Mar 28, 2008

Power Rankings @ 149 Games

With 16 games remaining, the playoff teams have all made themselves known, with the exception of the final NL Wild Card Spot. Consequently, this last, regular season posting of the power rankings will cover the 11 playoff "locks" and this last race.

1. Pittsburgh Ponies [102-47, Run Differential (RD): +292, Prev. Ranking (PR): 2]

Ponies get the top spot due to their Griffey-best 102 wins, coupled with the facte that any playoff opponent would likely face the untouchable Matt Ross three times in a seven game series. It would be tough to quantify Ross's dominance succinctly, but here's a try: The Pittsburgh ace has more complete games on the season (25) than earned runs allowed (23). The Ponies' bullpen is solid, but can be beaten, provided opponents can even get to it.

2. New York Yank-mes (97-52, RD: +220, PR: 3)

The Yank-mes appear to be the top team in the NL, having posted solid records against the primary NL Contenders. Specifically, New York has gone 7-3 against San Antonio, 3-3 vs. Fuzznuts, and 7-3 against Atlanta. A pitching staff featuring a 1-2 punch of twin aces Juan Cordero and Terry Torres should lead New York far into the post season.

3. Fargo Fuzznuts (99-50, RD +331, PR: 1)
The Fuzznuts lost some of their swagger since the time of the last Power Rankings, having dropped key series against top NL contenders Atlanta and San Antonio (twice). The Fuzznuts do not appear to match up well against either team, having posted a 2-8 record against San Antonio and 4-6 against Atlanta; Fargo is 3-3 against New York, another team that figures prominently in the NL picture.

4. Cheyenne Duck Snorts(93-56, RD: +212, PR: 10)
Unquestionably, the Duck Snorts have been the AL's hottest team since the time of the last Power Rankings, having posted a gleaming 30-7 mark over the past 37 games. This impressive run included 23 games against the full gamut of Junior Circuit contenders [Pittsburgh (6 games), NY (7 games), Charleston (3 games), Montreal (3 games), and Philadelphia (4 games)], against whom Cheyenne posted a 16-7 record. Cheyenne is a deep team, well-built for the regular season, but the Duck Snorts lack the true pitching ace to make them a threat to contend for the AL Crown.

5. Atlanta Ripettoes (92-57, RD: +115, PR: NR)

Atlanta was quite vocal after feeling slighted during the last power rankings, but rather than sulk about it, the Ripettoes got it done on the field in tallying impressive series wins over top NL opponents New York, Fargo and San Antonio. Like Cheyenne, Atlanta features a deep pitching staff, but also lacks the top-shelf starting pitcher to go toe-to-(Rippet)toe with New York or maybe even Fargo in a short playoff series.

6. San Antonio fighters (92-57, RD:+198, PR 4)
The fighters have been enigmatic in the 2nd half, at times looking sharp and at times looking very beatable. The defending NL Champs will have to regain their stride here in the last week if they want to make a title run.

7. Montreal Valiants (85-64, RD: +143, PR: 6)
It's difficult to tell whether this record is a true indicator of Montreal's talent, as they could have put the season in cruise control 30 games ago. The Valiants have been lead offensively by rookies Russell Brow (.391 OBP)and Tike Hayes (55 HR, 138 RBI)

8. Los Angeles Mojo (86-63, RD: +107, PR: 9)
The Mojo are another team who can put it on auto pilot for the remainder of the season. NL MVP hopeful Chuck Simmons has found the Mojo's new digs much to his liking here in Season 7 having belted 45 HR in a renowned pitchers park. Simmons will have to maintain pace if the Mojo want to contend with the NL heavyweights.

9. Charleston Cobras (83-66, RD: +108, PR: 5)

The champagne is on ice in Charleston, as a repeat divsion title looks readily in hand. Javier Marquez claimed another Player of the Week Honor this week, so the Cobras appear to be in top form heading into the playoffs. Last season, the Cobras gave the Ponies all they could handle in the ALCS, and hope to improve on that performance once the playoffs start.

t-10. Philadelphia Revolution (85-62, RD: +85, PR: NR)

Philadelphia finally overcame a disappointing start to make the AL East Race interesting. The Revolution feature a flight to the top of the division standings has been lead by the powerful bat of DH R.A. Flier, who boasts the AL's top OPS (1.188). Philly still has an outside chance of catching Cheyenne to claim the second first-round bye, but given the short schedule remaining, the stars would really have to align for the Revolution.

t-10. New York Cyclones (85-64, RD: +73, PR: 9)

New York has struggled desperately to fend off the Revolution, but fatigue has set in for the Cyclones. Key bats, including MVP hopeful Richie Miller desperately need some time off if the Cyclones want to make the most of their inevitable playoff berth. With rested bats, New York could make some noise, since opponents could see more of Philip Black with a shortened rotation.

12. 2nd NL Wild Card????

Who knows what will happen with this race, but this is probably the story of the year in Griffey. Four teams (KC, Cincinnati, Tacoma, Pawtucket) are within a game of the final berth. The wild card has been KC's to lose all year, but the Twisters have floundered badly in the 2nd half. The Centipedes boast a +156 run differential, which compares favorably with many others on this list. Tacoma, on the other hand has been outscored on the year, so their presence in the race has been something of a surprise; however, a change in management has clearly helped. Pawtucket will face Atlanta and New York in their final series, which would seem to be a strike against the G-Maniacs' chances; however, those teams may be resting up for the playoffs at that time, which may give Pawtucket a puncher's chance.

Mar 15, 2008

Power Rankings @ 112 Games

1. Fargo Fuzznuts [76-36, Run Differential (RD): +265 , Prev Rank (PR): 1]
Fargo continues to play excellent ball, and the All-Star Break did not appear to slow them at all, as they ripped off a 12-2 stretch during a torrid 22-7 stretch. However, Fargo took the short end of a hard-fought three game series against defending NL Champ San Antonio, dropping 2 of 3.

2. Pittsburgh Ponies (77-35, RD: +217, PR: 2 )
Since getting swept by Fargo on February 27, the Ponies have been consistently dominant, losing only one series since that time. However, while the Fuzznuts have peers in the NL, the Ponies are without equal in the AL -- the AL's second best record, New York, trails Pittsburgh by a full 12 games.

3. New-York Yank-mes (75-37, RD: +149, PR: 4)
The Yank-mes had their division lead cut to one game following an awful 4-10 stretch, but reminded the Ripettoes who the leader was, shellacking Atlanta 7-4, 16-7, and 9-3 for the sweep. Significant tests await the Yank-mes during the last third of the season, including 22 games against top-10 teams in the schedule, plus three more games against Atlanta who will be out for blood. While the Yank-mes would be considered a pitching-heavy team, it should be noted that Alan Green is the league leader in OPS (1.173) by a significant margin (2nd place is KC's Edwin O'Malley at 1.021).

4. San Antonio fighters (69-43, RD: +152, PR: 3 )
Not to be outdone, the fighters showed a little vulnerability themselves, posting 3-11 mark around the All-Star Break, including a sweep by Syracuse. Offense continues to be the San Antonio's strength, however, as four fighters rank in the league's top 20 for OPS.

5. Charleston Cobras (64-48, RD: +102, PR: 6)
Charleston has dropped their last two series (a three-game set against Cheyenne, and a four-game series against Trenton), but has otherwise been solid since the All-Star Break. Torrid hitting from Home Run Derby champ Frank Lee has helped shoulder the burden left by a solid, but second-tier pitching staff. Lee has combined with perennial All-Star Javier Marquez for 78 HR already, and the duo should have 200 RBI between them within the next few games.

6. Montreal Valiants (65-47, RD: +105, PR: 7)
Montreal boasts the second-best run differential in the AL, and should be able to improve their record as a relatively soft schedule remains -- the Valiants have only 10 games left in the schedule against teams currently ranked in the top-10. If Montreal maintains pace, they will spend the home stretch watching who will claim the 4th seed in the AL -- their most likely opponent in the playoffs.

7. Kansas City Twisters (64-48, RD: +77, PR: t-8 )

Since the All-Star break, the Twisters have taken three of four from San Antonio and split a four-game set in Fargo, which shows the Twisters can hang with the big boys. As noted earlier, Edwin O'Malley and his league-leading batting average (.341) continue to lead the offense; however, the right fielder is not without help -- Braden Duncan has slugged 32 HR and 101 RBI, and Lariel Santana leads the league in runs with 96.

8. New York Cyclones (65-47, RD: +69, PR: 9)
New York has caught fire, posting a blistering 21-11 mark since the time of the last power rankings. This sustained success may have buried the Wolves chances for division glory, as they lag the Cyclones by nine games. However, the Revolution are still in the hunt at four games back. Considering New York's sub-.500 finish in Season 6, Philip Black (second in the AL in WHIP with 1.10) is easily the off-season's most important free-agent signing. MVP candidate Richie Miller has buoyed the offense with a league-leading 68 SBs to go along with an impressive .963 OPS.

9. Los Angeles Mojo (66-46, RD: +89, PR: 10)
The Mojo crept into the top-10 last time around, and justified the acknowledgement by winning a full two-thirds of their games, going 22-11 over the duration. However, it must be noted that the Mojo played only one game against a top-10 team during that stretch -- the tail-end of a three game sweep by Fargo. The Mojo must continue to fatten up on the league's weak sisters, as a ten game stretch against the Yank-mes and fighters awaits them during the stretch run.

10. Cheyenne Duck Snorts (63-49, RD: +83, PR: 5)
The Duck Snorts' continued bouts of inconsistency move them down 5 spots in the Power Rankings. At one point over the past stretch, Cheyenne maintained an 8 game lead in the AL West, but failed to bolster their lead in dropping series against bottomfeeders Texas and Salem. With a mere 3 game lead in front of surging Colorado, the Duck Snorts' grasp of the division lead appears tenuous.

Mar 6, 2008

Ducksnorts Outlast Ross, Ponies 5-4

PITTSBURGH -- Matt Ross and Alfredo Nieves pitched one for the ages, as the Cheyenne Ducksnorts outlasted the Pittsburgh Ponies 5-4 in 14 innings.

The pitchers hurled dueling, four-hit shutouts through eight innings, until Pascual Tarraga faced the Ponies to start the ninth.

Tarraga matched the Pittsburgh ace goose egg for goose egg until he handed the ball to Eddie Buckley in the 10th, and Javy Andujar finally relieved Ross to start the 11th inning.

Buckley tossed three shutout innings until yielding to Jesse Mitchell in the 13th, and he promptly retired the Ponies' third and fourth batters and catcher Jose Mieses nabbed Matty Hernandez stealing second to end the inning.

Cheyenne 1B Arthur Grace crushed a solo homer to start the 14th, and Andujar gave up a Mieses single and a two-run Tim Broome homer before getting the collar.

Kordell Blair entered the game, forced a Blade Becker ground out, walked Aramis Santiago and Sean Jordan, and struck out Julio Sanchez before the floodgates opened.

Henry Sutton blooped an RBI single, scoring Santiago, and a Julius Ramsey throwing error allowed Harvey Sutton to arrive safely at first and drive in Jordan, the former Ponies backup.

Grace, who opened the scoring and the inning, flied out to right field.

The Ponies did not go quietly, as Bob Laker walked and pinch-hitter Ewell Ausmus dropped a ground-rule double into right-centerfield.

The crowd, now on its feet, groaned as Alejandro Johnson struck out, and Sammy Vicente entered the game and promptly walked Daryl Sears to load the bases.

Juan Benitez flied out weakly to left-centerfield, but leadoff man Mark Russell swung from his heels and knocked a mammoth grand slam into the right-centerfield bleachers.

The Pittsburgh crowd, grown so accustomed to wins, sensed that they were on the verge of witnessing perhaps the greatest Ponies comeback in history as the team's best hitter, Juan Tejada, strode to the plate.

However, the blow of defeat was more crushing than the hit he mustered, as the slugging 1B grounded meekly to second base to snuff out a summertime classic.

Mar 5, 2008

NL East Draft Review

New York Yank-Mes

The Yank-Mes had never drafted any significant players under previous owner Makshim, but replacement gerald007 hoped to turn that around.

Carson Moss, RP- Moss will be a reliable setup man for 60-100 innings a season. At age 22, he only needs two seasons in the minors before he is ML ready. His fastball-curveball combo dominate hitters and sometimes he mixes in a slider.

Ivan Trout, RF- Your average ML bench player. Personally I see trout as a journeyman who plays for a variety of franchises, most of whom will not be successful.

Roger Redman, SP- This second round pick has the potential to be a #5 starter or an effective long reliever. He's 21, so he may not develop as much as the Yank-Mes hope, but he could possibly be a decent, though obviously not comparable, replacement for Juan Cordero.

Grade- C+. New York did not have a bad draft, but it wasn't that good either. The team did draft 32nd overall, so certainly leeway is given.

Should Have Taken- Cesar Campos instead of Ivan Trout. Why take an average bench player when you could have a very good future starting right fielder.

Atlanta Ripettoes

The departure of Greg Perez resulted in the Ripettoes having the 22nd, 25th, and 36th picks in the draft giving them a strong chance at stacking an already young and potent franchise (hey I can pimp my guys a bit.)

Melvin Dixon, 1B- Your typical slugging first basemen. While Dixon won't hit .330 and hit 50 home runs, .290 and 35-40 shots may be appropriate. GM jabronidan clearly will have no use for Dixon due to the presence of Joshua Ford, which gives the Ripettoes a strong bargaining piece in future seasons.

Mitchell Finley, RP- Finley was the best pitcher left on the board at this point and Atlanta did a great job of snagging him. Lefties tend to have success against him, but good control and two strong pitches that are tough against righties will net him success in the big leagues. However, his inability to throw more than 70 pitches a game may make him a better choice in the bullpen than in the starting rotation.

Marvin Palmer, RP- Palmer is 21 so he will only need 2 or 3 seasons to get ready for the show. If his listens to his coaches, expect 65-80 innings of great relief work. Righties have always had tremendous difficulty picking up this guy's delivery.

Domingo Tejada, RP- This 22 year old moved to Mexico, NY from Mexico City, Mexico when he was 8, and while there are reports that he may an illegal immigrant, his signing bonus should more than cover for an attorney. He's not very durable, but the 1 inning he gives you is usually run free.

Grade- A. Atlanta did exactly what they needed by getting the best hitter left in Dixon and 3 relievers to add to the already young Atlanta bullpen.

Should Have Taken- They could not have done better (for their needs) unless other teams had passed on players such as Geraldo Rosado, or one of the big starting pitchers.

Pawtucket G-Maniacs

New owner geltzjg was fortunate enough to have the #7, 24, and 34 selections, respectively. A good draft would help get this team on the right track to trumping the Ripettoes and Yank-Mes.

Jermaine Mueller- Future frontline starter. This guy gets it done against everyone due to some good control and four effective pitches (plus a cut fastball that he only throws to pitchers as any every day player would smash it.) Mueller doesn't tend to pitch complete games, but 6-7 innings of 1 or 2 run baseball is a usual day's work for him.

Josias Acosta- Potential to be an All-Star and Gold Glove center fielder but with one major question mark- Can he stay healthy? Acosta has gone through 2 re-constructive knee surgeries, Tommy John (he used to be a pitcher), and hip replacement before the age of 19! Expect him to be on the DL more than once in his career, it's just a matter of keeping it to 15 days as opposed to 60.

Pat Lynch- He's no Mueller but he gets the job done. Lynch doesn't care where you play him, SP, LRA, RP, Mopup, it's all good, as long as he can help the team win. Pawtucket better have a good defense behind him though as he gets a ton of ground balls.

Bubba Nichols- He will certainly make the majors, though he is best suited for garbage time. His fastball, curveball, and changeup are all effective, but he should learn to listen to his catchers and stop trying that screwball which gets hammered every time.

Boomer Kaline- THIS GUY IS FAST! He hits the ball everytime, and though it doesn't always go very far, his speed nets him a ton of infield singles. Should be good off the bench.

Grade- A-. Mueller will be a 15-20 game winner, but Acosta's health makes it an A- as opposed to an A.

Should Have Taken- Acosta is a huge liability but it was a good gamble late in the first round as geltzjg did not pass up on any great players.

Rochester Regal Beagles

Rochester's high payroll has prevented them from stock piling prospects in the past and may be a problem in this draft.

Vic Venafro- Fanstastic 98mph fastball blows hitters away. He is best suited in the bullpen, preferably in the closer role. Vic is 21 so he will only need around two seasons in the minors before being ML ready. Expect 30-40 saves a season with an era under 4.

Dave Pilette- Won't blow you away and tends to be inconsistent as he'll strike out the side one night and then walk the first two batters on 8 pitches the next. Should be effective as a secondary setup man.

Grade- F. Harsh but Rochester took a relief pitcher with the 9th overall pick who is by no means the next Mariano Rivera.

Should Have Taken- Geraldo Rosado, Malachi Widger, or Melvin Dixon are 3 very good hitters who would have made more of an impact than a relief pitcher.

Mar 4, 2008

Halfway-Mark Leaders (Pitching)

Matt Ross, Pitt, 13-3
Terry Torres, NYY, 12-1
Dean Bukvich, Pit, 11-3
Mitch Gant, LA, 10-3
Malcolm Morris, Tac, 10-3

Matt Ross, Pitt, 0.84
Fritz Branson, Pit, 2.13
Terry Torres, NYY, 2.21
Juan Cordero, NYY, 2.26
Eduardo Osuna, Tac, 2.32

Matt Ross, Pitt, 174
Benny Halter, Atl, 118
Fritz Branson, Pit, 117
Terry Torres, NYY, 117
Dean Bukvich, Pit, 115

Matt Ross, Pitt, 0.60
Terry Torres, NYY, 0.94
Juan Cordero, NYY, 0.97
Rick Corey, LR, 1.00
Max Guillen, Atl, 1.03

Rickey Young, LA, 24/27
Che-Bang Ramirez, Ana, 21/23
Don Little, Col, 20/21
Joe Taylor, ALB, 19/22
Curtis Peterman, Mnt, 19/21

Halfway-Mark Leaders (Hitting)

Batting Average
Royce Minor, Col, .389
Albert Stieb, Hou, .367
Raymond Owen, Col, .355
Rickey Kelton, Col, .351
Juan Tejada, Pit, .344

Home Runs
David Murata, Cha, 36
Javier Marquez, Chr, 32
Darren Charlton, SA, 32
Bob Leary, Ana, 31
Frank Lee, Chr, 30

Rickey Kelton, Col, 85
David Murata, Cha, 82
Willie James, Alb, 81
Brady Cortes, Col, 77
Royce Bagley, Col, 77

Stolen Bases
Tomas Estrada, LA, 52/54
Richie Miller, NYC, 50/55
Sammy Romero, Fla, 43/46
Jimmy Vargas, NYC, 43/53
Brady Cortes, Col, 39/41

Hitting Streak
Terry Finley, StL, 21
Russel Brow, Mon, 20
Will Mills, Alb, 19
Houston Jenkins, NYY, 18
Four tied with 17

80-Game Power Rankings: A New Sheriff in Town

1. Fargo Fuzznuts [53-26, +200 Run Differential (RD), Prev Rank(PR): 3]
The Ponies were the Fuzznuts' ownees during a much-anticipated interleague matchup, as Fargo swept previously top-seeded Pittsburgh. Couple that with a Griffey-best +200 run differential, and you have yourself a new top seed...

2. Pittsburgh Ponies (55-20, RD:+164, PR: #1)
...that said, it's way too early to send the Ponies to the glue factory. The defending champs still have the best pitching staff in the AL -- Matt Ross, Fritz Branson, and Dean Bukvich are 1-2-3 in strikeouts in the AL. That's a rotation that looks even stronger in a short series playoff scenario. Pony apologists would also be quick to point out that the Fuzznuts did not have to face Ross and Bukvich during interleague play.

3. San Antonio fighters (50-30, RD: +134, PR: #2)
The defending NL-champs suffered a brutal injury to pitcher Clarence Ogea, but have not broken stride. Left fielder Darren Charlton has been an offensive force in Season 7, and is well on pace to be a 50-50 man. While the fighters look like a lock for an NL-playoff spot, they have had difficulty delivering a knockout blow to the pesky Twisters in the NL South race.

4. New York Yank-mes (53-26, RD: +99, PR: #4)
Catcher Alan Green boasts the NL' s top OPS, ripping NL-pitching for a .298/.414/.651 line, and NY continues to be arguably the NL's top team in the field and on the mound. The Yank-mes need to make a strong statement to move up the rankings, but given their already solid position in the NL playoff race, don't figure to be strong buyers or sellers.

5. Cheyenne Duck Snorts (48-32, RD: +87, PR: #7)
Cheyenne has posted a blistering 20-9 mark since the time of the last Power Rankings to shore up their share of the AL West. The Duck Snorts have been led by little-ballyhooed 1B/DH Arthur Grace who has battered right-handed pitching to the tune of a .313/.373/.713 line. Also, 3B Julio Sanchez may be a legitimate 30-30 threat from the leadoff spot if he can stay healthy. The Duck Snorts faltered in the second half last year, and still share the division with Colorado and Albuquerque who have been dangerous for long stretches over the season already.

6. Charleston Cobras (45-34, RD:+67, PR:#10)
The Cobras have more than vindicated their controversial ranking at #10 during the last Power Rankings, having vaulted from 3rd place and one game out to a comfortable five-game perch atop the AL South over the course of the past 30 games. Charleston has to maintain focus, however, as first-year manager jeff2106 has done an admirable job keeping the Houston Bombers in contention, and mjdato has amassed a formidable pitching staff in Little Rock. An aggressive move or two from Little Rock or Houston could shift the AL South balance, but as it stands, Charleston is the team to beat. I told you so.

7. Montreal Valiants (47-33, +63, #9)
The Valiants are kind of the Keith Richards of the AL North -- they have to play second fiddle to to the Ponies' Mick Jagger, who gets all of the girls, but being the second-most popular Rolling Stone is still pretty cool. It sure beats the hell out of being 5th Beatle Pete Best, anyway. The Valiants have the 4th best WHIP in the AL, but the pitching has been supported by middling offense. Montreal is still an odds-on favorite to lock up a Wild Card spot, but adding a solid bat would help.

8 (tie). KC Twisters (43-36, RD: +34, #5), Atlanta Ripettoes (47-33, RD: +27, NR)
Unfortunately for the Twisters, they share a division with San Antonio, and may have to make a move if they want to catch the fighters. Similarly, Atlanta has been hot over the past 30 games to claim the 5th-seed in the NL, but still trail the Yank-mes by a considerable margin. On the other hand, rumblings from Anaheim indicate that the Jack A$$es may be ready to start the firesale despite trailing the Mojo by three games in their division, and the Twisters by two games for the 6th seed in the NL. There do not appear to be any other strong contenders other than Atlanta, KC, and Anaheim for the NL wild card spots, so if Anaheim waves the white flag, the Twisters and Ripettoes would seem well poised to raise another kind of flag themselves.

9. New York Cyclones (44-36, RD: +35, #8)
The Cyclones have matched pace with the Wolves in the AL East, maintaining their 2.5 game lead over the Wolves since the time of the last Power Rankings, as both teams have posted .500 marks over that stretch. However, .500 baseball doesn't keep you in the top-10 for real long, though. New York shares the division with strong Philadelphia and Charlotte teams, and could probably stand to add a bat or two if they want to maintain their lead. The Cyclones currently maintain a number 9 ranking only by virtue of leading the AL East wire-to-wire thus far. Barring a trade to bolster their lagging hitting, they may be supplanted by one of these two by the time of the next power rankings.

10. Los Angeles Mojo (44-35, RD: +34, NR)
Mr. Mojo Risin'...all the way up to #10. This may be the team to watch in a wide-open NL West, but LA will clearly need to make a trade or two to solidify their position. The Mojo are are in the middle of the NL pack offensively and only slightly better than that in terms of team WHIP. Look for the Mojo to be strong buyers in the 2nd half.