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.
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.
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.