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.
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.