1. San Antonio fighters (31-18, Run Differential: +75)
The NL champs from S6 are off to a bold start in challenging the reigning NL Champs Fargo. The fighters boast a Griffey-best run differential of 75 runs and a 4.5 game lead in the NL South over the upstart Monterrey Rancheros. San Antonio is again paced on offense by Darren Charlton and Dwight Meyers (21 HR and 17 HR, respectively), but Harry Pena (3.89 ERA) has made his much-anticipated ML debut, providing the fighters with a dominant mound presence as well.
2. Pittsburgh Ponies (33-16, RD: +67)
The Ponies, featuring Griffey’s best team WHIP (1.20) also boast Griffey’s best record. True-to-form from past seasons, Griffey’s first two Pitchers of the Week have both been Ponies (Matt Ross and Dean Bukvich). However, due to a middling offense, the Ponies have had mixed results in asserting themselves head-to-head against other AL frontrunners. The Ponies swept a three Chew-baccas early in the season, but have since dropped series against Tampa Bay and Cheyenne.
3. Cincinnati centipedes (28-21, RD: +70)
Despite being only second-place in their own division, the centipedes superior run differential and relative health have earned them an early-season seeding higher than division-leading Fargo. Further, the centipedes already shocked Griffey’s reigning champs with an early season sweep. Cincinnati also features the NL-best team batting average (.289).
4. Charleston Chew-baccas (29-20, RD: +69)
Under new management, Charleston has made a departure from the slow starts of seasons past and currently cling to a one-game lead in the tightly contested AL South. Despite playing in a hitter’s park, the Chew-baccas are second in the AL in team ERA and WHIP. While Frank Lee has battered opposing pitching for 20 HR and a 1.078 OPS, the offseason loss of All-World catcher Javier Marquez has slowed the offense somewhat, relegating the team to the middle-of-the pack in most offensive categories.
5. Cheyenne Duck Snorts (30-18, RD: +63)
The reigning AL-champs have scored the most runs of any team on this list, thanks in part to rookie Victor Javier and 2nd-year player Lou Young. Javier, an S7 IFA, has slugged .645 and stolen 8 bases in 24 games; Young has swatted 17 HR, driving in 45. In past seasons, Cheyenne has been paced by a strong pitching staff; however, in S9, Duck Snort pitching has posted a pedestrian 1.50 team WHIP.
6. Atlanta Ripettoes (30-18, RD: +43)
The stark contrast to the Duck Snorts, the Ripettoes have mowed down opposing hitters as evidenced by a skimpy 1.30 team WHIP; however, excluding Raul Trajano who has only 11 at-bats, only four Ripettoes have an OPS above .800. But, when that small company includes Michael Snow and Jerrod Grudzielanek, you can still do pretty well.
7. Fargo Fuzznuts (31-18, RD: +20)
The reigning champs still lead their division and have a sparkling record; however, a pre-season injury to SP Butch Logan and a recent injury to SP Zachrey Spradlin have left the Fuzznuts scrounging for answers for their rotation. Don’t sell the champs short, though – Fargo has a few chips to deal to patch holes, and Spradlin should be back for the stretch run.
8. Chicago Cubs (26-22, RD: +55)
Lead by CF Davey Hernandez (.330/.420/.741) and early ROY frontrunner Gabby Young (.284/.396/.628), the Cubs top the NL in team OBP and SLG. However, the Cubs have suffered bad luck in one-run games (2-8 record thus far), dragging their record down. If the Cubs are looking to unseat the Fuzznuts and pass the centipedes to claim NL North glory, manager erffdogg will need to find a way to overcome this shortcoming.
9. Anaheim Jack A$$es (29-20, RD: +33)
The Jack A$$es have parlayed a solid team WHIP (1.38), into an equally solid record despite mid-tier offense. Mateo Escobar has anchored the rotation with his 3.56 ERA, despite a disappointing 2-5 record.
10. Tampa Bay Lazer Beams (28-21, RD: +25)
The Lazer Beams, under new management, have been a surprise team in the AL South. Tampa Bay has featured a strong bullpen, including Darin Simas (1.05 WHIP), Chris Weaver (1.18 WHIP), and Neifi Small (1.21 WHIP). Veteran Lariel Santana has been revitalized since coming over from Kansas City, posting a 1.197 OPS over 27 games.