The best way to measure the progress of the Modesto Nuts as a team this season is by taking the occasional mental photograph.
Think of how you do it when you’re raising children. If you’re around them everyday, you can’t see the growth. If you only occasionally see them, the growth is evident.
“Dealing with them everyday makes it a slow process,” said Nuts’ manager Lenn Sakata. “Someone who saw us play a month ago and saw how bad we were then, could come back now and see the improvement. We’ve had some days when we’ve looked like a good team, but it’s a matter of consistency.”
The Nuts, who began the season 9-18, enter the final weekend of the first half at 31-35, which means if they manage to sweep Bakersfield in this home series that runs through Sunday they can finish the first half at .500.
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But this all harkens back to the way progress is measured. The Colorado Rockies seem to place winning far down on their list of priorities when it comes to developing players at the minor league level.
And that approach is understandable, since on average only 10-15 percent of the players coming through Modesto ever reach the major leagues. So if a non-prospect comes through with a big game in a winning effort for Modesto, what’s the value of that performance in Denver?
On the other hand, doing the individual work to make the adjustments necessary to be in position to help your team win is a inarguably huge part of the developmental process. And how is that measured? By winning.
“I like to win and I love competitive baseball,” Sakata said. “This is a competitive business and this is a business where people need to be weeded out and not coddled. The only way change can be effective in making these guys better is them realizing they have to get better and not allowing them to just being who they are.
“A lot of it was that the players were seeing pitching early at a level they’d never seen before. It surprised and shocked them how good the pitching was, especially in the first three weeks when we faced some of the best pitchers in the league. We saw a lot of guys with good stuff who were able to get all their pitches over for strikes. I think we panicked, and it was an eye-opener for them.”
So can he see progress in that area?
“I think the quality of our game has improved significantly,” Sakata said. “We’ve seen steady improvement in that area, but slowly.”