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.

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