 record when opponents get on the board first. That's right, only six times have opponents scored first, while the Kernels have plated the first run in 30 games and they are 23-7 in those games.
  • Hold the Kernels to less than four runs. Once the Kernels put that fourth run on the board, they are tough to beat. They are 20-2 when they score four runs or more and just 5-9 when they score three or fewer runs.
  • Don't mess up in the field. When opponents have made one error or more, the Kernels are 22-9. When opponents play an error-free game, the Kernels are just 3-2.
  • Figure out how to get the same number of hits as the Kernels. When Cedar Rapids has outhit their opponents, they are 17-5 and when the Kernels are outhit by their opponents, they've still won more than they've lost (7-5), but in the two games where opponents have exactly the same number of hits as the Kernels, the team is just 1-1.
  • Hit home runs. The Kernels are just 8-7 when an opposing batter has hit a home run. But you'd better keep the Kernels hitters in the park because they are 15-4 when a Kernels batter goes yard.

If that all seems a bit too complicated for you, there's one other option. Just wait until the second half of the season and hope that the Twins' front office promotes most of the players that have been bashing the ball all over the Midwest League

Kernels notes

After spending the past two weeks on the road, the Kernels opened a seven-day (eight-game) home stand on Tuesday night with a 5-4 win over the visiting Burlington Bees (Angels). They will make up an April rainout with the Bees with a doubleheader Wednesday evening, starting at 5:30 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids.

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Byron Buxton

On Tuesday night, Adam Brett Walker hit a grand slam home run and Byron Buxton turned a muff by Bees' outfielder Chevy Clarke in deep center field in to a four base error as Buxton flew all the way around the bases to score following Clarke's error. You can check out an interview with Walker and the game story here.

In addition, the Kernels made several roster changes on Tuesday, including the addition of catcher Michael Quesada, who joined the Kernels after completing a 50-game suspension for failing a drug test. Metro Sports Report's Jim Ecker interviewed Quesada before Tuesday's game and you can read that interview here.

SD Buhr covers the Kernels for MetroSportsReport.com in Cedar Rapids.

Updated 05-15-2013 at 01:28 AM by SD Buhr

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