Grand Rapids Hops
|Name||Grand Rapids Hops
|Previous names||Milwaukee Hops (2019-2024)
Louisville Sluggers (2018) Battle Creek Attack (2012-2017)
|Previous locations||Milwaukee, WI (2019-2024)
Louisville, KY (2018) Battle Creek, MI (2012-2017)
|Colors||Ale amber, wheat, black
|General manager||Jason Pulsifer|
The Grand Rapids Hops are an American professional baseball team based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Hops compete in the Bull League playing in the Lake League (LL) West division. They play their home games at (TBC).
The team was formed in 2012 as the Battle Creek Attack, in Battle Creek, Michigan, in the 4-team expansion that year. They briefly relocated to Louisville, Kentucky, before moving to Milwaukee for the 2019 season. They remained there until after the 2024 before moving to their current city, Grand Rapids, Michigan. They have not yet reached a playoff since they were formed.
The team all-time win-loss record was 446-650 (.407) at the end of 2021.
- 1 History
- 2 Awards and other achievements
- 3 Minor League Affiliations
- 4 References
2012-2017: Battle Creek years
The addition of veteran right-handed start Niek Rodriguez was to have begun the process of solving the poor pitching, but "N-Rod" was 32 when he joined the team in 2013, and despite coming off a stellar 2012 with his former team, division rivals Ohio Oxen, Rodriguez would fail to have a great impact overall. He led the team in wins, with 6, and maintained a very respectable ERA of 3.32 that year, but with the lack of offense from the Attack bats, the team sunk to 20-62 (.244).
Rodriguez was even better in terms of ERA, WAR and strikeouts the following season, but in 2014 his record of decisions would only tally 3-9. The team totalled just 42 home runs and a batting average of .207, producing an average of just 3.1 runs per game, worst in the Bull League. The successive poor seasons led to successive top draft selections, but these failed to launch fully. Brian Martin, a Canadian drafted 2nd overall in 2013, was at one time the #14 prospect in baseball, but his prospect ranking gradually fell to #98 by 2019.
In 2015, the Attack selected for its 3rd overall pick left-hander Howell "Superman" Hepburn out of UBC, signing for $5.22 million. And again, his prospect ranking failed to improve, though he would eventually become a back of the rotation workhorse. The season finished strong for Battle Creek though, as they rose to 3rd place with a 35-47 record, their best to date. Rodriguez, and righty Pete Sharpe, who joined the organization in 2013 when the league introduced another minor league level, would combine for 15 wins and 251 strikeouts in over 270 innings.
The gains were quickly lost the very next season, in 2016, when the team crashed to a 5th place, 19-63 (.232) finish, for the second-worst team finish ever behind the 2001 Ducks, who went 18-62 (.225). Rodriguez, now 35, finished the season 2-10, with a 4.77 ERA. Sharpe was traded in July to the Boston Brawlers in return for 1B Art Hewatt and SS Ernesto Lopez. Hewatt failed to deliver much offense, and Lopez remains to prove himself, but Sharpe would go on to be impactful for Boston for the next two seasons. The year was once again marked by a lack of offense, with not a single batter gaining double-digits in home runs.
In the 2017, Battle Creek fought back to finish 3rd place, and top international star Les Groves was picked up in the 2nd round of the draft, but a decision had been made to relocate the team to Louisville and try to start with a fresher slate, without the ageing veterans and with a few of the up and coming prospects who had been drafted into the system since 2012.
2018-present: Moving Around
The team was relocated to Louisville, Kentucky, becoming the Louisville Sluggers, for the start of the 2018 campaign, under the guidance of a new general manager, Josh Hicks. It would be the first full season with promising outfielder Koji Kondo on the roster. Kondo had been traded from the Arizona Cowboys the previous year, in exchange for a handful of minor leaguers: starter Travis Rittenhouse, reliever Willie Torres, and catcher Trenton Scott.
Kondo, a Japanese international star who had originally joined the Calgary Chinooks in 2000, and earned a slew of all-star appearances and other minor awards before being crowned MVP in 2012, finally brought some badly needed offense to the club. "King" Kondo hit .332 in 2018, with ten home runs and 34 RBIs over 220 at bats, over 71 games. Groves had his first full year on the major level roster, and did even better, batting .371 and hammering 22 homers, 67 RBIs, stats that would help him with the Rookie of the Year Award that year.
Another pleasant surprise for the Louisville offense was Jason Nelson, who had a circuitous route to the franchise. Drafted by Battle Creek in the supplemental round of the 2015 draft, out of UBC, he failed to sign and went back to school. The next year, in 2016, Nelson was drafted 17th overall by the Chicago Pit Bulls and signed for a bonus of $2.11 million. He then found himself packaged in a 5-player deal back to Battle Creek that sent Jordan Garcia to Chicago, in exchange for Nelson and three other minor leaguers. He had spent the whole 2017 season on the Battle Creek roster, showing some promising results with 16 homers, 47 RBI, and 49 runs scores along with 14 steals in 100 games. After the team moved to Louisville, he improved his batting average to .264, up 11 points from the previous season, and cut down on his free-swinging strikeouts.
Rodriguez had finally departed, but a new crop of young arms seemed ready to take over. Ricardo Perez, a 1st overall pick in 2014, had started to shine the previous year, with a 3.49 ERA and 8-8 record over 152.1 innings. In 2018, Perez bumped up his strikeouts, to 126, and completed a career-best 3 games. He pitched a gem on August 1st, against the Ohio Oxen, throwing a 3-hit shutout, striking out 10 batters, and allowing just 4 walks.
The end result of the improvements and blossoming prospect talent was a 44-56 (.440) finish for 2018, which only got the team to 4th place in the LL West, but the Sluggers had risen to the 4th best offense in the LL by run production, tied with the Rimouski Fighting Moose in runs per game at 4.6.
In 2019, the league introduced the full-length 162-game schedule for the first time, and the team, now known as the Milwaukee Hops after their latest relocation, responded by going 85-77 (.525), for their first season finish above the .500 mark in franchise history. Offense had jumped to 5.0 runs per game, with a total of 45 team triples to tie Boston for the LL lead. With the lowest payroll in the LL, at $64.6 million, the club became one of the most promising young rosters in the league.
|Grand Rapids Hops General Managers|
|2012–2014||John Porter||69-177 (.280)||The Canadian from Saskatoon, SK had a forgettable period as Battle Creek's first GM, overseeing the team as it set some of its several records for worst performances in the LL|
|2015–2017||Aaron Thompson||99-165 (.375)||Under Thompson the team has seen some improvements but was marred by the worst record in baseball following a 19-63 finish in 2016|
|2018||Josh Hicks||15-27 (.357)||Josh Hicks took over in February of 2018, but left on June 30, before the half-way point of the 2018 season due to personal reasons.|
|2019||Josh Clough||166-183 (.476)|
In 2017 the teams split their eight meetings, 4—4. For that season, the schedule had already been set and the Motorheads were counted as an East Division team.
The Detroit Motorheads folded in the 2021 contraction, and so ended the rivalry.
Awards and other achievements
Carl Simms MVP Award
See article: Carl Simms MVP Award
- 2019 — Les Groves
Rookie of the Year
See article: Rookie of the Year Award
- 2018 — Les Groves
See article: Woodchuck Trophy
- 2017 — Everett Weisensell
|Statistic||Single season record||Career record|
|Batting average||Les Groves||.362||2019||Les Groves||.346|
|On base percentage||Les Groves||.443||2019||Les Groves||.417|
|Slugging percentage||Les Groves||.611||2019||Les Groves||.583|
|Games||Mike Sclafani||161||2021||John Dyke||617|
|At bats||Jason Nelson||621||2020||John Dyke||2,337|
|Runs||Les Groves||112||2021||Les Groves||380|
|Hits||Jason Nelson||200||2020||Les Groves||682|
|Doubles|| John Dyke
|Triples|| John Dyke
|Home runs||Mike Sclafani||47||2021||Les Groves||118|
|Runs batted in||Mike Sclafani||146||2021||Les Groves||378|
|Stolen bases||Jason Nelson||47||2020||Jason Nelson||129|
|Earned runs average||Howell Hepburn||4.04||2019||Niek Rodriguez||3.74|
|Wins||Jim Torelli||16||2020||Howell Hepburn||36|
|Losses||Howell Hepburn||14||2020||Howell Hepburn||38|
|Saves||Gene Becker||31||2020||Gene Becker||84|
|Games pitched||Gene Becker||69||2020||Gene Becker||216|
|Games started|| Jose Castaneda
|Complete games||Niek Rodriguez||9||2015||Niek Rodriguez||22|
|Shutouts|| Pete Sharpe
|Innings pitched||Shawn Askew||236.0||2021||Howell Hepburn||699.0|
|Strikeouts||Ricardo Perez||179||2019||Niek Rodriguez||550|
Hall of Fame players
One Hall of Fame inductee had spent time with the Milwaukee Hops (when it was still called the Battle Creek Attack), but was inducted as a member of another team. Names in bold have been inducted wearing a Hops uniform.
|Milwaukee Hops Hall of Famers|
|Player||Position||Years with Pit Bulls||Inducted|
Minor League Affiliations
|Milwaukee Hops Minor League Affiliates|
|AAA||Gatineau Devil Bears||Cow League||Gatineau, Quebec|
|AA||Nashville Misfits||Heifer League||Nashville, Tennesee|
|A||Grand Rapids Frontiersmen||Calf League||Grand Rapids, Michigan|
|Short Season A||Santa Fe Dust Devils||Texas Rio Grande League||Santa Fe, New Mexico|
|Rookie||Clearwater Hops||Florida Rookie League||Clearwater, Florida|
- Battle Creek Attack: Batting Leaders. BNN. http://bullleague.org/public_html/bull-league/reports/html/history/team_55_batting_leaders.html. Accessed: 28 December 2017.
- Battle Creek Attack: Pitching Leaders. BNN. http://bullleague.org/public_html/bull-league/reports/html/history/team_55_pitching_leaders.html. Accessed: 28 December 2017.