ORLEANS ---- There have been many great duo’s in sports that garner neat names like Thunder-and-Lightning, Smash-and-Dash and the Bash Brothers. This summer, the Orleans Firebirds have found a three-headed monster in their pitching staff with a nickname that is still trying to catch on ----- Strikes, Sinker and Speed.
The triumvirate includes Matt “Strikes” Sisto (Hawai’i), Kyle “Sinker” Simon (Arizona) and Marcus “Speed” Stroman (Duke). All three are enjoying all-star caliber years and are among the few bright spots on an otherwise under-achieving Firebirds team.
“Kyle Simon is a kid that fits perfectly in this league,” Orleans field manager Kelly Nicholson said. “Sis (Sisto) is a guy that pounds the zone and Stroman is extremely competitive and has a lot of presence.”
The three have been remarkable through the first half of the season. They have allowed just seven runs (four earned) on 32 hits in 63 innings, striking out 42 and walking only five.
“Speed, strikes and sinker have been doing pretty well,” Sisto said.
Individually, the numbers are even more impressive. In four starts, Sisto (1-0) has the league’s fifth best ERA at 0.84. He has thrown 21.1 innings, allowing two earned runs, fanning 10 and walking one. He surrendered a two-run home run in the first inning of the summer and has not allowed another run in the following 20.1. Strikes are virtually all he throws. Of his 248 pitches this summer, 171 have been for strikes (68.9%).
“I just go out there and try and throw as many strikes as I can,” he said. “I just attack the hitter.”
Simon, a 6-5 right-hander, is only 1-2, but with a 0.69 ERA, good for fourth in the league. He has struck out 16 with just three walks. The Firebirds were shut out in his first three starts and were no-hit in one of those games. He finally received some run support in his last start and picked up the victory with eight stellar innings of one-run ball.
Simon has developed a “major league sinker,” according to Nicholson, and is using it to his advantage. He has induced ground ball after ground ball with the pitch, including 14 ground ball outs in 6.2 innings of work in a start against Y-D in June 30.
“It’s a really good out pitch,” Simon said. “It has its phases, though. It can stop moving at times, which is pretty scary. But I am excited I have it because movement can trump velocity almost every time. I’d rather have a lot of movement than throw 96.”
Throwing 96 may not be Simon’s fancy, but the third member of the group, Stroman, has used his velocity to close the door for the Firebirds. Only 5-9, he looks like former major leaguer Tom Gordon when he toes the rubber. Packed inside that small frame is a ball of energy that is unleashed with each pitch. He has been clocked at 95 this summer and as high as 96 in his career. Mix that in with a devastating slider and a good change, and you understand the kind of summer he is having. He is 1-0 with two saves and has not allowed a run in 15.2 innings. He has allowed just six hits, struck out 16 and walked one.
“When I go out there I feel like I can get the job done,” he said, before extending compliments toward his two cohorts. “They have been probably two of the best pitchers in the league. Sisto’s all around the strike zone and Simon, with that sinker, is getting ground balls. They have been spectacular all year.”
Simon understands what an asset Stroman is at the back-end of the bullpen.
“I am glad he is on my team. He is basically untouchable,” he said.
While the three S’s have been great for the Firebirds, the team is still looking for more W’s. Sitting in last place in the East Division at the halfway point of the season, they will need these three to continue their excellence and a few more players to come together to make a run at a playoff spot.