Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Atlanta: We trade the MVP and get better? Now part of the NL elite.
Trenton: Lineup is too old, rotation is too young. Enough talent to win 84. Not enough to make the playoffs.
Norfolk: Diaz took the year off. Atlanta sank our battleship.
Washington: When do Leonard and Rader get here?
Fargo: We took the title! Now to enjoy the North Dakota offseason...
Chicago: We hate Fargo.
Philadelphia: Bernie signed for 3 more seasons. Now to get a team around him...
Toronto: How does middle of the pack in offense and pitching land us in last?
Houston: We dominated our division yet again! Playoffs... don't ask.
New Orleans: You know you're in the south when some guy named Bobby Ray leads you in wins. Should have been Carlos.
San Juan: Apparently you have to keep runs off the board in order to win. Can Oswaldo pitch?
Austin: Lots of steals, few runs. Can we deport Hasegawa?
Cheyenne: Our "reward" for winning the division is Chicago in the playoffs? Let Salem have it next time.
Salem: We have Dunwoody, Salmon, Allensworth as starters... and a closer who should be flippin' burgers somewhere.
Salt Lake City: Hernandez is a beast- too bad half the rotation forgot to show up this season.
Vancouver: From the penthouse to the outhouse.
Louisville: Officially the best franchise to have never made a World Series appearance.
Scranton: How much further in the playoffs could we go if we didn't strike out so much?
New York: Offense can be renamed Duvall, Castillo, and the 7 outs.
Boston: At least the fans were entertained watching all the runs. Too bad we gave up most of them.
Milwaukee: So close, yet so far away...
St. Louis: If you give up exactly one more run than you score... yep, you'll be right around .500
Buffalo: At least it was better than last season. And we have Diaz and Clay to build around. As for the rest of the roster...
Syracuse: Offense is decent, too many strikeouts. Can we leave the pitching staff at the State Fairgrounds?
Monterrey: Finally got home field against Milwaukee! Too bad it didn't help.
Jackson: Proving you can make the playoffs for less money than the cost of Yankees season tickets.
Nashville: Santiago, Black, and Winn. Pitching staff is a sin.
Oklahoma City: Nothing sneaky about us. Nominate Colome for Cy Yuk.
Las Vegas: In our final performance, we finish below .500... and win the division AND a playoff series? Do they want an encore? Not sure.
Anaheim: Dixon struggled and Griffith is on the team. Not a good combination.
Boise: Hail to the Chief, as he, Zheng, and Medrano are about all we have.
Seattle: When do the young pieces start to come together?
#2 (AL) Milwaukee Manic Maulers vs. #1 (NL) Fargo Dirtbags
Game 1 was going Milwaukee's way until the 4th inning, when a 3-run homer by Fargo's Greg Burkhart and a Sammy Pierce RBI single erased a 3-0 deficit. Fargo would not trail after that point and went on to a 6-4 home victory to open the series.
Game 2 was very similar to game 1, with Fargo coming up with the big inning when it counted. Tied 2-2 in the 6th, Fargo added 4 runs by stringing together five singles and two walks. That was enough for Chris Siddall out of the Fargo bullpen; he shut out the Maulers over the final three innings to nail down a 6-2 victory.
Game 3 saw the series shift to Milwaukee , and Manic Maulers' starter Graham Costello most certainly felt at home in Wisconsin. He pitched 7 innings of one-hit ball and the Milwaukee offense provided just enough offense to scratch out 2 runs for him. Closer King Burns made it interesting in the 9th, but held on for a 2-1 win behind Costello's great performance.
Game 4 was a wild affair, with both closers blowing save opportunities. Down 3-2 in the ninth, Fargo pushed across two runs to take a 4-3 lead, only to see it surrendered in the bottom of the inning. The teams traded runs in the tenth, and Fargo tallied again in the top of the 12th, hoping to secure a win. But Harold Lewis hit a solo shot to tie the game, and AL MVP Luis Martinez drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in the game-winning run. Final score: 7-6, Milwaukee.
Game 5 saw the first road win of the series. Fargo got both a solid pitching performance from Willie Williams (7 IP, 5 hits, 1 run) and a 3-run 7th (with Willis Petrov and Leo Miller both having RBI extra-base hits) to key a 6-3 win.
So Fargo had a home game and Javier Henriquez on the mound to try and clinch the series. It seemed like a sure thing, but it was not to be. Henriquez made one key mistake- a 3 run homer in the 5th surrendered to Eric Speier. Fargo SS Shawn Butler ran into one in the 8th for a 3-run shot of his own to tie the game, but Martinez and Louie Chang hit back-to-back solo shots in the 10th to beat Henriquez and co. 5-3 to tie the series at 3.
It would all come down to game 7, and it was everything the experts could have predicted. Pierce and Costello both took the ball for their respective teams, and both were very good. Fargo struck first in the second inning, as Tomas DeJesus drove in Greg Burkhart with an RBI single. John Stevenson tied the game for Milwaukee in the 5th, hitting a solo shot off of Pierce, but in the bottom of the inning Fargo got 2 runs off a DeJesus homer and a Rolando James RBI single. Milwaukee only managed two hits after that point, and Fargo had itself a 3-1 victory in game 7 and its first World Series championship.
A great series to cap yet another great season in The Bigs.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
#2 Atlanta Bandits vs. #1 Fargo Dirtbags
Game 1 at Fargo saw a pitchers' duel between the two aces. Neither Atlanta's Stephen Michaels nor Fargo's Javier Henriquez were fully rested for their game 1 start, but both were solid. Fargo struck first with an Alex Lim RBI double in the 3rd, promptly followed by an RBI single by William Bolling to give the home team a 2-0 lead. But Atlanta wouldn't give up, and came back with a 2 RBI single by Vicente Romero to tie the game. An Albert Martin RBI groundout in the 6th after a key error by Leo Miller proved to be the difference, as Atlanta took the game 3-2.
Game 2 belonged to Sammy Pierce. The Fargo starter pitched 8 shutout innings, allowing only four hits and striking out 10. Fargo only scratched out 2 runs against Atlanta starter Fred Carter, but that was enough for Pierce. Alex Javier pitched a scoreless 9th to nail down a 2-0 victory.
Game 3 saw the series shift to Atlanta. Stan Starr saw to it that the home fans got into the game early, with a solo homer in the first off of Fargo starter Manny Christians. Chuck Reed doubled the lead with a solo shot of his own in the 5th. Fargo closed to 2-1 in the 6th due to a Bill Taylor bloop single with two outs. In the 9th, Atlanta closer Rico Mangual couldn't hold the lead and blew the save on a 2-out single by Einar Gonzalez. Fargo found themselves in familiar territory (extra innings), but it was Stubby Byrne for Atlanta who stepped up, hitting a walk-off 2 run homer in the 11th. Atlanta won 4-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.
Game 4 saw the Fargo offense break out. Alex Lim and Arnold Hunter hit back-to-back solo shots in the first off Alex Sanchez to give Fargo an immediate 2-0 lead. A Stan Starr sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning cut the lead to 2-1, but the Bandits wouldn't score again. Tomas DeJesus and Einar Gonzalez added home runs for Fargo, and the Dirtbags pitching staff retired the last 12 Bandit hitters to claim a 7-1 win.
Game 5 featured something most experts didn't expect- a shootout. This game featured more runs than the first 3 games combined. Atlanta opened the scoring on a Romero RBI ground rule double, but Fargo slugged their way to a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth. This time it was Javier's turn to blow the save. Stan Starr hit a solo shot to dead center field to tie the game at 6. In the top of the 11th, the top of Fargo's order got the big hits, as Gonzalez led off with a double, and Lim singled him home. Rolando James had been 0 for 4 when he came up next, but changed that with a 2-run shot. Fargo went on to win, 9-6
Needing only one win at home to clinch the series, the Dirtbags decided not to take their chances with a game 7. A 1-1 game in the 6th turned into a laugher as Henriquez helped his own cause with an RBI single, Gonzalez followed with an RBI single of his own, then James hit a grand slam to stretch the lead out to 7-1. Atlanta couldn't get any offense going after that backbreaking inning, and Fargo won the series 4-2 with the 7-1 win.
#2 Milwaukee Manic Maulers vs. #1 Monterrey Sultans
Monterrey fans were hoping that Milwaukee would be tired after a tough series with Louisville; the Manic Maulers showed no ill effects. Milwaukee 1B Burt Stevenson set the tone for game 1 and the series in the first inning with a 3-run homer off Monterrey starter York Burnett. Monterrey came back to tieafter 6 innings, but Milwaukee came out on top after Brian Dunham hit 2 solo shots in the last 3 innings to key a 6-4 win in game 1.
Having lost game 1 and in need of a big-time pitching performance, Monterrey handed the ball to Luther Brush. The Sultans would be very disappointed, as Brush gave up 6 runs in 4 2/3 innings. Milwaukee starter Woody Hiller, on the other hand, pitched 8 scoreless innings as the Manic Maulers won a 9-1 blowout en route to a 2-0 series lead.
Game 3 saw the Cy Young award winner get outdueled. Monterrey's Albert Gonzalez, fully deserving of the award, gave up 3 runs in 7 innings; Milwaukee's Graham Costello gave up only 1 in the same 7 innings. Bob Malone, Louie Chang, and Dunham all had RBI hits (Dunham's was a triple) as Milwaukee took a 3-1 lead into the ninth. Closer King Burns made it interesting, giving up an unearned run, but struck out Bum Casey with runners on first and third to nail down a 3-2 victory. The champs took a 3-0 series lead and it appeared to be over. Could the mighty Sultans actually be swept out of the ALCS?
In a word, no. After Milwaukee had generated enough offense against the more highly touted Brush and Gonzalez, Kelly Downs was just too much for the Maulers to solve in game 4. He pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings, yielding only 3 hits. Vin Solano was just as baffling over 5 innings, but Monterrey got a 2-run shot by Tony Escuela off reliever Seth Faulk, and that would be all Downs needed. The Monterrey bullpen took care of the rest, and Monterrey stayed alive with a 2-0 victory.
In game 5, Monterrey again tried to stay alive, and did just that. It didn't look like it would happen for them after the 1st inning, when Milwaukee got an RBI ground-rule double from Andre Eckenstahler and a run- scoring passed ball for a quick 2-0 lead. But Monterrey used back-to-back RBI singles from Ryan Snyder and Timo Carter in the 3rd to tie the game, then got two more in the 4th on a Howard Murray two-run single. That would be enough for Jocko Keats and the Sultans bullpen, as they escaped with a 4-3 victory.
Game 6 saw Monterrey's attempt at pulling off the trick of coming back from 3-0 (any Yankee fan reading this is now cringing) fall short. Malone got Milwaukee off to a good start with a 2- run homer in the second, but a tough Monterrey team came back with one run in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh innings to take a 4-3 lead. The 8th looked good for the Sultans, as the first two hitters grounded out weakly. But Malone hit a double and was driven in by Chang to tie the game. John Stevenson then hit a double, and Chang was able to score easily for a 5-4 lead. The bullpen held, and Milwaukee won the game and the series. Milwaukee became the first team in either league to make 3 World Series appearances and would attempt to be the first team to successfully defend a World Series title.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Most Valuable Player
1. Osvaldo Johnson, San Juan (19)
2. Nate Cox, Salem (5)
3. Sean Simpson, Chicago (3)
Bernie Soriano, Chicago (3)
5. Stan Starr, Atlanta (2)
My vote: Johnson
Why: Yes, I've heard the argument that a 1B shouldn't win the award over a CF if both are nominated- I just don't buy it. I believe the 1B can win it, but his numbers have to be well beyond the CF's numbers to make up for the difficulty of the defensive position, and I think that's what happened here. Johnson's .307-66-141 was just too much for Cox, who did put up excellent numbers himself (.338-43-109). Cox is no hack in CF, but he's not a Gold Glove winner, either.
1. Javier Henriquez, Fargo (22)
2. Jerome Oliver, Houston (4)
3. Alex Javier, Fargo (3)
4. Manny Christians, Fargo (2)
5. Steven Michaels, Atlanta (1)
My vote: Henriquez
Why: Oliver won 1 more game (19 to 18), but a look inside the other stats reveal that Henriquez was just more dominant. From his 1.86 ERA to his .207 OBA to the 251 strikeouts (almost a 5-1 SO/BB ratio), he's simply the best pitcher in the NL.
Rookie of the Year
1. Lonny Gates, Houston (20)
2. Enrique Guttierez, Cheyenne (4)
3. Vasco Lopez, Trenton (3)
Bert Pierre, Trenton (3)
5. Mark Bong, Cheyenne (2)
My vote: Gates
Why: Being assigned to the Trenton office, I would have liked to have voted for either of the hometown guys. Gates, however, won 17 games with a 2.81 ERA and was a key member of the Riverdogs team that won its 5th straight division title.
Most Valuable Player
1. Luis Martinez, Milwaukee (15)
2. Julio Diaz, Buffalo (10)
3. Burt Stevenson, Milwaukee (4)
4. Pete Duvall, New York (3)
5. Ismael Polanco, Louisville (0)
My vote: Martinez
Why: It was a tough call between Diaz and Martinez. Diaz led the league in HRs and RBIs while hitting over .300, which is usually a good recipe to win an MVP. But Martinez was more well rounded (stealing 64 bases, going 40-40, playing CF, having a higher OPS) and therefore earned the award from the league. By the way, I don't remember the last time I saw a player garner 0 votes for a major award- that was Polanco's fate here, despite putting up numbers fairly similar to Diaz's.
1. Albert Gonzalez, Monterrey (15)
2. Garry Wright, Jackson (7)
3. Woody Hiller, Milwaukee (5)
4. Tony Howell, Scranton (3)
5. Tom Beltran, Louisville (2)
My vote: Gonzalez
Why: You could make a pretty good case for Wright or Hiller here. Even though some of Hiller's numbers (WHIP, OBA) are better, I think Hiller loses out to Gonzalez because of fewer losses (4 to 10) and he was far more prone to give up the long ball (35 HRs allowed to 17 for Gonzalez). As for Wright, he was obviously the best closer and had a phenominal season. The starter vs. closer debate is always tough- I just think a starter is more valuable based on the number of innings normally. Therefore, I think a closer would have to be far better than any of the starters; to be fair, Wright's season was close to that point.
Rookie of the Year
1. Rick Anderson, Monterrey (18)
2. Pedro Medrano, Boise (6)
3. Odalis James, Anaheim (4)
4. Jacques Puffer, Seattle (2)
5. Quilvio Sanchez, Seattle (1)
My vote: Anderson
Why: Wait, did I just agree with all 6 picks? I don't think that's ever happened before. Anyway, the 22-year-old Canadian backstop stepped right into the Monterrey offense, going .344-30-96 in just over 400 at-bats. He's not terrible behind the plate, throwing out about 24% of runners (not great, but not Mike Piazza, either). . Medrano's 15 wins was a significant achievement on a 69-win Boise team, but his ERA (4.23) is a bit high to overcome Anderson's great rookie campaign.
Friday, April 24, 2009
San Juan's Osvaldo Johnson was named the National League MVP for the third time in his career today. Johnson, who hit .307 with 66 homeruns and 141 RBI with a 1.101 OPS, received 19 of 32 votes to capture his first MVP award since joining the Dead Bunnies. Johnson's 66 homeruns led the major leagues. The other National League award races weren't as close.
Fargo's Javier Henriquez took home his second Cy Young Award by tallying 22 of the 32 possible votes. Henriquez, who won his first Cy Young Award in season 2, was 18-6 with a 0.99 WHIP and a major league-leading 1.86 ERA.
The Rookie of the Year race was also a blowout as Houston pitcher Lonny Gates took home the award with 20 of the 32 possible votes. Gates posted a 17-7 record in his rookie season with a 1.18 WHIP and 2.81 ERA in 224.1 innings.
Things were a bit tighter over in the American League where Milwaukee's Luis Martinez edged out Buffalo's Julio Diaz for his first MVP Award by a vote tally of 15-10. Martinez hit .315 with 46 homeruns and 91 RBI with a 1.034 OPS.
This season marks the first time that a non-Milwaukee pitcher has won the AL Cy Young Award since season 1 as Monterrey's Albert Gonzalez received 15 votes to take home the award. Gonzalez tied for the majoe league lead with 19 wins while posting a 1.18 WHIP and 2.78 ERA in 210.1 IP.
In additon to the Cy Young Award winner, the Sultans are home to the AL Rookie of the Year as well as Rick Anderson won the award with 18 of the 32 votes. Anderson hit .344 with 30 homeruns and 96 RBI with a 1.005 OPS this season.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Pitchers Dream Award:
NL: Don Meng with 185 strike outs in 616 AB's.
AL: Hector Lee with 149 strikeouts in 519 AB's.
Chicks Dig It (Adam Dunn) Award:
NL: Justin Gordon with 49 chick magnets and a .247 average.
AL: Paxton Coleridge with 46 chick balls with .255 average.
Police Laughing Award:
NL:Marc Schmidt with 13 thefts but got caught 23 times.
AL:Chip Loiselle with 6 thefts and getting caught 17 times.
My Bad Award:
NL: Earl Hall with 39 erratic behavior plays.
AL: Daniel Koch with 49 dropped balls.
Minus Plays or What Was I Doing Award:
NL: Brace Kroeger with 9 oops plays making it really undeserving.
AL: Jason Mann with 16 mind numbing boo boo's.
Am I A Pitcher or What Award:
NL: Steven Greenberg with a 3-17 record in 40 starts.
AL: Wilfredo Colome with a 8-23 record in 33 starts.
Hero-less Complete Game Award:
NL: Turner Darr with 2 CG's to his credit and a 2 shutout victories but a 11-16 campaign.
AL: Joey Hubbard with 3 complete games and a shutout but a 9-18 record in 35 starts.
Failure to Duck or Taking One for the Team Award:
NL: Karim Ortiz has 17 bruises to prove it.
AL: Chief Pearson has 20 seams tattooed around his arms.
Iron-Manless Hitting Award:
NL: Tony Percival with a .251 average in 637 AB's.
AL: Dickie Knott with .225 average in 617 AB's.
Iron-Manless Pitching Award:
NL: Jesus Estrada compiled a 9-15 record while pitching 211 innings.
AL: Ivan Castilla compiled a 5-16 record with 196 innings of work.
The Backstop is My Friend Award:
NL: Ira Crawford and Jorge Mendoza for allowing 13 balls to go by them.
AL: Chan Suh as he allowed 20 backstop bouncers.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
The top seeded Fargo Dirtbags once again faced fierce division rival Chicago, while Atlanta and Salem decided to take it to the limit in a series highlighted by three 1-run games.
#5 Chicago Snake Tamers vs. #1 Fargo Dirtbags
Fargo could not wait to begin their playoff run. They jumped on Chicago starter Orber Marin for 7 runs in the first 4 innings, which was more than enough for Cy Young contender Javier Henriquez. The Dirtbags won game 1 in a rout, 10-1
Game 2 looked like it might echo game 1, with Sammy Pierce starting out strong and the Dirtbags getting an Arnold Hunter solo shot in the first to take a 1-0 lead. But the Chicago pitching staff held from there, and RBI singles from Evan Smith and Neifi McBride in the 3rd gave the Snake Tamers a lead they would not relinquish. The Snake Tamers won game 2 by a score of 4-1 to earn a split in Fargo.
Game 3 saw a sold-out crowd at Wrigley treated to a lot of extra baseball. Chicago led 2-1 going into the 8th, but Fargo struck for 2 in the top of the inning to take a 3-2 lead. But in the bottom of the 8th, Fargo closer Alex Javier couldn't hold the lead, as Jay Walker hit a solo homer to tie the game. 6 innings later, the score was still 3-3. In the top of the 15th, Fargo's Alex Lim hit a 2-run home run off of Mateo Guerrero, and Chicago could not match in the bottom of the inning. Fargo emerged with a 5-3 win in a game that saw a total of 469 pitches thrown by 14 pitchers.
Game 4 was eerily similar to game 3, particularly for Chicago fans. This one again went to extra innings, and again Alex Lim rode to the rescue for Fargo. After Fargo's Tomas DeJesus (5th inning) and Chicago's Neifi McBride (6th inning) traded solo homers, the game came down to Jorge Guzman against Lim, and Lim again went deep. That concluded the scoring and the series, as Fargo won 2-1 and took the series in 4.
#6 Salem Sacrifices vs. #2 Atlanta Bandits
Turner Field was abuzz for game 1, and any fan who likes a good old-fashioned pitchers' duel was not disappointed. Salem ace Dave Dunwoody was matched up against Atlanta ace Steven Michaels, and they each pitched 7 shutout innings. Salem's bullpen was the first to crack, as Sacrifices reliever Jimmie Melendez was touched up for a 2-run homer by Albert Martin, which proved to be the only scoring in a 2-0 Bandits win.
Game 2 saw another good pitching matchup in Fred Carter for the home squad against Dwight Salmon for the Sacrifices. Carter cruised through the first 7 innings, gaining a 1-0 lead, but couldn't keep it in the 8th. The bullpen helped to blow it for him, as Alex Sanchez allowed both runners he inherited to score, and Salem took a 3-1 lead. Jimmie Melendez came in and gave up another big home run, this time to pinch hitter Hal Brinkley. His 2-run shot put Atlanta right back into the game, and the game was tied at 3. This is how it remained until the 10th, where a Mo Damon sacrifice fly (which was dropped) and an Alex Aparicio RBI single netted two runs for Salem. Jason Walker hit an RBI triple with two outs in the bottom of the 10th, but Albie Torres struck out to strand him at third and give Salem a 5-4 victory.
Game 3 in Salem was another pitchers' duel, but this one ended in wild fashion. The first 8 innings saw only solo homers in the scoring column, with Salem (Derek Bedard-1st and Karim Ortiz- 5th) outhomering Atlanta (Stan Starr- 1st) 2 to 1. In the 9th, Lynn Abernathy hit an RBI single to tie the game for Atlanta. Salem countered with two straight singles to set up Salem with runners on 1st and 3rd with no one out. Atlanta reliever Orber Marin then threw a wild pitch, allowing pinch-runner Marvin Merceds to score the game-winning run in a 3-2 Salem win.
Game 4 saw Salem starter Dave Dunwoody undone by control issues and poor defense. Dunwoody took a 1-0 lead into the 4th, but he gave up 5 runs, due in large part to a dropped fly ball by CF Nate Cox and back-to-back walks. Salem fought back, but couldn't make up the difference in a 7-4 Bandits win.
The way this series went, it was only natural that game 5 back in Atlanta would be a one-run affair. Carter and Salmon again took the ball for their respective teams, and it looked good for Salmon and company up until the 6th. Mo Damon's 3rd inning 2-run blast put Salem up 2-0, and Salmon had allowed only 4 baserunners through the first 5 innings. But in the 6th, Vicente Romero smacked a 2-run double with one out to tie the game. In the 8th, Jimmie Melendez (not again!) came in to pitch for Salem, and Atlanta got to him again. After retiring the first two hitters, Melendez yielded solo homers to Stan Starr and Romero to give Atlanta a 4-2 lead. Salem promptly loaded the bases with no one out off Atlanta closer Rico Mangual, but managed only a Cooper Roa sacrifice fly with one out and fell short. Atlanta won the game 4-3 and the series 3-2. Fargo and Atlanta will face off in the NLCS.
One series was a clear-cut sweep, while the other went down to the wire and saw a 5th game.
#5 Scranton Janitors vs. #1 Monterrey Sultans
Game 1 in Monterrey saw everything go wrong for the Janitors. Their top starter, J.R.. Guerrero, was injured after retiring only one batter. They couldn't hit Monterrey starter York Burnett or wily veteran Ajax Drabek, failing to score. Tony Escuela started the scoring for the Sultans with a 2-run homer in the 5th, which jumpstarted a 5-0 victory for the home team.
Game 2 was a homecoming for Scranton starter Dennys Fox, pitching his first playoff game in Monterrey since receiving his season 2 ring as a member of the Sultans. Unfortunately for Fox and the Janitors, he didn't pitch particularly well. Monterrey scratched out 4 runs in 4 2/3 innings against Fox, and Scranton had trouble with current Monterrey starter Albert Gonzalez. The Sultans cruised to a 6-2 win.
Game 3 put an end to Scranton's season. Ex-Sultans farmhand Norm Edwards got the start for Scranton, and his former team got 6 straight hits, all with two outs, against him in the 4th for a total of 4 runs. That outburst turned a 1-1 game into a 5-1 Sultans lead, and there was no way Luther Brush would give up that lead. The final was 6-1, ending a 3-game sweep for Monterrey. They take on the winner of...
#3 Louisville Legends vs. #2 Milwaukee Manic Maulers
Louisville doesn't always get mentioned in the same breath as Monterrey and Milwaukee, but they always play both those teams awfully tough in the playoffs. Game 1 in Milwaukee was a great example of this. Lance Stevens pitched 7 shutout innings for the Legends, striking out 11. Milwaukee starter Woody Hiller gave up only an unearned run in the first, and the game was still in doubt when Dick McEnroe and Javier Tavarez added RBI singles in the 8th to stretch the lead out to 3-0. The Legends bullpen held, and Louisville took game 1 by that 3-0 score.
Game 2 saw the Milwaukee bats come to life at just the right time. Down 3-2 in the 8th inning but with the bases loaded, Andre Eckenstahler hit a 2-run single, and Harold Lewis followed with a 3-run homer to give Milwaukee a 7-3 win.
Game 3 in Lousiville contained a familiar theme in the division series- extra innings. Louisville was down 4-1, but drew two bases-loaded walks in the 8th to pull within one, and Cy Hughes crushed a King Burns offering in the 9th to tie the game with a solo homer. But in the 12th, Eckenstahler returned the favor with his own solo shot to give Milwaukee a 5-4 win.
If Louisville was to lose this series, it would not be because of Lance Stevens. Stevens again came to the Legends rescue, giving up only 2 runs in 7 innings, as his offense staked him to a 5-2 lead on the strength of a 2-run single by Amp Palmer in the 5th and a 2-run homer by Pete Mercedes in the following inning. Closer Tom Beltran made it interesting in the 9th, giving up two runs and leaving the tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first as he struck out Benji Borcelo to end a 5-4 Legends victory and setting up a Game 5 in Milwaukee.
Game 5 looked like it would be a nail-biter but turned into a laugher. Louisville's Danny Little and Milwaukee's Woody Hiller were locked up in a 0-0 game through 5 when it all fell apart for Little in the 6th. Brian Dunham managed an inside-the-park 2 run homer and later in the inning Eric Speier's grand slam put the game way out of reach, as Milwaukee put up 7 runs in the inning. Amp Palmer's solo shot was all the offense Louisville could muster, and the Manic Maulers emerged with an 8-1 victory and a series win. They earned the right to play Monterrey in the ALCS.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
1. Fargo Dirtbags vs. Chicago Snake Tamers
Teams in the same division tend to make the best rivals. This one, when it counts, seems to be one-sided, as Fargo has finished 1st to Chicago's second place the past four seasons. More important, the Dirtbags have faced the Snake Tamers 3 times in the playoffs and have advanced all 3 times. With plenty of young talent on both teams, expect many more chapters to be written in this story in the next few seasons.
2. Louisville Legends vs. Monterrey Sultans
Milwaukee and Monterrey (see #4) tend to get the ink in the AL, but Louisville has been more of a thorn in the Sultans' side than the Manic Maulers have been, especially in the playoffs. They have also faced 3 times in the playoffs. Monterrey won the first time (in season 2) en route to the title, but Louisville won the last two.
3. Salem Sacrifices vs. Cheyenne Nation
This one has its basis both on and off the field. Cheyenne GM deaconsoule has been, at times, Steinbrenner-like in some of his comments and grandiose predictions. His favorite target tends to be division-mate Salem's GM, trailjon541. There is substance to the rivalry: the teams have finished 1-2 in the division 4 times, with each team claiming 2 division titles. They've yet to meet in the playoffs.
4. Milwaukee Manic Maulers vs. Monterrey Sultans
If form had held in the playoffs, these two teams would have met each and every season, including this one. As it stands, they have only one epic 7-game ALCS (Season 2) to show for finishing 1-2 (in some order) in the American League all 5 seasons. The battle has often been in the standings, as #1 seed gets home field for the ALCS and usually means avoiding playing Louisville in the divisional series.
5. Las Vegas Gamblers vs. Scranton Janitors
This one was created completely in the playoffs. They are not natural rivals by any means, but they've played 3 straight seasons in the wild card round. Each series went the maximum 5 games, with Scranton winning 2 out of 3 times. In this season's battle, Las Vegas outscored Scranton 22-18 but lost the series.
Friday, April 17, 2009
The National League matchups contained very little drama, with both series ending in sweeps.
#6 Salem Sacrifices vs. #3 Houston Riverdogs
Although it was a sweep, this series might have had the two best games of the entire round. Game 1 saw Houston's Jerome Oliver and Salem's Dave Dunwoody locked up in a pitcher's duel- the two combined to pitch 15 scoreless innings in this one, giving up a combined 6 hits. The game was scoreless going into the 11th inning. Salem got 3 in the top of the inning, highlighted by Shooter Barber's 2 run single. Solo homers in the bottom of the inning by Monte Duvall and Bob Koplove weren't enough, and Salem won 3-2.
In game 2, Dwight Salmon pitched a compltete game and Riverdogs rookie stud Lonny Gates got roughed up for 8 runs in 6 innings, as Salem won a 12-2 laugher.
Game 3 at Salem featured a fantastic effort from Houston starter Jose Merced (1-hitter over 8 innings) that ended up wasted. Houston's bullpen somehow could not hold a 6-0 9th inning lead, and with the score 6-4 with two outs in the 9th, 2nd baseman Derrek Bedard came up with the bases loaded and hit a walkoff grand slam to end the series with a 8-6 Sacrifices victory.
The Season 1 champs march on to face the Atlanta Bandits in the next round.
#5 Chicago Snake Tamers vs. #4 Cheyenne Nation
The interdivision rivalry continues; unfortunately for the Nation this one didn't last long.
Game 1 saw the Nation get off to a good start, with two Steve Bako RBIs staking Cheyenne to a 2-0 lead after 6 innings. But a Sean Simpson 2-run shot in the 7th tied the game, and Andres Calderon hit a solo shot in the same inning to provide the difference in a 3-2 Chicago win.
In game 2, Mark Bong just didn't have it for Cheyenne. The 2-3-4 hitters of Chicago (Neifi McBride, Jay Walker, and Simpson) combined for 12 RBIs in a 13-4 embarrassment.
Game 3 saw former Diamondback (forerunner of the Nation) starter Hipolito Pujols start against his old team- it was a start for Pujols to forget, giving up 7 and failing to get out of the 5th. But the bullpen couldn't hold the lead the offense gave it, as a Paul Turnbow 3-run homer in the 8th turned a 8-6 lead into a 9-8 deficit for the boys from Cheyenne. The final was 10-8 for Chicago, and they will now face divisional rival Fargo in the next round.
Both series ended up going 5, with 2-0 series leads being coughed up in both cases.
#6 Jackson Vipers vs. #3 Louisville Legends
A first-time entry into the playoffs put quite a scare into a 5-time division champ.
In game 1, home runs by Chan Suh and Esteban Vega paced the Vipers to a 7-4 victory. Lights- out closer Garry Wright (51 saves) needed only 6 pitches for the 9th inning save.
In game 2, Suh hit another homer and joined Dennis Tamura and Brook Teut with 2 RBI each in an 8-4 victory at Louisville.
Game 3 saw the Vipers come within 3 outs of a series sweep. Barney Weiss's 8th inning home run gave Jackson a 3-2 lead, but Wright couldn't hold it- a 2 run homer in the 9th by Amp Palmer gave Louisville a 4-3 win and saved the Legends' season.
Game 4 saw Cy Hughes drive in 3 and the Viper bats slow down against Lance Stevens and Tyler Wilson, who combined for 11 strikeouts. The Legends took this one easily, 7-2, setting up a game 5 showdown back at Louisville.
Game 5 saw a 2-0 1st inning Viper lead quickly erased by Louisville scoring 5 in the bottom of the first, led by Ismael Polanco's grand slam. Jackson starter Jimmy Cole never made it out of the 3rd, and the game was in little doubt at that point. Louisville won 14-5 and survived the series 3-2; they get to play Milwaukee, the defending champions, in the next round.
#5 Scranton Janitors vs. #4 Las Vegas Gamblers
These two teams (Scranton was Charlotte the last two seasons) have now met in the first round for 3 straight seasons. Charlotte won in season 3, and Las Vegas prevailed last season. The rubber match proved to be quite interesting.
In Game 1, Las Vegas's Wally Lawton was brilliant in front of the home crowd, pitching a 2-hit shutout over 7 innings. Meanwhile, the offense strung together 4 hits for 3 runs in the first to pace a 4-1 victory.
Game 2 was very similar to game 1, with the Scranton bats seemingly still back in Pennsylvania. They managed only 5 hits off Bob Delaney and 3 relievers, as the Gamblers won 7-1 to take a 2-0 series lead.
As Game 3 moved out of Las Vegas, Scranton finally found a winning hand; that hand was 3 of a kind. 3 solo homers (1 by Kevin Hyun, 2 by Randall Fisher-the last one a walk-off) would be all the offense the Janitors needed to take game 3 by a score of 3-2.
Game 4 saw Wally Lawton coming back to try and clinch the series for the Gamblers; he wasn't nearly as sharp in this one. The Janitors jumped out to a 6-0 lead after 2 innings and they hung on for a 6-4 win.
So the home team had won all 4 games, setting up an intriguing game 5 back in Vegas. It was a close game the whole way, as neither starter (Scranton's Norm Edwards and Las Vegas's Bob Delaney) got out of the 5th inning. The game was tied at 5 going into the 9th inning. Scranton's Brandon Rhodes led off with a single and promptly stole second. Randall Fisher's RBI single gave the Janitors a 6-5 lead, and Paxton Coleridge's RBI double increased the lead to 7-5. In the bottom of the inning, Al Carrasco drew a 1-out walk, but Aurelio Prieto bounced into a 5-4-3 double play to end the game and the Gamblers' season. The Janitors draw top-seeded Monterrey in the next round.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
One of the biggest, and most controversial, moves we made when taking over the Shadow Wolves was to trade away fan favourite Alex Lim to Fargo. Lim wanted to be on a contender, and we knew the Shadow Wolves were still a few years away from that status. We added a couple good young players, a good shortstop in Victor Naruda, and a great young pitcher in Victor Soto. We feel we got more than equal value for the trade.
We also brought in Pete Rubel in a trade with Chicago to be our number one starter, and he only performed adequate in the role. Talks have currently broken down with Pete, as he wants to test the FA market next spring. That is not to say that he won’t be returning to the Shadow Wolves, but we will weigh our options before committing to a long term contract with Rubel.
We also picked up a couple FA pitchers last spring, long relief pitcher Ralph Wilkins, and set-up man Max Delgado. We were very pleased with Delgado’s performance this year. He was one of our top pitchers. Wilkins, on the other hand, had a disappointing ERA, but we expect him to bounce back next season.
The final move we made to start the season had the best and most immediate impact. We dealt with New Orleans to pick up Pedro Medrano. Not only did he perform great this season, but he was our best starter. He finished with a 15-7 record, a 4.23 ERA, and a 1.35 WHIP. He is a rookie of the year candidate, and we wish him luck in the voting.
Alex Cornejo did a good job in the closing role, and Ivan Castilla put up some okay numbers as a starter (4.78 ERA, and 1.48 WHIP, and an impressive 176 strikeouts), but just couldn’t get the batters to help him out as his record dropped to 5-16, worst on the team.
Our two rule five pick ups were a mixed blessing. Rudy Franco didn’t have a good season pitching, and he also got into injury trouble. Hal Ball on the other hand had a good season for us with a .362 OBP and 39 stolen bases.
Abdullah Dillon, signed as a FA last spring as well, was a disappointment. If his play doesn’t improve early next season, we’ll look to deal him. Early season call ups, SS Ryan Hamill and C Hiram Spooneybarger each had a good season, though Hamill had an early set back with an injury. We expect big things from them in the future. Our best hitter this season ended up being mid season acquisition Felipe Ortiz, acquired from Monterrey. He played only 103 games with us, but drove in 71 runs and averaged .299 with a .369 OBP. He is a FA this summer, and management is considering what part he will play in the future of this franchise.
The most exciting news from this season is that four of our five minor league teams have made it into the post season, and the double A team fought hard for that last wild card spot, but came up just short. This is very promising news for the future of the franchise. We’ll be seeing a couple more young guys from the AAA club on the ML roster next season, and our High A team has an especially large crop of future MLers, and in a few years, those guys will be the ones leading us to our first World Series. The future is bright for the Shadow Wolves.
So the ownership and management group of the Boise Shadow Wolves would like to thank the team and the fans for a fun year, and look forward to making a bigger impact in the years to come.
#6 Salem over #3 Houston in 5. Something tells me Dunwoody and Salmon find a way to outduel Gates and Oliver.
#5 Chicago over #4 Cheyenne in 4. Jay Walker is going to play a big role at some point.
#1 Fargo over #5 Chicago in 3. Fargo's pitching shuts down the Snake Tamer offense.
#2 Atlanta over #6 Salem in 4. Atlanta rotation is deeper and can match the Sacrifices on offense.
#1 Fargo over #2 Atlanta in 6. I think Javy Henriquez has one of those postseasons where he is untouchable.
#3 Louisville over #6 Jackson in 5. I think the Legends have more talent on paper, but I think Jackson has enough to make this interesting. Don't be surprised if Jackson marches on.
#4 Las Vegas over #5 Scranton in 4. Am I really picking a below .500 team to win a playoff series? Apparently. I don't like Scranton's offense.
#1 Monterrey over #4 Las Vegas in 3. The Gamblers' run ends here. The Sultans are better on offense in in the rotation.
#2 Milwaukee over #3 Louisville in 4. Like Monterrey, they have too much talent. I'll give Louisville a game.
#2 Milwaukee over #1 Monterrey in 7. Whenever these two get together, it's a pick-em series. Last time they faced off in the ALCS was season 2, and that was an epic 7-game series. I expect nothing different.
Fargo over Milwaukee in 6. Henriquez, Arnold, Pierce, and company finally get their rings.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Johnnie Reagan: B-. Record was good (11-6), but just didn't pitch enough innings. Decent numbers, just not up to his standards.
Damion Mays: D. Way too much talent to be 10-10 with a 4.45 ERA in the NL.
R.J. Toca: C-. Started out great, came down to earth and ended up with similar numbers to Mays.
Enrique Rijo: B-. Exactly what you would expect from a #4 or 5 starter. Walks too many men.
Vic Rincon/Will Piper/Tito Mercedes- B. Spot starters, kept the team in games more often than not.
Bert Pierre: A-. Was very good in the swingman role, winning 10 games.
Rob Gilmore: B+. Solid season as the closer, saving 31 of 39.
Pablo Rojas: B. Pitched 99 innings as the main setup guy. Record wasn't good (4-7), rest of his numbers were solid.
Mitch Clark: C+. Came on a bit at the end, should get better from here.
Karl Coleman: C-. Mid-season callup had a decent ERA, but the league hit .300 against him. Still learning.
Bo Hatfield: F. Was brought in to do one thing (get out lefties). Did it rather poorly. ERA of almost 6.5, WHIP of 1.77. GM Gumbercules might as well have taken $1.7 million and flushed it down the toilet.
C Vasco Lopez: A-. ROY candidate wore down at bit at the end, but had a very nice season. Hit .300 for most of the year, dropped below at the end and hit 21 HRs. Threw out a respectable 30% of runners trying to steal. Only 25 years old.
1B Stephen Mills: C. Hit for a decent average, but 78 RBIs is a bit disappointing for a guy who had driven in 100 his previous two seasons.
2B Scot Hutton: C. Played way too much for the Traffic front office's liking. Had a decent season (.265-23-75, solid defensively), but strikes out way too much and wasn't worth $7 million.
SS Carlton MacDougal: B. Had his best offensive season since season 1 and wasn't terrible at short (20 errors). Could have driven in more runs.
3B Enrique Park: A-. Put up big-time power numbers (46 HRs, 116 RBI). Doesn't get a full A only due to the strikeouts (112).
LF Rico Valdez: B-. Scored over 100 runs, stole 72 bases, so he did what was expected of him. Just seems like something was missing- maybe it was all the games he missed or all the strikeouts.
CF Phil Nakajima: C+. Another guy who had a solid effort but just not enough to live up to his contract.
RF Duffy Brewington: C-. Only gets this high a grade because it wasn't really his fault- he was supposed to be the utility guy and wound up with the full-time job when Moss was shipped to Seattle. Hit some homers (13), but often looked lost at the plate, striking out almost once a game.
Fargo will be the top seed in the NL playoffs, and appear to be a World Series contender. Atlanta followed up last season's division win with a 110-win season, launching them into the elite group in this league- they'll be the 2 seed. Houston wins its 5th straight division title and will be the 3 seed. Cheyenne has come back from some hard times to win the West and be the 4th seed. Chicago is back in the playoffs as the first wild card team, and Salem beat out Trenton to claim the last spot.
On the down side, Vancouver followed up their World Series appearance with a last-place record, and Salt Lake City (last season's NL West winners) couldn't manage a .500 record. Norfolk and San Juan were also disappointments, and Austin lost 107 games for the NL's worst record.
Stan Starr for Atlanta came out of the shadows of last season's (now traded) MVP Matty Matos and put up a monster seasonof his own. Cap Herrera of Vancouver may be watching the playoffs, but he'll claim the batting title. Osvaldo Johnson hit 65 HRs and drove in 140. Lonny Gates for Houston went 17-7 in his rookie season and appears to be headed for great things. Teammate Jerome Oliver led the league with 19 wins.
Monterrey and Milwaukee (big surprise) will be the top 2 seeds and have the byes- each wins its 5th straight division title. Louisville wins the East again and grabs the 3rd seed. Las Vegas will get into the playoffs with a below .500 record as the "winners" (read: least terrible) of the AL West). The Scranto franchise will make its 3rd straight appearance in the playoffs as one of the wild card teams. They will be joined by a team with a $17 million payroll in Jackson, a first time entry. The matchups have yet to be determined. Disappointing teams are: the entire AL West (all below .500), Oklahoma City (worst record in the AL), New York (just short of .500) and Boston (did I really pick them to win the East? Oops).
Buffalo finished in last place again, but the bright spot was 1B Julio Diaz, who made a leap into stardom this season. Ismael Polanco, Louisville's 1B, did the same. Milwaukee's Luis Martinez goes 40-40 (46 HRs, 64 SBs) for the second time in his career, joining Monterrey's Ryan Snyder (seasons 3 and 4) as the only guys to go 40-40 twice (Gregg Black is the only other player to do it once). St. Louis's Nick Hernandez wins the batting title, with Diaz taking the other 2 Triple Crown categories. Milwaukee's Woody Hiller and Monterrey's Albert Gonzalez tied with 19 wins for the league lead.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Milwaukee Manic Maulers has already clinched the North title and probably the #2 seed in the playoffs.
Louisville Legends has all but wrapped up the East with an 11 game lead and probably the #3 seed.
Monterrey Sultans has clinched the South title and probably the #1 seed.
Las Vegas Gamblers are in first place in the ugly West but for how long? The Anaheim Chiles could win the West. Either way it will be by a team with a sub .500 record unless one of the two get real hot. The Gamblers have all their games at home and with their home record doesn't look good. The Chiles have most of their games at home also and their home record is just as abysmal. Who will win and form the looks of it who cares?
The wild card spots are all up for grabs as four teams could claim a berth and two with an outside chance. The Jackson Vipers have the best chance at the moment. The Scranton Janitors, Nashville Sounds and New York new york all have other plans and design on both spots. The Syracuse Simpletons and the St. Louis Silly Nannies are in position if the others falter.
Fargo Dirtbags have more or less clinched the North title and hold the #1 seed.
Atlanta Bandits has clinched the East division title and are fighting for the #1 seed.
Houston Riverdogs has clinched the South division title and probably the #3 seed.
Salem Sacrifices are in first place today but only by a game as the faltering Cheyenne Nation have lost 7 in a row. The winner will claim the #4 seed and the loser probably a wild card spot.
The wild card sees the Chicago Snake Tamers with the #5 seed at the moment and holds a sizable lead over the two West contenders. The Trenton Traffic is holding out hope as their current 7 game win streak has propelled them into contention. Should Cheyenne continue their losing ways, Trenton will be their to claim the final prize.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
The Gamblers recently gave up on the oft injured Shooter Green and gave him his unconditional release fearing his elbow needs surgery in the off season though some doctors disagree. They seem to think that his back has changed his delivery and caused the problem. Either way the situation doesn't look good.
The search went on to find a left handed 1B in the organization as Gabe Hynes was given a chance to perform with little success and was released. Picked up by Austin and has not overwhelmed the coaches or management with his new team. Randy Baptist was given a season and a half with meager success and was released due to health reasons. He was picked up by Vancouver where he has been ripping the cover off the ball in the low minors. The Golden Otters are high on the kid but know about his lack of success at the ML level but may give him another shot at roster expansion. Karim Batista won the job then immediately sprained his shoulder sliding into second base and is out for the season. There is no justice in this game at all sometimes.
Jay Hegan also won the job at 3B and is progressing nicely at the position. William Hamilton also won a job but is frustrated at the lack of playing time.
The minors look pretty impressive as the Rookies are one win away from wrapping up the division and the number 1 seed already. Low A is one game away from a 100 win season and look to be the number 1 seed there also. High A has been contentious all season as all four teams in the division will have winning records but only three will make the playoffs. Double A sees the Gamblers in control of the number 1 seed at the moment with a very impressive road record. AAA looks pretty pathetic after taking most of the talent away but should have a winning record.
The question now is what is wrong at the ML level. Defense is adequate. Hitting is not so hot but actually performing better than last years team in many categories. Pitching looks bad but is performing adequately. Just seems like nothing is clicking together and I don't have an answer as to why.