Apr 29, 2008

S7 Recap -- AL West

Cheyenne Duck Snorts
What Went Right: The Ducksnorts won a franchise-record 100 games by shaving 95 runs from the runs-allowed column. They rode a balanced attack past Matt Ross and the Ponies to an AL title, before defeating Fargo in seven for a World Series championship. 3B Julio Sanchez, CF Tim Broome and DH Johnny Harvey paced a dynamic offense with OPS above .900, and 2B Aramis Santiago made up for a dismal season at the plate by picking up his second consecutive Gold Glove.

What Went Wrong: Cheyenne managed to wring some solid performances from a merely above-average pitching staff and overcame nine blown saves from closer Tony Nomo.

S8 Outlook: Most of the team's best players remain under contract, and a slew of young players appears ready to contribute at the ML level. Cheyenne looks ready to become Griffey world's next repeat champion.

Colorado Mile High Rapids
What Went Right: Colorado led Griffey in runs scored for the fourth consecutive year, the seventh straight season the franchise has scored at least 1,000 runs. Closer Don Little joined C Royce Minor, 2B Raymond Owen, SS Cy Nelson, LF Rickey Kelton and RF Brady Cortes in the All-Star Game.

What Went Wrong: Unfortunately, the Mile High Rapids allowed more than 1,000 runs for the fifth consecutive season since moving from Boise. Little converted 25 of 29 saves, despite a 1.68 WHIP and 6.16 ERA. The team posted its first non-winning season in franchise history with an 81-81 record.

S8 Outlook: This could be the last go-'round for this explosive but aging club. With several key players poised to hit FA after the season, longtime owner Stewart_UK must find a way for this franchise to win its first postseason series. Limiting opponents to fewer runs is the key, but no easy solution has been found.

Albuquerque Ranchers
What Went Right: The Ranchers allowed 1,066 runs, the club's best mark since S4. SP Enrique Gonzalez posted his best ERA (4.59) since the team's S3 move to Albuquerque, and closer Joe Taylor was selected to his first All-Star game. 3B Willie James was arguably the league's best, posting a .323/.383/.564 line with 35 HR and 141 RBI.

What Went Wrong: Entropy has set in for this once-proud franchise, winners of 94-plus games for the league's first four seasons, including division titles in S3 and S4, but four seasons removed from their last above-.500 record. The Ranchers scored a franchise-worst 971 runs, the only time the club scored fewer than 1,000 runs in a season.

S8 Outlook: This team could use a change of scenery, a facelift or both. Aging stars like Gonzalez, Curt Bates and Emil Blanco offer some valuable trade chips to rebuild a thin farm system. Establishing a better ratio between runs scored and runs allowed is a must for this team's new owner.

Salem Warlocks
What Went Right: Armando Benitez set a franchise record for strikeouts and WHIP, with 155 and 1.41, respectively. 1B O.T. Jamison turned in another splendid season, posting a .308/.385/.516 line.

What Went Wrong: Everything else. While this franchise has seen worse seasons, the sting of a second consecutive heartbreak hurts more because better days had been in sight not so long ago.

S8 Outlook: Despite skidmark's yearly calls for a fire sale, no buyers can be found. The ghosts of previous absentee owners still haunt this franchise, which lacks even a single quality arm, and a system-wide power outage has handcuffed the offense. Given the dearth of desirable talent, the Warlocks might be best served by boosting payroll to sign quality FA or take on bad contracts in exchange for prospects.

S7 Recap -- NL West

Los Angeles Mojo
What Went Right: The franchise improved its offense in its brief sojourn to Los Angeles, keyed by young stars like C Chuck Simmons and 2B Kevin Park. Staff ace Sandy Conway turned in a sparkling performance, posting a career-best 1.13 WHIP in 240.1 innings and making his first All-Star team, and veteran SP Mitch Gant won 17 games.

What Went Wrong: The Mojo's lack of a HR threat cost them in the playoffs, where Fargo outpowered them to advance to the NLCS.

S8 Outlook: New ownership will take over a team that stands at a crossroads. A solid young core of position players like Simmons, Park and 3B Kordell Russell remains in place, but some big decisions loom in FA. Longtime closer Rickey Young and CF Wiki Mota both seek lucrative extensions, and the Great Stars might not be able to afford both.

Anaheim Jack A$$es
What Went Right: New owner hurdle52 eked out only the second winning season in franchise history thanks to a blistering start by veteran RF Ron Barber. The 35-year-old punched in a 1.087 OPS through 40 games, but the hits stopped coming as NL pitchers adjusted to him, and the Jack A$$es fell back to earth. Chad Matthews earned his second consecutive All-Star berth and finished with an impressive .325/.376/.589 line, and veteran ace Dwight Watkins posted a 7-3 record and 1.11 WHIP after coming over from Syracuse in a midseason trade.

What Went Wrong: Barber cooled off to finish with a merely mortal .258/.316/.521 OPS, and the pitching staff lacked the horses to finish the race.

S8 Outlook: Matthew is the brightest star in a dazzling infield constellation, including SS Vince Andrews and 3B John Podsednik. With Barber turning 36 and entering FA, the outfield consists of Esteban Rodriguez and not much else. The bullpen could use a reliable closer, as well. Anaheim will need an aggressive offseason to build on a refreshing turnaround.

Honolulu Beach Bums (Seattle Sensation)
What Went Right: One of Griffey's original franchises slid back to .500 and a third-place finish, two seasons after earning its only postseason berth with a S5 division title. The club greatly improved its S6 pitching, when the Beach Bums gave up 854 runs, by holding opponents to just 770 runs. Veteran right-hander Ivan Jones turned in another solid season, posting a 1.20 WHIP and 3.30 ERA, and lefty Max Ibanez allowed only 1.27 baserunners per inning and 3.95 earned runs per nine.

What Went Wrong: By scoring a paltry 710 runs, the Beach Bums tagged Jones with an unimpressive 6-10 record, although Ibanez finished with 12 wins for the second straight season. The offense was hampered by leadoff man LF Rico Melendez, whose OBP plunged from .386 to .311, leaving only table scraps for 1B Vic Marquez (37 HR, 76 RBI).

S8 Outlook: A move to spacious Safeco Field bodes even more trouble for an offense that struggles to put men on base and runs on the board, but spells relief for a pitching staff that could see a number of FA defections. C Buzz Lewis remains one of the league's best, and he leads a cast of upstarts that includes 3B Nolan Cashman and SS Matty McGee. With little payroll committed to this season, Seattle could opt to make a big FA splash or plow the funds into scouting and player development.

Oakland Dragons
What Went Right: Not much went right for the Dragons in their first season in Oaktown. The team underperformed by nearly six wins off its expected rate, as the pitching staff allowed the league's third-most runs. SS Ernie Person continued to post terrific numbers, and undervalued CF Augie McMillan won his first Gold Glove. A great season by lefty reliever Luis De La Vega was marred by a stress fracture in his elbow.

What Went Wrong: No starter distinguished himself, and both Person and McMillan suffered from the move to spacious Network Associates Coliseum. The offense lacked a big bopper who can reach the fences at home and cap rallies on the road.

S8 Outlook: The team's best players should be back for another season, but so will the rest of a mostly underwhelming roster. Most scouts believe ace-in-waiting Robert Wainhouse could already be a Cy Young candidate, but Dragons management has him assigned to Triple-A after repeating (and dominating) the previous level as a 22-year-old. But even if he starts the Opening Day game, Oakland has to find at least two or three more quality starters to fill out the rotation and a cleanup hitter to drive the offense. Unless an aggressive approach is taken, Oakland fans could be forced to wait another season to see a contender.

Apr 28, 2008

S7 Recap - NL South

San Antonio fighters

What Went Right: The fighters presented NL opponents with a formidable, balanced approach, finishing third in the league in both runs scored and runs allowed…Three fighters launched 40+ HR and Dwight Meyers fell one short of the benchmark with 39…Derek Stark was lights-out in the closer’s role, notching 41 saves in 43 opportunities. Stark limited opposing hitters to a .517 OPS.

What Went Wrong: The fighters never quite recovered from pitcher Clarence Ogea’s debilitating elbow injury. Once in the post season, the defending NL Champs swept a flailing KC team only to get swept themselves by the Yank-mes.

S8 Outlook: The fighters have no shortage of power in their lineup, and should be able to continue their punishment of NL hurlers in S8. Stud SP Harry Pena looms in the minors and could be the elite pitcher San Antonio needs to lead their return to the World Series in S8.

Kansas City Twisters

What Went Right: The Twisters hung on by the narrowest of margins to claim the 2nd NL wild card slot. As a result, KC maintained their perfect record in making the playoffs each of Griffey’s 7 seasons….Edwin O’Malley garnered RF Silver Slugger honors thanks to his .997 OPS…Lariel Santana provided the power belting 36 HRs while joining O’Malley on the All-Star Team.

What Went Wrong: KC finished in the middle of the pack in both runs scored and runs allowed, and nearly blew a substantial lead in the Wild Card race. Limping in to the playoffs, the Twisters were swept by San Antonio as the bullpen collapsed.

S8 Outlook: The Twisters appear to be a team at the crossroads. Solid pieces are present in the lineup in O’Malley and Santana, and Bryan Leonard should continue to anchor the rotation. However, KC will need more offensive and pitching firepower to catch San Antonio or stave off hungry Wild Card contenders Cincinnati, Chicago, and others. Reinforcements do not appear to be available at AAA, so if the Twisters are to make a 8th consecutive playoff experience, they may have to make a big play in free-agency.

Montgomery Miracles (S8 -New Orleans Domination)

What Went Right: Kevin Knott slugged 41 HR, and Paulie Thompson was a bright spot in the bullpen posting a solid 1.24 WHIP…With the first pick in the draft, Montgomery selected Alfonso Prieto, who has a fantastic ceiling… Other than that, not much went right for Montgomery, except that they shared a division with Florida, which kept them from the cellar.

What Went Wrong: The Miracles’ offense could have used a Miracle itself, having scored only 685 runs – barely 4 runs a game, and 2nd worst in the NL. The pitching wasn’t any better, allowing 910 runs, also 2nd worst in the NL.

S8 Outlook: New manager jhorsley has numerous holes to fill. The Domination have speed to burn offensively, but could sorely use another slugger in the lineup to drive the fleet featherweights in; however, those power sources are lacking in the New Orleans system. Solid pitching prospects are in the low minors, but are a few seasons away from contributing at the ML level. Given that previous managers saddled him with some long-term dead weight contracts, including $11M for pitcher James Wang, it will interesting to watch jhorsley's approach.

Florida Tropic

What Went Right: Jimmy Carter posted an OBP-heavy .931 OPS… Florida garnered Griffey’s Miss Congeniality honors, posting a full 22 wins fewer than any other team in either league.

What Went Wrong: Both UN troops and Bono were sent to Miami too late to prevent atrocities afflicted upon the pitching staff, many of whom were forced to pitch under subhuman conditions.

S8 Outlook: There are legitimate players on the ML squad and four 70+ OVR players in AAA. If the team is managed in a manner necessary to reasonably maximize wins at the ML level, given the payroll flexibility, this can be a 70+ win team in S8 without saddling the team with burdensome free-agent contracts. A .500+, Wild Card-contending season may even be possible if free-agency is hit strategically. Another 34-win season should be deemed unacceptable by Tropic fans.

Apr 24, 2008

S7 Recap - AL South

Charleston Cobras
What Went Right: The AL South Champion’s flag flew over Charleston for the 5th consecutive season, as the incumbents held off challenges from feisty up-and-comers Houston and Little Rock…All-World talent Javier Marquez finally received some protection in the lineup in the form of rookie 1B Frank Lee. The duo bashed a combined 107 HR and drove in 243 runs…RF Justin Franco claimed Gold Glove honors while contributing 96 RBI to the attack.

What Went Wrong: The Cobras defeated Montreal in the first round of the playoffs to set up a rematch of the S6 ALCS against Pittsburgh. Despite hanging 4 earned runs on Matt Ross in Game 1, the Ponies’ pitching proved to be too much as for the Cobras, who were swept in three games.

S8 Outlook: Charleston enters the seasons with concerns about who will play centerfield, as longtime CF fixture Lee Barker appears to have lost a step or two. That’s largely nit-picking – Charleston enters Season 8 the prohibitive divisional favorite.

Houston Bombers
What Went Right: Given that they were outscored by nearly 62 runs on the season, Houston did well to post a winning record. Their win total got a boost by the Bombers’ impressive 11-2 record in extra innings…Big things were expected from OF Wilfredo Brito in S7, and the 24-year old delivered. Brito posted a .901 OPS and made the AL All-Star team….Brito was supported in the lineup by John O’Halloran who, taking advantage of the short porches in Houston, notched 42 HR…Albert Stieb reliably logged another Albert Stieb year—a 1.133 OPS to go along with Silver Slugger honors.

What Went Wrong: The Bombers allowed 1050 runs – 5th worst in the league….SP Vic Prieto may have been the most disappointing Bomber. The LHP was expected to lead the staff, but allowed opposing hitters an astounding .915 OPS.

S8 Outlook: Given the negative run differential, it would be unwise for manager Jeff2106 to assume he will meet with similar success in Season 8 without addressing the proverbial elephant in the room -- the Bombers have serious pitching concerns that were masked somewhat by the winning record. However, Houston will have to look outside the organization for help in that department as reinforcements are unavailable in the minors.

Little Rock Razorbacks (S8—LR Lightning)
What Went Right: The Razorbacks bolted out of the gate in Season 7 and stood atop the division for much of the first half of the season… Little Rock allowed the 4th fewest runs in the AL…Doc Gross posted a 1.28 WHIP across 153 innings and represented Little Rock in the All-Star game.

What Went Wrong: The Razorbacks were on top of the division during the end of the less important half of the season and third at the end of the more important half. In part that was due to the Cobras finally righting the ship, but it was also due to an anemic offense dragging the ‘Backs back to the pack. Little Rock tallied only 735 runs, which was 55 runs less than the next closest team, and an almost impossibly low total in a DH league.

S8 Outlook: A skillful manager should be able to guide this team to a winning record in Season 8. The pitching is already here, and aging, but cheap, power-laden bats are freely available in Griffey. Plugging one or two such guys into the DH slot and 1B could work wonders.

Texas Dusters
What Went Right: The Dusters boasted a strong draft class which landed LHP Ernest Omlansky in the first round of the amateur draft. The slender portsider should figure into the big club’s plans sooner rather than later...The Dusters avoided any run-ins with the law and were regarded as upstanding members of their community. It is widely believed that they will be the only team in Griffey where all members of the ML team will remember their moms on Mothers’ Day (REMINDER: That’s May 11th, people!!!).

What Went Wrong: The Dusters allowed the most runs and scored the second fewest in the AL -- hence the struggles writing the above.

S8 Outlook: It’s difficult to project anything but more of the same in S8. The solid draft class in S7 gives hope, and the Dusters will have high draft picks again in S8. There’s hope for the future here, but it’s at least two seasons off.

Apr 23, 2008

S7 Recap - NL East

New York Yank-Mes
What Went Right: Outstanding defense and pitching limited opposing offenses to a mere 624 runs, or less than 4 per game – an S7 best in Griffey. As a result, the Yank-mes claimed their 3rd consecutive NL East crown…the offensive duo of Alan Green and Jeremy Brooks belted a combined 82 HR while driving in 240 to power the offense…SP Terry Torres posted a career best 2.11 ERA, garnering the NL Cy Young Award. Torres was one of three Yank-me pitchers on the NL All-Star squad, appearing alongside teammates Juan Cordero and Douglas Gagne.

What Went Wrong: Perennial MVP candidate Jeremy Brooks posted strong numbers relative to almost any other SS in Griffey, but took a sizeable step backwards relative to his own past season totals…the Yank-mes were hard luck losers in a memorable extra-inning Game 7 NLCS battle with the Fargo Fuzznuts.

S8 Outlook: Brooks is still a valuable fixture at SS with both the bat and glove, but has started to show his age. His HR totals have declined each of the past two seasons, and his S7 total (35) fell 14 short of his previous low (49 in S6). Look for the Yank-mes to turn to farmhand Maximo Rodgers, or possibly Julian Henry to stem the power loss. The Yank-mes should still have another run in them in S8, but could show a steep decline going forward in the “post-steroid” era if manager gerald007 is unable to infuse some youth into a rapidly aging roster.

Atlanta Ripettoes
What Went Right: After Season 7, Michael Snow surely ran out of space on his mantle for any new awards. The second baseman won his 6th consecutive Silver Slugger and won his 3rd NL MVP (but somehow missed the All-Star team)…Atlanta made its 6th consecutive playoff appearance, with the last 3 coming as a Wild Card. During this run, Atlanta has won no fewer than 91 games in a season… Griffey legend Greg Perez left via free agency, which allowed the Ripettoes to pick 3 times in the first round of the amateur draft, stocking an already rich farm system further.

What Went Wrong: The Ripettoes got off to a slow start in S7, but, sharing a division with the Yank-mes, had no room for error. Despite this, Atlanta was on top of their game heading into the playoffs, before falling to a weaker Los Angeles Mojo team in the first round of the playoffs.

S8 Outlook: Atlanta manager jabronidan has been aggressively pursuing a top flight starting pitcher for the past few seasons. The Ripettoes have a deep enough farm system to make it worth a trading partner’s while, if only they could find the right seller. Such a trade could return Atlanta to the top of the division in Season 8.

Pawtucket G-Maniacs (S8 – Louisville Lumberjacks)
What Went Right: Pawtucket obtained Lou Mills from Little Rock, and the 1B/LF ripped 33 HR and 126 RBI--the veteran’s sixth consecutive 30+ HR campaign…rookie Don Donovan, acquired from Cheyenne in S6 for veteran SP Orlando Romero, got a mid-season cup of coffee and made the most of it ripping 40 extra-base hits in only 253 at-bats.

What Went Wrong: SPs Josh Bere and Benny Campbell appear to have the makeup to be effective in the rotation, but again posted disappointing seasons. As a result, the G-Maniacs allowed more runs than all but four teams – two of which were in complete rebuilding mode.

S8 Outlook: With Mills and Donovan, the Lumberjacks have some big bats to build around. Key defensive pieces are present, as well, including 2B Bernard Alston and SS Wes Coles. However, the Lumberjacks desperately need to improve their run prevention if they wish to compete in S8. Few pitching options appear available in the minors, but Louisville may have the payroll flexibility to address the problem via free-agency.

Rochester Regal Beagles
What Went Right: Young CF Clint Loaiza drove in 108 Beagles, which accounted for 13.6 percent of all Rochester runs…All-or-nothing slugger Ernest Cyr counterbalanced 120 Ks with 32 HR…Rochester drafted Vic Venafro with the 8th pick in the draft. Venafro doesn’t appear to have the stamina to be a starting pitcher, but may end up having the filthiest stuff of any pitcher in the Season 7 draft.

What Went Wrong: Read “What Went Wrong” for the G-Maniacs above – The Regal Beagles were one of those four teams.

S8 Outlook: Defensive whiz, 2B prospect Ricky Latham, should be ready for a starting job at the ML level. Regal Beagle pitchers should benefit from his glove, and his bat should be more than passable. AAA slugging prospect Willis Cota could be an effective right-handed platoon partner with Ernest Cyr. However even with those promotions, it is difficult to see a competitive Beagle squad in Season 8. Given a low payroll, look for Rochester to be active in the International market.

Apr 22, 2008

S7 Recap - AL East

Philadelphia Revolution
What Went Right: Outlasted New York in a duel that came down to the last head-to-head series between the rivals to claim the division throne… Brandon Governale locked down the AL Fireman hardware by posting 47 saves in 50 opportunities and limiting would-be late game heroes to a .527 OPS…AL pitchers were simply unable to get DH R.A. Flier out in S7. Flier led the Philadelphia attack with a mind-boggling 1.173 OPS, including 45 HR and 120 RBI.

What Went Wrong: Philly won the regular season battle, but the Cyclones bested the Revolution when it mattered most – in the post-season. Philly lost in four games to their division rivals during the first round of playoff action.

S8 Outlook: Philadelphia is always in the hunt, and again turned in a strong performance. The Revolution should improve simply as a matter of allowing young Harry Cabrera to mature. Cabrera, with an enviable combination of speed, bat control and plate discipline, is a viable candidate for a batting title possibly as soon as this season. The Revolution cannot become complacent however, as the proper tinkering by the Cyclones and Wolves could land Philadelphia in 3rd place.

New York Cyclones
What Went Right: Signing free-agent Philip Black proved to be money well-spent, as the right-hander posted a 3.18 ERA over 206.2 IP, leading the Cyclones to the franchise’s first playoff appearance ever…Cyclones advanced past Philly in the first round before eventually falling to the eventual Griffey champion, Cheyenne….Richie Miller was a legit MVP candidate and vital cog in the Cyclone offense--the 2B got on base at a .401 clip, stole 85 bases and scored 125 runs.

What Went Wrong: The Cyclones burned a lot of gas getting to the playoffs, and key players –including stud 2B Richie Miller - were showing considerable fatigue once they got there… Another SP would look nice in Cyclone blue – the rotation looked sketchy once playoff teams got past Black.

S8 Outlook: Stud hitter? Richie Miller, check. Stud pitcher? Philip Black, check. The Cyclones obviously have a strong core, and figure to make another legitimate drive toward the playoffs in S8, particularly if they can add bench depth to stem fatigue. Alternately, an additional bat in the lineup might also give manager veener the comfort to bench Miller for a few games as well.

Charlotte Wolves
What Went Right: Where the AL MVP chase was concerned, the AL East was home to a lot of contenders; however, only the Wolves had the real deal – RF David Murata – who belted 65 HR, 155 RBI and scored 147 runs. Wow.

1B Abdul Moreno played a competent second fiddle in the Wolves lineup logging a .908 OPS, 23 HR, and 74 RBI in only 384 ABs….Closer Blake Lara locked down 35 saves in 40 opportunities, which was good for his second consecutive All-Star appearance.

What Went Wrong: While Charlotte boasted one of the league’s top offenses, they lacked the pitching to make the runs stand up….the 1B coach should have shackled David Vanguri to 1st base – the CFer snagged 17 SB but got caught 21 times.

S8 Outlook: LHP Cesar Lee appears ready to join the ML rotation and should be tough on lefties. Likewise 3B/OF prospect Ricardo Mendoza, who has 40-HR+ potential, could provide some additional thrills in the lineup batting beside Murata. If Charlotte can snag a free-agent SP to bolster a suspect rotation (see: Season 7 NY Cyclones), they will have the offensive firepower to make a charge toward divisional supremacy. Charlotte could have the money to spend in free-agency if the right name is available.

St. Louis Jayhawks (S8 – Washington Foo Fighters)
What Went Right: Farmhand Alex Viriato joined the big club for the final third of the season and provided considerable offensive production as a DH, including 22 HR and 44 RBI in only 212 at-bats…Yamid Martin belted 41 HR and 115 RBI…newcomer Flip Lofton was respectable behind the plate and logged a .361 OBP….Landed SP Scott Terry in the 1st round of the amateur draft, who could be a top flight pitcher by Season 10.

What Went Wrong: Poor pitching was supported by third-tier production from the lineup. Nuff said.

S8 Outlook: The Foo Fighters’ “Big Me” in the minors is Clint Ramirez who is ready now. Ramirez could post Murata-like numbers in S8, giving each AL East club a possible MVP candidate. Batting alongside Viriato, and franchise fixtures Yamid Martin and Rod Harper should give Washington some fantastic bats in the 3 through 6 slots. The problem is that somebody still has to pitch. The net result is that there should be plenty of souvenirs at Foo Fighters games – I’m legitimately excited to follow this team in S8.

Apr 20, 2008

S7 Recap - NL North

Fargo Fuzznuts
What went right: Fargo took the top seed in the NL playoffs with a 107-55 record and ran with it all the way to the World Series. The Fuzznuts provided a lot of excitement during their run, taking each series to the full allotment of games, including an extra-inning thriller vs. New York in the NLCS…Much ballyhooed 2B prospect Ignacio Gandarillas made his debut and torched opposing pitching in the postseason with a .338/.417/.581 line.

What went Wrong: SP Zachary Spradlin was ridden hard during the regular season and had little left in the tank when the playoffs rolled around. As a result of frustration stemming from Spradlin's post-season blunders (including a 2.03 WHIP and 8.03 ERA), the 29-year old right hander has exchanged a series of barbs with management in anticipation of his upcoming arbitration hearing.

Season 8 Outlook: A full season of Gandarillas alongside other Fuzznut offensive stalwarts Yamid Morales and Al Javier should provide continued plenty of firepower in support of strong starting pitching. Gandarillas and friends will have to perform, as Cincinnati and Tacoma look to build upon their S7 success and challenge for divisional superiority.

Cincinnati Centipedes
What went right: Pat Funaki’s breakout season led an exciting late-season playoff run and netted the Centipede backstop the NL Silver Slugger… Young right-hander Rolando Cordero showed his impressive Season 6 debut was no fluke, following up in Season 7 with a 1.20 WHIP and limiting opposing hitters to a paltry .394 SLG…SS Jack McInerney strongly anchored the infield defense while holding his own at the plate posting a .364 OBP.

What went Wrong: Cincinnati’s surge surfaced too late in the season, and the ‘Pedes were unable to catch the faltering Twisters for the last NL Wild Card slot.

Season 8 Outlook: 3B/RF Vince Stevens appears ready to join the big club in Season 8 and could be an exciting addition in the lineup alongside Funaki…Dislodging the Fuzznuts from the division’s top perch seems like a longshot, but Centipedes fans have to be excited about their playoff prospects nonetheless.

Tacoma Appleseed (S8- Chicago Cubs)
What Went Right: Tacoma was finally able to parlay their strong farm system into success at the big league level, posting an 83-79 mark – the franchise’s best in 5 seasons…Rookie Tomas Rincon socked 58 extra base hits, including 30 HRs and was nominated to NL All-Star Team. Rincon was also named Rookie of the Year…Tacoma was in the mix until the end of the season for a Wild Card berth.

What Went Wrong: The Appleseed failed to sign their first round draft pick Will Milner…Tentative handling of the farm system by the previous manager got Tacoma’s late season surge started too late in the season to claim a Wild Card spot.

Season 8 Outlook: Seasoned manager erffdogg moved the team to Chicago and renamed them the Cubs. These Griffey Cubs have a deeper farm system than their MLB counterparts – three Appleseed pitchers made the AAA All Star team. Of these Juan Santos and Bernard Titan look ready to contribute in Cubbie blue in Season 8. With added support in the rotation, fans in Wrigleyville can look forward to 85+ wins, but it’s not clear if that will be adequate to pass a rejuvenated Cincinnati team.

Syracuse Swingers
What Went Right: A bold trade with Montgomery to land Sam Stewart and Kevin Swift yielded immediate dividends, as Stewart posted a monster hitting streak and a .388 OBP, and Swift belted 48 HRs…Brendan Singleton posted a solid season as the team’s closer, notching 33 saves.

What Went Wrong: The acquisitions of Stewart and Swift were not enough to keep the Swingers from the divisional cellar. As a result, the Swingers were forced to deal fan favorite SP Dwight Watkins for a trio of prospects.

Season 8 Outlook: The Watkins trade landed Syracuse a few decent prospects to replenish an aging squad. Carlos Posada is an on-base machine who can man an outfield corner slot; Dweezil Incaviglia is a solid, inexpensive back-of-the rotation pitcher – both appear ready to contribute in Season 8. However, whether they can off-set the loss of a perennial Cy Young candidate is questionable, especially given the strides made by the other three teams in the division. More importantly, the Incaviglia acquisition could allow Syracuse to feature a dual Dweezil attack this season (Dweezils Henson and Incaviglia).

Apr 18, 2008

S7 Recap - AL North

Pittsburgh Ponies
What went right: Pittsburgh ran away with the AL East – the AL’s best division -- and the top seed in the Junior Circuit playoffs…Matt Ross set unassailable pitching records, including a Griffey best 26 wins, 0.58 WHIP and 0.71 ERA… Juan Tejada provided the fireworks offensively, posting a .351/.428/.641, which was good enough for a 3rd place finish in the AL MVP voting….Rookie Trenidad Perez added an additional facet to Pittsburgh’s offense at 2B/LF…Pittsburgh captured four of seven Pitcher of the Week honors.

What went wrong: Ross picked a bad time to allow his season-worst 5 ER in a game – Game 4 of the ALCS – which opened the door for Cheyenne to advance to the World Series. Those 5 ER were almost 22 percent of his ENTIRE SEASON total.

Season 8 Prognosis: At one point, vade96, manager of the Los Angeles Mojo, made reference to a bus—a very special, magical bus that might run over Matt Ross. That bus never made its appearance in Season 7, and unless it does in Season 8, Pittsburgh is the team to beat in the AL, despite not being defending AL champs. It should be noted that Season 8 is the last in Ross’s ridiculously undervalued contract – how much will he demand in Season 9 and will travisg be willing to pay it?

Montreal Valiants
What Went Right: Montreal posted that AL’s 3rd best record…Twin rookie sluggers Tike Hayes and Russell Brow provided a one-two offensive counterbalance to the pitching of perennial Cy Young candidates Ed Miller and Ned Truby…Tike Hayes was a waiver wire salvage that netted Montreal 56 HR in Season 7.

What Went Wrong: Montreal’s strong regular season didn’t carry over to the post season, where they fell meekly to Season 6 AL runners-up Charleston in four games…A lot of ABs went to sub-.800 OPS hitters which hampered the offense

Season 8 Prognosis: 2B/3B Ben Stewart looks ready to join the big club in Season 8, and should be a factor in the competition for the AL batting crown. Stewart might be a better fit in the outfield, but if Montreal can stomach below-average defense at one of the infield positions, the offense could make a leap to among the league’s best.

Trenton Cage Rattlers
What Went Right: Trenton was exciting on the base paths, falling one short of the AL lead in steals with 321…Matthew Ball continued to lead the offense with 130 RBI, extending his career franchise record to 926…Trenton boasted four players with more than 40 SB.

What Went Wrong: Pitchers Tuck Wilson and Lenny Sears were relegated to the 60-day DL early in the season, leaving a gap on the mound…an AL 11th best .780 OPS was not good enough to competitively support league average pitching.

Season 8 Prognosis: Trenton is an aging team saddled with the AL’s highest salaries ($121 M in Season 7). With little room to make improvements via free agency and the inevitable decline in skills for returning veterans makes a 4th place finish a very real possibility in Season 8. However, the Cage Rattlers boast an OBP-happy cast of youngsters in AAA which could buoy an otherwise aging cast.

Cleveland Rockers
What Went Right: As further evidence of the AL East being the top division in the Junior Circuit, Cleveland was best of the AL’s 4th place teams…Cleveland has a few blue-chippers to rebuild around including Benny Armas (who may benefit from a move to the outfield) and SS Luis Trajano…30-year old Gene Hampton posted a 1.18 WHIP and 79 Ks through 96.2 IP, emerging as a valuable weapon on the mound.

What Went Wrong: The Rockers should be renamed the Cleveland Colanders if their defense can’t be fixed. However, to be perfectly fair, in first-year manager rounder31’s defense, he wasn’t left with much on the roster where fielding was concerned.

Season 8 Prognosis: SS Luis Trajano underperformed offensively in Season 7, and should rebound in Season 8. If the fielding can be improved via free agency or trades, the pitching talent is there to keep opposing offenses in check. A .500 record should be an achievable goal with some well-focused dumpster diving.

Apr 15, 2008

S7 League Leaders (Pitching)

Matt Ross, Pitt, 26-4 (AL Leader)*
Terry Torres, NYY, 24-3 (NL Leader)
Dean Bukvich, Pit, 23-5
Denny Yamamoto, Atl, 20-10
Juan Cordero, NYY, 19-4
* Previous record: Dwight Watkins, 24, S2 Syracuse

Matt Ross, Pitt, 0.71 (AL)*
Terry Torres, NYY, 2.11 (NL)
Juan Cordero, NYY, 2.39
Eduardo Osuna, Tac, 2.50
Wilt Voyles, SA, 2.97
*Previous record: Ross, 1.78, S6 Pittsburgh

Matt Ross, Pit, 334 (AL)*
Dean Bukvich, Pit, 237
Terry Torres, NYY, 230 (NL)
Hootie Houston, Pit, 212
Benny Halter, Atl, 210
*Previous record: Ross, 266, S6 Pittsburgh

Matt Ross, Pitt, 0.58 (AL)*
Juan Cordero, NYY, 0.99 (NL)
Terry Torres, NYY, 1.02
Zachrey Spradlin, Far, 1.08
Sandy Conway, LA, 1.13
*Previous record: Ross, 0.85, S6 Pittsburgh

Brandon Governale, Phi, 47/50 (AL)*
Rickey Young, LA, 44/53 (NL)
Derek Stark, SA, 41/43
Curtis Peterman, Mnt, 40/47
Che-Bang Ramirez, Ana, 38/44
*Previous record: Phil Sasaki, 44, S2 Pittsburgh; Brendan Singleton, 44, S5 Syracuse

S7 League Leaders (Hitting)

Batting Average
Royce Minor, Col, .356 (AL Batting Champ)
Pat Funaki, Cin, .355 (NL Batting Champ)
Juan Tejada, Pit, .351
Curt Bates, Alb, .350
R.A. Flier, Phi, .349

Home Runs
David Murata, Cha, 65 (AL Leader)
Michael Snow, Atl, 61 (NL Leader)
Bob Leary, Ana, 60
Tike Hayes, Mon, 56
Royce Bagley, Col, 55

David Murata, Cha, 155 (AL)
Michael Snow, Atl, 148 (NL)
Curtis Bland, NYC, 147
Royce Bagley, Col, 144
Matt Waters, Phi, 144

Stolen Bases
Jimmy Vargas, NYC, 94/110 (AL Leader)
Bobby Joe Bonham, Col, 87/89
Richie Miller, NYC, 85/100
Matthew Ball, Tre, 79/87
Mark Russell, Pit, 79/92
Sammy Romero, Fla, 76/83 (NL Leader)
* Previous record: Walker Purcell, 77, S1 Boston

Hitting Streak
Sam Stewart, Syr, 31 (NL)
Rafael Pineda, Cha, 24 (still active) (AL)
Alan Green, NYY, 24
Sam Wheeler, Phi, 21
Terry Finley, StL, 21