Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holes, Warriors Advance To World Series

Jackson won a climactic 7th game with Hartford to get to the WS for the 2nd straight year, while Syracuse swept away Oakland to claim its first WS berth.

American League
The Holes took control of the LCS by winning the first 2 games on the road. In Game 1, all the scoring was done in the first 4 innings. Wilson Costello came alive for Jackson with 2 shots, and Jacque Fitzgerald stayed hot for the Katanas with a homer. Jackson prevailed 6-4. Game 2 wasn't as close as it looked, as Jackson pounded 7 homers to forge a 12-2 lead. Hartford staged an impressive rally with 6 in the 9th, but fell short, 12-8.

The teams traded wins at Jackson to give the Holes a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead, but then momentum shifted to the Comeback Katanas.

Aaron Torres took the hill for the Katanas in Game 5, with the team needing a strong effort. They got it, as Torres allowed only 3 hits and 1 run over 6, and the bullpen held Jackson scoreless for the last 3. Priest and Guerrero homered in a 5-1 win.

Billy Brocail was even better in Game 6, throwing 8 shutout innings. Langston and Fitzgerald drove in 2 each, and the Katanas beat Jackson's ace Johnny Collier to even the series.

Game 7 started well for the Holes when Billy Ray Hernandez led off with a homer; Jackson added a second run in the inning and a third in the 2nd on a Maranon solo shot, but Hartford roared back with 5 in their half of the third. The Katanas led 5-4 going into the 6th when Jackson broke it open - 4 homers in the 6th and 7th highlighted 8 runs and a 12-5 lead. Hartford tried to rally in the 9th but fell short, 12-7.

Jackson and Hartford have now duked it out in the last 4 ALCS's, with Hartford winning in Seasons 10 and 11, and Jackson taking Seasons 12 and 13.

National League
The Syracuse pitching staff was the story of the NLCS, holding the high-powered Oakland offense to 8 runs in a 4-game sweep.

Brian Nakajima was the star of Game 1, going 6 innings and allowing 1 run. Pinzon and Montero homered in a 13-2 shellacking.

Ruben James was almost as effective in Game 2, going 6 and allowing 2 runs. The Surenos scored twice off closer P.T. Lincoln in the 9th, but Lincoln recovered to get the last 2 outs and close out a 5-4 win.

It was Felix Woodward's turn in Game 3. The 33 year-old righty continued the trend, giving up just 1 run over 8 innings. Marte and Daal homered to hang a 3-1 loss on Surenos ace and playoff star Gary Ramsay.

Clark Jensen completed the sweep with a 6-inning, 1-run outing. Daal, Brogna and Montero homers paced the offense in a 7-1 win.

Syracuse now moves on to its first Belle World Series ever, and it's back to the drawing board for Oakland, who many Belle pundits had picked to win it all this year.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

LCS Previews

Hartford and Jackson meet in the LCs for the 4th straight year. The Katanas won the first 2 meetings; the Holes swept last year en route to their first World Series title.

Jackson won last year largely with stingy pitching. This year's staff, with the exception of Johnny Collier, didn't live up to last year's standards. Del Mendoza was especially disappointing: 18-5, 2.89 and an All-Star last year, he fell to 10-11, 5.38 this season. Add to that the falloff of Wilson Costello to mere mortal status, and the Holes don't seem to have the same invincible status as they did last year.

Hartford stepped up both offensively and pitchingly, leading the league in both runs scored and ERA. Little Rock tested that pitching staff in the DCS, roughing up Brocail , Valdes and Benitez in the first three games. Rodriguez and Torres righted the ship in Games 4 and 5, casting some doubt on the Katanas' LCS rotation.

Hartford took the season series 8-2. Regardless of who's on the mound, they'll be too much for the Holes this year. Katanas in 6.

Oakland gets to the LCS for the 2nd straight year, while Syracuse returns after a 2-year absence.

These teams were very close statistically - the Surenos lead the league in runs scored, while the Warriors came in #2. Oakland was #5 in ERA, Syracuse was 7th. Both teams made mid-season moves to get pitching help (and both paid off): Oakland landed Gary Ramsay, who went 13-6, 2.77 after the trade; Syracuse got Ruben James, who went 9-2, 2.42 for them.

Oakland took the season series 6-4, so they were pretty close there. Look for a close series...Surenos in 7.

Division Round Recaps

Both sets of 1 and 2 seeds advanced in Division-Round Playoffs that saw a dominant wins, 2 exciting 5-gamers, and 1 series that was closer than it looked.

Hartford vs. Little Rock: The Katanas charged back from 0-2 to win in 5. Jacque Fitzgerald hit .500 with 5 HR's and 9 RBI.

Jackson vs. Richmond: Unlikely power source Omar Freeman (9 regular-season HR's) slammed a solo HR in the top of the 10th in Game 4, sending the Holes on to the LCS.

Oakland vs. Mexico City: Gary Ramsay (17 innings, 1.06 ERA) won all 3 for the Surenos, who move on to the LCS for the second straight year.

Syracuse vs. Charleston: Knocking on the door the last 2 seasons, the Syracuse franchise swept the Apologists to move on to the LCS for the first time since Season 10.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Single-Season Records Set This year

We had 2 new single-season records in major categories this year (that I know of...send me corrections if I missed something):

Wins: Hartford won 125, surpassing the old record of 122 by the Season 7 Charleston Apologists.

Saves: Little Rock's Geoff Sosa notched 50 saves, topping the previous record of 49 set by Brian Caruso of the Season 8 Pittsburgh Alleghenies (now the Jacksonville Jokers).

Division Round Preview

Wild card teams took 3 of the 4 play-in series, although they could hardly be called upsets. Things should get tougher for the wild cards going against the top 2 seeds, though. Here's a look at the upcoming Division Playoff Series':

Little Rock vs. Hartford: the numbers all say Hartford, as they won the season series 7-3. The teams are pretty even pitching-wise, but the Katanas outscored the Pebbles by almost 400 runs during the regular season. If Little Rock can keep games close and inject the "Sosa Factor," they have a chance, but that seems like a steep hill to climb. Hartford in 4.

Jackson vs. Richmond: Richmond surprisingly won the season series, 6-4, and the teams are very close statistically. Jackson won more games than their runs differential would predict (103 vs. 98), and Richmond won fewer (88 vs 92). So, while the safe pick would be to go with the Champs, I'm saying Richmond in 5 for what is only a mild upset pick.

Mexico City vs. Oakland: Gary Ramsay wasn't unbeatable after joining Oakland, but he was 13-6, 2.77. With Ramsay starting twice, and the league's leading offense (947 runs), I think The Surenos will be too much for Mexico City. Oakland in 4.

Charleston vs. Syracuse: perhaps the most intruging second-round series. The Warriors took the season series 6-4. Statistically, Charleston appears to have an edge in pitching, although the Warriors' late-season pickup of Ruben James (9-2, 2.42 in 14 starts) makes it closer than the numbers suggest. Syracuse has a slight edge on offense, and the teams were identical on defense. I'm only confident in predicting it'll go 5, and I'm going to hedge my prediction just slghtly: whoever wins Game 1 gets thte only advantage there is to get and wins the series.

Play-In Round Recap

Augusta vs, Little Rock: These teams split in the regular season, suggesting a tight series. But Little Rock's pitching staff dominated Augusta, holding the Polar Bears to a .173 BA and 7 runs in a sweep.

Tucson vs. Richmond: Down 2-0, the Poor Men charged back to win the last 3 and advance tot he Division Round. The turning point was the 9th inning of Game 3: Richmond lead 3-0, but the Sidewinders scratched out 2 runs and put the tying run on, but closer Jacob Franklin got a popout and a groundout to end the threat.

Mexico City vs. Burlington: Desperadoes starters Luis Redondo, Cory Mitchell and Pedro Encarnacion limited the Lake Monsters to 3 runs in their starts, and Mexico City took the series 4-1. Dicky Hudson lead the offense for Mexico City with 2 HR's and 5RBI.

Charleston vs. Las Vegas: Reports of Charleston's decline were apparently premature, as the Apologists knocked off a tough Las Vegas squad. Charleston used a familiar formula, as SP's Matty Vaughn, Kaz Lim and Bucky Alston were stifling. Lawrence Simspon threw 4 scorless innings in relief and Maximo Cota blasted 3 HR's.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

1st-Round Playoff Preview

NL seeding:
1. Oakland
2. Syracuse
3. Charleston
4. Burlington
5. Mexico City (via head-to-head tiebreaker)
6. Las Vegas

AL seeding:
2. Jackson
3. Tucson
4. Augusta
5. Little Rock
6. Richmond

1st-Round Pairings:

Charleston vs. Las Vegas:
The 69'ers won the season series 6-4, but that doesn't mean much come playoff time. Both teams can bring out impressive 3-man rotations - perhaps a slight edge to Vegas' Yamamoto, Miyakazi, and Satiago over Charleston's Lim, Vaughn and Romo. Both closers (Simpson for the Apologists and Gomez for the 69'ers) are near-locks with a 1-run lead in the 9th (and both are up for FOY). Charleston's offense has been more consistent, and its defense is superior. I've been picking against Charleston all year and I've learned my lesson...Apologists in 5.

Burlington vs. Mexico City:
After enduring a 9-game losing streak near season's end, the Desperadoes recovered to finish on a 7-3 run, including 3 of 4 over the Lake Monsters. These teams were 1-2 in ERA; Mexico City outscored the Monsters by a out 50 runs...not a significant number when you're talking about a best-of-three. Both teams are very good defensively and both closers have been good, but not unhittable. The numbers say it's a tossup...I'm picking Burlington in 5.

Tucson vs. Richmond:
Among the 8 play-in teams, Tucson's the only one who got there with its bats. The Sidewinders pegged an impressive 324 HR's in route to scoring 986 runs (2nd in AL) and a huge 31-win improvement The Poor Men bring a more balanced approach - 6th in runs and 4th in ERA. Gotta love what Tucson accomplished this year, but Richmond took the season series 7-3 and win this in 4.

Augusta vs. Little Rock:
The Pebbles' pitching staff was astounding all season and finished with a 4.23 ERA (2nd by a nose to Hartford). Closer Geoff Sosa set a new single-season saves record and posted a ridiculous .430 OPS-against. Jacque Butler won 18 for the 2nd consecutive year and will see lots of action for he Polar Bears. Both teams were right at the league average offensively, but Augusta features the stingier D. I'm going out on a limb and saying the Polar Bears keep Little Rock out of save situations...with Sosa neutralized, Augusta wins in 4.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Recruiting Help, Please

Of all the other owners in all your other worlds, who's the ONE you'd most like to see in Belle? (looks like we'll maybe 1-3 openings - just 1 confirmed now - and I'd like to fill them BY REFERRAL).

No need to do anything other than leave me a name either by comment here or tc - I'll contact them.