Grand Rapids Hops

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Grand Rapid Hops
Founded in 2012
Grand Rapids, Michigan Usa.png

Affiliations
League Bull League
Subleague Lake League
Division West
Team Info
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

              

Owner Marcus Whitsell

General manager Jason Pulsifer
Ballpark
Ballpark TBA
Former Brauhaus (2019-2024)

KFC Center (2018) Battle Dome (2012-2017)



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.

History

2012-2017: Battle Creek years

Logo for the former Battle Creek Attack (2012-2017)
Originally formed as the Battle Creek Attack, the team was the only 2012 expansion team to be added to the LL. Like the other expansion teams, Battle Creek struggled in their first seasons, finishing dead last in 5th place for their first three seasons.

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.

The following year, 2020, Josh Clough took the reins as GM of a team that was well on an upward trend.

General Managers

Grand Rapids Hops General Managers
Years Name Record Notes
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)

Rivalry

Detroit Motorheads

In 2017, while the team was still located in Michigan as the Battle Creek Attack, they had a rivalry with their neighbors, Detroit Motorheads, known as the Battle of Michigan.

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.

2017-BAT-DET-rivalry.PNG

The Detroit Motorheads folded in the 2021 contraction, and so ended the rivalry.

Awards and other achievements

Player awards

Carl Simms MVP Award

    See article: Carl Simms MVP Award

Rookie of the Year

    See article: Rookie of the Year Award

Woodchuck Trophy

    See article: Woodchuck Trophy

Team records

For career hitting percentage records, 1128 plate appearances are required. For career pitching percentage records, 150 innings pitched are required.[1][2]

Statistic Single season record Career record
Player Record Year Player 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
Raoul Foul
Jason Nelson
42 2021
2020
2020
Jason Nelson 138
Triples John Dyke
Jason Nelson
9 2019 Jason Nelson 28
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
Shawn Askew
36 2021 Howell Hepburn 96
Complete games Niek Rodriguez 9 2015 Niek Rodriguez 22
Shutouts Pete Sharpe
Lazaro Lozano
Jim Torelli
2 2014
2018
2020
Niek Rodriguez 3
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
Niek Rodriguez Pitcher 2013—2017 2020

Minor League Affiliations

Milwaukee Hops Minor League Affiliates
Level Team League Location
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

References

  1. 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.
  2. 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.