Monday, May 31, 2010

Surenos Get 2nd Straight Series

Oakland used a big 5-run 8th inning to come from behind and defeat Jackson, 8-3 in Game 6. The win gave Oakland its second straight World Series.

The Holes had jumped on Surenos ace Gary Ramsay for 3 runs in the first (courtesy of homers by Manzanillo and Perisho), and Carlos Ramirez and Glenn Benson held Oakland scoreless through 6. But the Surenos scratched out a run in the 7th and blew it open in the 8th (highlighted by a Rivera 2-run double and Mitch Hall's 2-run homer). They added a pair in the 9th, and Ramsay & co. were near-flawless after the 1st.

Oakland joins Memphis (Seasons 10 and 11 as Charleston Apologists) and Jackson (Seasons 12 and 13) among back-to-back WS winners in Belle. It also moves into sole possession of 2nd place on the list of total championships with 3 (Memphis has 4 as Charleston).

Sunday, May 30, 2010

World Series Review

Game 1
Daryl McCorley (Jackson) and Gary Ramsey (Oakland) - plus their respective bullpens - hooked up in an epic pitching duel in Game 1. The teams were scoreless through four and a half; Omar Freeman walked leading off the Jackson 5th, stole second, got to third on a single, and scored on Geronimo Perez' sac fly. That was it for the scoring - Holes' relievers Rodriguez, Sosa and Diaz allowed just 2 walks over the last 3 innings to close out the 1-0 Jackson victory.

Game 2
Wilfredo Feliz cracked a pair of 2-run homers - one in the big 7-run 5th - to pace a 12-4 Oakland win in Game 2. Danny Perisho had a pair of homers for Jackson.

Game 3
Game 3 saw the much-anticipated matchup of Cy Young winners Johnny Collier and Gary Ramsey. Neither disappointed - Collier went 5 scoreless innings and Ramsey 6 and 2/3 scoreless - but the Surenos' 'pen came out on top this time. Oakland got 3 in their half of the 7th on a pair of singles, Joe Rivera's 2-run double, and Matty Marrero's pinch single. That was all they needed - Oakland goes up 2 game to one with a 3-0 win.

Game 4
4-2 Surenos' win, and give the credit to the bullpen. Oakland starter Clyde Jackson was a little shaky - 2 runs in 3 and 2/3's of work. Andy Wilson entered the game in the 4th and started a parade of 4 Oakland relievers that held the Holes scoreless the rest of the way. Wilson's run-scoring single in the 4th turned out to be the game-winner. Erubiel Maduro hit his 10th homer of the playoffs for Oakland in the 1st. 3 games to 1 lead for the Surenos.

Game 5
Jackson exploded for 5 runs in the 5th inning, and Daryl McCorley and Quilvio Rodriguez combined on a 2-hitter as the Holes rebounded to take Game 5, 5-1. Omar Freeman and Hector Rodriguez had 2-run homers in the big 5th inning. Oakland leads 3 games to 2.

The Series returns to Jackson for Game 6 in the pm2 cycle.

Friday, May 28, 2010

LCS Roundups

It looked like we had a pair of routs in the LCS's, then we had a pair of near-comebacks. Here's the scoop:

National League

Oakland used its familiar formula (Ramsey for 70-odd pitches, Rolls-who was uncharacteristically bombed for 3 runs on 7 pitches, bullpen plus ample power) to take Game 1, 6-5. Feliz, Maduro (2) and Owens homered.

The familiar Game 2 formula (Jackson, a LR - this time Rolls was spotless over 4 innings - and short relief plus more power) worked like a charm in Game 2, for the Surenos, 5-2. Feliz, Maduro and Bonilla rovided the longballs.

Vegas may look back at Game 3 as the one that got away. With 1 run already in in the first inning, the 69ers got runners to 2nd and 3rd with none out. But Surenos starter Ramsey steadied and retired the next 3 batters, ending Vegas' only real threat of the game. Oakland tied it on a Uribe single in the 7th, and won it in the 9th on a Maduro single.

The 69ers rallied behind Benito Santiago in Game 4, collecting 15 hits in an 11-3 thrashing. Things got a little interesting when they followed up with a 6-3 series-tightener in Game 5.

They got very interesting when Vegas scored 5 in the 5th to take a 5-3 lead in Game 6 (Sammy Rincon's 3-run homer the highlight). And super-interesting when Oakland tied it in the 8th on singles by Bonilla and Rivera. The Surenos finally won it on another pair of singles by Bonilla and Rivera in the 10th, and Mike Sinpson shut down Vegas for the 8-5 win.

American League

Holes/Katannas VI began with a split on a couple of 6-5 games. Jackson pulled out the opener with 2 in the 9th on a McDonald homer and a Gardner double; Cleveland got the winner in Game 2 in the 8th on a Damaso Vazquez solo shot.

The 3rd straight 1-run game of the series went to the 8th with the Holes up, 7-4. Cleveland pulled to within 1 on an Otis Langston 2-run homer; Sosa and Diaz got the last 4 outs and Jackson had a 2 games to 1 lead.

When the Holes went up 3 games to 1 behind Collier and co. in Game 4 (4-1), it looked like an early exit for Cleveland. But they gutted out an 8-6 win in Game 5 (Simpkins' single in the 9th the game-winner), and set up Game 7 with a come-from-behind thriller in Game 6 (Joyner's 3-run homer in the 7th the deciding blow).

Game 7 was, to say the least, anticlimactic. Jackson jumped on AL Cy Young winner Aaron Torres for 6 runs in the first 2 innings and just kept swinging (and connecting). By the time the Katanna bats got on track, the Holes had 16 on the board, and cruised to an 18-5 thrashing (Costello and Manzanillo had 9 hits and 9 RBI).

So, Season 15 gets a replay of Season 14's Oakland-Jackson WS. It also marks Jackson's 4th straight WS trip.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Division Round Recaps

American League

Cleveland and Cincinnati split their first 2 games, then the Katannas took over. The lineup banged out 14 hits in Game 3 (homers by Wheat and Joyner), and Billy Brocail held Cincy to a run on 4 hits through 8 innings - Cleveland took an easy 8-1 win. The Waste Managers did manage to score first in Game 4, but from there it was another dominating win for Cleveland. Bill Priest slammed 2 homers and Lorenzo Rodriguez was in control for 8 innings in a 7-2 Cleveland romp.

Jackson opened against Salem by building up an 8-1 lead behind Johnny Collier's 5 scoreless innings of work. The Goonies rallied in the 9th on a Jose Vargas slam, but Orlando Diaz came in to get the last out and preserve an 8-5 win. Game 2 was a lesson in bunching hits. Salem's 1 run came on a solo shot by Leonardo Hardy, while Geronimo Perez' blast for Jackson followed a pair of singles. That was the difference...the Holes won 3-1 and opened a 2 games to none lead. Game 4 saw the Goonies get a pair of unearned runs on a Mark Liverman blast; outside of that, the Holes' Del Mendoza and 3 relievers were virtually unhittable. Costello and Perisho homered and Jackson had a 4-2 win and the sweep.

That sets up Holes/Katannas VI (Cleveland took the first 2; Jackson the last 3).

National League

In the first NL Division Series, Oakland's pitching completely manhandled Mexico City, giving up just 3 runs in the 3 games. Characteristically, Gary Ramsey handled a lot of the load, going 12 innings and allowing just a run. The Surenos didn't blow anybody out, but put up enough offense to win 2 of the 3 games comfortably (4 homers in the series, 2 by Erubiel Maduro). With the sweep, the Surenos move on to the NLCS for the 4th straight year.

The most interesting Division Series turned out to be #1 seed Las Vegas and #4 Burlington. The Lake Monsters ambushed Vegas at home, winning the first 2 games 4-2 and 4-3. The 69ers had their backs to the wall in Game 3 - they outhit Burlington 15-6 but still went to extra innings tied 3-3. Then Brad Perkins led off the 10th with a solo homer, and when Juan Gomez entered the game in the bottom of the 10th, it was money in the bank. Vegas had survived 4-3.

The Monsters seemed a little deflated in Game 4, as Adrian Jensen twirled a complete-game shutout. Bruskie and Wengert homered in a laugher (9-0).

Burlington seemed to have their mojo back in Game 5 - solo homers by starting pitcher Teddy Nelson and Wes Phillips staked them to a 2-1 lead in the third. But Vegas roared back with 3 in their half of the third and 1 more in the 4th for a 5-2 lead. That's how it ended, as Pat Yamamoto went 6 and 2/3rds for the 69ers, and Borges and Gmoex allowed no runners over the final 2 and and third.

Vegas moves on to the NLCS for the first time since Season 11, when they lost to the eventual WS Champ Charleston Apologists (now Memphis).

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tenure Trivia

It seems at least a little significant that Belle has now completed 15 seasons. While awaiting the pm1 cycle, I looked around and figured out the we still have 7 original owners (JAMESA, EasyE7273, jiml60, rlahann, toddcommish, bdrose and dennisdee). Plus another 8 with 11 years +. I think that's pretty impressive. Maybe we'll give the originals a pair of Joey Belle cufflinks or something at next year's Winter Meetings kickoff banquet.

Average tenure of ownership overall is 8.22 seasons. Despite having 6 of the 7 original owners, the NL trails slightly, 8.0 to 8.44 for the AL.

"Most-tenured" divisions: AL South at 11.25 and NL West at 11. Least-tenured: NL North at 6 and NL South at 6.75.

Friday, May 21, 2010

NL Awards

Much closer race than the AL. Marquis Seo was the dominant hitter in the NL this year - even only playing 127 games, his Runs Created was tops (his rc/27 topped #2 Cesar Liriano's by 39%!). Ray Henley led the world in RBI (163), tied for 3rd in NL HR's, and was 3rd in Runs Created. Now the interesting twist...Gold Glove at 1B with a .999 fielding percentage and 24 plus plays. Given that he played 155 games to Seo's 127, is he more valuable? Very possibly.

I think there's a reasonable case to vote for either Bailey Johnson or Sid Selby. Both had excellent offensive seasons - Johnson as a cleanup hitter and Selby as a leadoff man - and both played demanding positions (3B and CF) well (not Gold Glove well, but close to it). But the fact that both were on teams that missed the playoffs (after making them last year), while Seo's and Henley's teams made the playoffs, deducts points in my opinion.

A brief word on the curious candidacy of Wilt McDowell. Terrific player...could well win an MVP down the road. But he was 25th in Runs Created...not even in the top 25 in rc/27. Remember the update a couple of seasons ago where the # of "+" plays got more evenly distributed (before that, it seemed like almost all were by CF's)? Well, 1B's are recording a huge # of "+"plays these days (McDowell had 15), and I suspect the "MVP-candidate-generator" is looking at those "+" plays regardless of position. I'd welcome any other explanations.

I've got to go with Henley in what I think will be a tight race.

Cy Young
Here are each candidate's OPS against numbers:

Jackson - .591; DeJesus - .617; Huff - .621; Redondo - .595; Gomez - .462 (no, that's not a typo).

Juan Gomez had an unbelievable year, but he should NOT get the Cy Young. Throwing 200+ innings as a starter (or in Jackson's case, an every-other-day long reliever) is a different ballgame than 75 innings as a closer. That said, it WOULD be interesting to see what Gomez would do if used the way Oakland used Jackson. I don't know if you could get 200 innings, but I bet you'd get close.

That said, this is a race between Jackson and Redondo. Even though wins are a meaningless stat for pitchers, it should be noted that Jackson DID set a new single-season record this year (old record was 27 by teammate Ramsey last year), so he gets my vote for that accomplishment.

Rookie of the Year
Let's put Kennie Frascatore's season in perspective: his OPS against was .588 - better than any of the (real) Cy Young candidates. 'Nuff said - just as dominant a performance as Simpkins' in the AL. Tip of the cap to both Fresno and El Paso with 2 ROY candidates each.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

First-round recap

You never know what 's going to happen in the playoffs...we had 3 sweeps and one nail-biter upset in the first round.

National League
Oakland pounded out 14 hits to take Game 1 (9-6) against Syracuse, then used a stingy bullpen (6 and 2/3's scoreless innings) to hold on for a 4-3 win in Game 2. The Warriors rebounded on the road to make Game 3 interesting. Trailing 7-4 in the 9th, they coaxed 3 walks and Alberto Pinzon tied the game with a 1-out bases-clearing double. The Surenos brought in lefty Mike Simpson to face Seo and Benitez, and he retired both on flyouts to send it to extras. Joe Rivera finally ended it with an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th to seal the sweep.

Ottawa fired their 3 young aces (DeJesus, Arias and DeJean) at the Lake Monsters and came up empty in a mild surprise. Burlington's Nigel Bowen outdueled DeJesus, 2-1 in the opener. It looked like Arias was going to even the series in Game 2, staking the Ice to a 3-0 lead after 7 innings. The 'pen faltered, though, and Burlington scored 2 in the 8th and 2 more in the 9th to pull out Game 2. The tough Game 2 loss seemed to deflate the Ottawa 9 a bit...they appeared listless at the plate and committed 2 errors. The Lake Monsters piled on 3 in the 9th to turn another close game into a convincing 7-3 win.

American League
Salem followed the same pattern as Burlington, winning 2 close games and doinating the finale. Nashville outhit the Goonies in Game 1 (12-8) but came up just short with a 9th-inning rally...Salem prevailed 4-3. Game 2 was eerily similar, as the Ramblers outhit Salem again (10-8 this time) and came up short on a late-inning rally. Jon Spence shut down Nashville for the last inning and a third to get the save for the Goonies. Salem cranked 6 homers (2 from C Brad Anderson, who was the hitting star of the series with 7 RBI), enjoyed a strong start from Charles Matsumoto, and cruised to an 11-2 win in Game 3.

When Cincinnati took the first 2 games at home against Washington D.C. (the second a combined 3-hit shutout by Glenn Wulf and Edgar Perez), it looked like we might have 4 sweeps in Round 1. But the Revenge stormed back in Game 2 with homers from Pride and Morales and 7 shutout innings by Norm Barkley - D.C., wins 8-4. When Rob Workman and Larry Sutton returned the 1-0 shutout favor in Game 4, D.C. tied the series and set up the climatic Game 5.

D.C. struck first on a Miguel Mesa single, but Cincy came right back with 2 in their half of the first on an Ivan Maranon solo homer and Alex Diaz' RBI single. From there, Waste Manager starter Gerald Lackey was absolutely dominant, giving up just 1 more hit over the next 7 innings. Cincy added 1 in the 2nd and 2 in the 6th, and Hanley Lowry shut down the Revenge in the 9th to send Cincinnati to the Division ROund for the 2nd straight year.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

AL Awards

While we're waiting for the first playoff round to complete, thought I'd dive into the awards voting. Let's go AL first:

Frequently the MVP question becomes this: "Did the slugger (usually a 1B, DH, RF or LF) slug so much better than the 2B/3B/SS/CF (who also had a great offensive season, but usually a bit below the slugger) that it offsets the 2B/3B/SS/CF's defensive contribution?" If the only "defensive contributor" on that ballot had been perennial MVP candidate Victor Morales, that answer would be "yes". But due to the surprise emergence of Thomas Simpkins, the answer is a resounding "no".

Not only did Simpkins equal (and in most cases, surpass) the offensive contributions of Mesa, Brantley and Booker (2nd to Brantley in rc/27, tops in all Belle in HR's) he won the Gold Glove in CF to boot!

I can't remember a clearer choice for MVP - I'll be surprised if he doesn't approach 25 votes.

Cy Young
The AL Cy Young features 5 starters with fairly similar numbers. All between 17-20 wins... a little more range in the ERA comparisons. I'm one of those, though, that believes wins give almost no indication of who pitched the best, and that ERA's aren't a lot better (for example, a starter leaves in the 8th with 2 outs and the bases loaded, in a game his team is winning 10-0. Simmy brings in the mopup guy, who gives up a slam - 3 runs charged to the starter). Especially in close races like this one, I like to check qualitative stats that give a better idea of how a guy pitched, without the distortions of situations like the one described. HBD doesn't give us the pitching version of rc/27, so the best we can do is OPS against:

Martinez - .718; Torres - .650; Workman - .651; Valdes - .608; Wanatabe - .625

Looks to me like Valdes was the best pitcher in teh AL this season. Somehow I doubt he'll win, but he has my vote.

Rookie of the Year
If Simpkins is a shoe-in for MVP, he's a shoe-in-on-steroids for ROY (which might be the reason some owners DON'T vote for him for MVP, ironically). Simpkins' stunning season overshadowed 4 other nice rookie campaigns. 2 ROY candidates means things are looking up for Columbus.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Playoff Matchups

After some tight playoff races here's how things shook out:
American League

Cleveland coasted to the #1 seed with 114 wins behind a potential ROY/MVP year by Thomas Simpkins. Jackson rode a season-closing 19-6 run to its 8th straight South title and the #2 seed.

In the tightest race, Nashville got a 1-hit shutout from Harold Bryant to beat Richmond 9-0 in Game 161. That win gave the Ramblers the season series over the Poor Men and locked up the second wild card.

In the first play-in matchup, #4 Cincinnati takes on #5 Washington D.C.. The Revenge would seem to have the stats edge in both hitting and pitching, but the Waste Managers played 'em to a 5-5 tie in the season series. The winner here gets the top-seeded Katanas.

Salem meets Nashville in the other play-in bracket. The Ramblers are making their second straight playoff appearance, while the Goonies return after a 1-year absence. This could be a slugfest - both of these teams scored over 860 runs and neither staff was up the to the league average ERA. Salem owned the season series, sweeping the Music City squad 10-0. The winner moves on to face 3-time defending AL Champ Jackson.

National League

Turns out the tightest race in the NL was for the #1 seed. Syracuse dropped their last 3 to Ottawa, leaving Mexico City and Las Vegas tied at 102 wins. The teams split their season series, and both went 16-14 in their divisions (2nd tiebreaker). That brings us to the 3rd tiebreaker, runs differential. The Desperadoes scored 828 and gave up 693, for a differential of 135. Vegas plated 782 and allowed 623 for a differential of 159, and wins the #3 tiebreaker for the first seed.

Burlington took its 4th straight East crown and get the 4th seed. Ottawa returns to the playoffs for the first time since Season 3. They meet in the play-in round after splitting their season series. Both teams had effective pitching staffs with ERA's well under 4.00. Ottawa may have an edge on offense, boasting NL RBI champ and MVP candidate Ray Henley. The winner draws #1 seed Las Vegas.

The other play-in series features #3 Syracuse and #6 Oakland in a rematch of the last 2 NLCS's. The Surenos had the NL's best ERA and have the edge there. The Warriors claim the offensive edge, with Marquis Seo posting an MVP-worthy season. The teams split the season series. Winner gets 2 seed Mexico City.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Playoff Picture With 30 Games To Go

Still some interesting dogfights for playoff spots as we approach the roster expansion date:

American League

In the North, last year's champ Cincinnati holds a 4-game lead over pesky Augusta. The Polar Bears will have to try to overhaul the Waste Mangers - they're out of the wild card picture.

In the East, Cleveland has all but wrapped up its 10th straight division championship; D.C. and Pittsburgh remain alive in the wild card.

The South is the best entertainment available in HBD, with nobody out of it. Nashville and Little Rock are currently in a dead heat, with 7-time defending champ Jackson 3 back and Richmond 4 back.

In the West, Salem is coasting to its 2nd crown in 3 years - hats off to cmthieme for the nice turnaround.

The Wild Card looks like it will go down to the last day and invoke multiple tiebreakers. 5 teams are battling for the 2 spots: D.C., Pittsburgh and all 3 South teams that don't win the division.

National League

A little more straightforward, with Syracuse, Burlington and Mexico City in firm control of the North, East and South. Las Vegas holds a 7-game lead over Oakland in th West; the 69ers' pitching has been lights-out all year, but it's too early to count out the defending WS Champ Surenos.

If they can't catch Vegas, Oakland leads the Wild Card by 2 games over the much-improved Ottawa squad, with Sioux Falls and Austin 5 back. Not quite the free-for-all featured in the AL, but a good quality race.