Hoping to make this a regular part of the blog at each 20 game stretch or so. We'll start with the first 20 games.
Who's Hot: Milwaukee Manic Maulers
Record: The M and M boys are 15-4 in their first 19 games.
How: Offense and Pitching. They have the balance- no team has scored more runs and no AL team has given up fewer. Pretty easy formula for winning big.
Key Series: Two series, actually- sweeping both the Syracuse Slyce and the Toledo Greensox. These are the two teams that have some hope of contending in the AL North, but Milwaukee is 6-0 against them. They outscored Toledo 40-6. The only negative so far was losing 2 out of 3 in Monterrey, which may mean they're not over last season's epic 7-game ALCS battle.
Upcoming: 14 of the next 20 are on the road, including a 10-game trip at Louisville, Huntington, and Iowa City.
Iowa City has the second best record in the AL at 12-7. Tiny Mayne has 5 wins in relief and Wendell Durrington is hitting .380.
Las Vegas leads the AL West at 12-8. Wally Harvey has 8 homers and 19 RBIs.
Who's Not: Monterrey Sultans
Record: The defending champs are 8-11 in their first 19.
How: Offense. Their deep lineup has scored the fewest runs in the AL thus far. The team lead for RBIs thus far is 9.
Key Series: Losing 3 out of 4 at Iowa City to start the season set the tone. They scored 3 runs in the first 3 games (all losses) before taking the last game 8-2.
Upcoming: They have 4 games with Colorado Springs, 3 games with a struggling Anaheim squad, and 7 games against St. Louis in the next 20, so they could start to make up some ground.
Also Not Hot:
Nashville could have stepped into the void left by Monterrey and distanced themselves a little bit from the Sultans, but they're 9-11. They've scored more runs than any team in the AL not named Milwaukee, but they're 4th worst in the AL in giving up runs.
Anaheim has opened their defense of the AL West crown by going 8-12. They're 3rd worst in runs allowed in the AL.
Who's Hot: Trenton Traffic
Record: The roller-coaster ride continues for Traffic fans continues- after last season's epic collapse they've rebounded to start the season 15-5.
How: Pitching. They've always had the offense, but so far the pitching has been on par with the offense. They're 3rd best in runs allowed (tied with Fargo, but Fargo has played one fewer game) and is only behind the juggernaut Chicago offense in runs scored.
Key Series: 4 game sweep at Norfolk to start the season. They outcored the Destroyers 26-8 in that series, holding a good Norfolk offense to 1 run in 3 out of the 4 games.
Upcoming: They go on the road for 10 against New Orleans, Toronto, and Chicago followed by Fargo and Chicago at home, so it's very likely that they fall back to Earth a little bit- this is a tough stretch of games for the Traffic.
The Scottsdale Slammers won 64 games last season, and they lead the NL West at 13-7. While I'm at it, I'll pick the entire NL West, as all 4 teams are above .500.
The Chicago Snake Tamers lead the NL North at 12-8. They're scoring a full run a game more than any NL team besides Trenton.
San Juan leads the South at 12-7 scoring the 4th most runs in the NL and giving up one fewer run than Fargo.
Who's Not: Atlanta Bandits
Record: The reigning NL East champs have started out an abysmal 3-16.
How: Offense. They're scoring about 2 1/2 runs a game, which is downright anemic. Their pitching is middle of the pack, but they just can't score for their pitchers.
Key Series: Losing 4 straight to Washington D.C. to start the season. A series between the defending division champs and a team expected to be an also-ran should be one-sided. It was- for the wrong team. Their pitching was the culprit in that series, surrendering 26 runs.
Upcoming: The next 7 are against Fargo and Chicago, so it could very well get worse before it gets better. Don't expect them to be this bad all season, however.
Also Not Hot:
Both teams in last season's World Series are below .500. The Fargo Dirtbags are 9-10 and scoring less than 4 runs a game.
New Orleans is 8-12 and is giving up almost 6 1/2 runs a game.