Thursday, November 29, 2012

S24 Playoffs---Rd 1 Recap by cebola

Incredible action during this season’s round one. Lots of legendary games and performances

Things were looking bleak for Cincinnati by the 8th inning of game 2. In a 0-1 series hole to Trenton (courtesy a gem by Pat “Puffy” Combs) and down to their final 6 outs trailing 2-0 in game 2, they get 3 runs to take a one run lead. Trenton’s Placido “My Funny” Balentien had been cruising along, surrendering only 1 hit through the first 7. The big blow was a two-run blast by 9th place hitter Andy “Psycho” Hitchcock. Al Lopez pitches the final 3 scoreless innings to steal the Thunder’s thunder and even the series. Cincy was able to keep momentum and take game 3 behind playoff veteran Roger “Mister” Andrelczyk’s 6 scoreless innings and by getting to Karl Hurst for 4 runs. Trenton’s series -evening game 4 win was an extra-inning nail-biter as they blow a 3-2 lead in the 8th. They take the game in the tenth on John Suzuki’s two run blast to set up the deciding game 5. The game was everything a deciding game should be and created a legend in the process. Cincy broke through first with three runs in the 5th, on a John Martin RBI triple and a Davey Diaz 2-run homer, only to see Trenton answer with 5 of their own in the bottom half. Vin Mendoza belts a grand slam in the inning and one ups the MVP candidates Suzuki and Jacquez. Cincy ties the game in the 7th on a couple of solo shots by Alving Rivera and Jose Avila (say those 2 names a couple of times real fast!). Then with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth Mendoza cements his legend and hits a series walk-off three-run blast. Mendoza earns series MVP honors as Trenton moves on to face the force that is the Jackson Colonels.

Congratulations to the Cincinnati Sextons. They win 90-plus games for the third time in four seasons, and have become an offensive force to be reckoned with. Odds are that the shrewd ownership will not stand pat and will keep the Sextons on track to continue to make runs at the title. Nice job.

In Charlotte’s 3 games-to-one series victory over Augusta, The Minute Men got solid starting pitching and great relief work to keep the ‘Bears offense in check. Front men Einar Tavarez, Estaban Guapo, and Phillip Bryant each earned a win and the relievers combined to pitch 10 scoreless inning in the series. Augusta’s ace, Flip “Lennon &” McCartney, was shaky in his two starts, allowing Charlotte’s bats to adequately support their great pitching performances. Augusta’s series highlight was game 2’s 6-2 win, in which they got all of their runs via the long ball, two by beast Cleatus Alexander "The Great". For Charlotte, the offensive attack was just as balanced as their pitching. Kenneth Adams earns MVP honors. He drove in 6 runs in the series, including 4 in game 3’s 7-2 win, which included his three-run blast that staked his team to the 3-2 lead from which they would not look back. After almost squandering their 7 game wildcard lead in the final week and a half of the season, Charlotte seems to be back on track and could be a team of destiny. They move on to face reigning AL champs LA, who seem to be on a mission of their own.

Congratulations to Augusta for another tremendous season. They just missed winning 100 games for the third time in the past three seasons. They’ve won 90-plus for an amazing 10 out of the past 11 campaigns! The main pieces of the team are still in or haven’t yet reached their primes. We should be seeing these guys making runs for a long time. Great job.

Tampa jumped out to a 2-0 series lead by taking both games in Cleveland by scores of 8-4 and 8-5. The Dons built early leads in both games, and had just enough in the tank to stave off the Cobalts’ relentless hitting attack. They wouldn’t be fortunate in game three however, as this game was an instant playoff classic. The teams took a 3-3 tie into the 7th before Cleveland broke it open with 3 in the top half. Art Krause hit his second two-run homer of the game in the inning. Fellow MVP candidate Andy Jacobs added an insurance run in the top of the ninth to give the Cobalts a 4 run cushion. But Odalis Tavarez blasts a game-tying 3-run homer to tie it up and send it to extras. After exchanging goose eggs in the 10th, Cleveland gets a huge grand slam from catcher David Soriano to go up 4 and put them in position to take game 3. Tampa answers with four of their own in the bottom of the 11th, the big hit a 2-run single by Hi Shouse, and on we go. Cleveland gets and RBI double from mid-season pick-up P.T. Moya (it’s getting to point of initials only, I guess)in the 13th, only to see Tampa answer once more with a run of their own. Tampa squanders a great opportunity to win the series at this point, but Kid Flair grounds into a bases loaded 5-2-3 DP to kill the rally. Andy Jacobs blasts his second homerun of the game in the 14th, this time a 2-run job, and this time Cleveland is able to make it stand up, but not without a little excitement. After getting back-to-back doubles to start the inning to cut the lead to 1, Hong-Chih Nakamura gets Tampa’s Justin Long (loved him in Jeepers Creepers) to strike out with the tying run on third with only 1 out. Cleveland takes the dramatic game 3, 14-13 in 14 innings. In game 4, Cleveland was 6 outs away from tying the series after getting another homer by Art Krause to give them a 2 run lead. But Tampa gets three in the bottom of the 8th to go up by a run on a big two-out pinch hit single by Peter Clark. Closer Alfonso Villafuerte gets the final three outs of the series to send Tampa off to meet Colorado in the next round.

Cleveland won the division for a second year in a row, and is good position to make it many more in the future. Jacobs and Krause are absolute beasts and should anchor that line-up for years to come. Alex Estallela is around for at least another season at the top of the rotation. Great job, Cleveland.

If you thought Tampa-Cleveland’s game three was something special, you wouldn’t believe game one of the DC-Helena series. The Peacemakers were cruising along, following the formula that made them so successful during the regular season. They got 6 shutout innings from Rico Petit and another 2 from super set-up man, Wellington Seanz. A couple of solo shots by Gerald Hull and Cristobal Chavez in the 6th built a 3-0 lead. But in the 9th, the Senators got to closer Stump Matheson, who blew only 2 saves all year. Back-up 3B Claude Walters belted a dramatic game-tying 3-run homerun to send the game to extra frames. Helena squandered bases loaded opportunities in both the 10th and 11th, while DC had their bases loaded in their half of the 11th, only to see Ernest Puffer strike out to end the threat. Scoring opportunities were few and far between the rest of the way, as Helena’s Valerio Santiago (3 plus innings) and DC’s Kid Spahn (5 innings) kept the opposition at bay, trying to allow their respective offenses to break through. Vet slugger Les Callaway’s sixth hit of the game was a walk-off 2-run blast in the 18th to give DC the dramatic game 1 win. In game 2, Helena rode an early three run homer by Leon Justice and got a solid outing from starter Darrel Bigby to even the series, and won game 3 behind an absolute gem by Paul “Absolut” Cintron (7 shut-out innings, 10 K’s). DC tied the series with a big go-ahead RBI by Homer Hill in the 7th inning of game 4. Kid Spahn throws another 2-plus innings in relief for the win. But in game 5, Helena gets stellar performances by Hersch Glynn (2 big hits, 3 RBI) and young starter Darrell Bigby, who picks up his second win of the series in going 8 shutout innings, striking out 8 and walking none. Bigby gets MVP honors and Helena moves on to face defending champ Iowa for the second season in a row.

The Washington franchise gets back to the playoffs for the first time since season six! Ownership has done a tremendous job putting that team back on the map, and turning them into serious contenders. Great job, DC, and here’s betting you’ll be back next season for another run.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

AL Playoff Push (Special Addition) by cebola

After making up 6 games in 6 days, Montreal is on the verge of one of the greatest late season runs in ARod history. Going into the last series of the season, the Maroons trail Charlotte by one game for the final playoff spot. The odds seem to be against Montreal completing the comeback, as they face a tough Cincinnati squad for their final three, while Charlotte visits the 97-loss Sante Fe Sluggers. But hey, the odds were against them getting it this close!

The Maroons have been getting key contributions from a couple of rooks, in Louis Foster (26 HR) and ROY front-runner Casey Adams who has put up a .315/.400/.493 line while playing gold-glove caliber centerfield. Veteran Enos Hoffman has been the big run producer in the middle of the line-up, with his team-leading 35 HR and 109 RBI. 2B Keith Rivera had been a force as well, belting 27 HR while driving in 106.

But the big story has been the Montreal bullpen. The late inning trio of Tom Benson, all-star set-up man Ben McKinley, and Stevie “I Have a Pony” Wright have combined to go 17-8 over 230 innings of relief while posting a 1.13 WHIP and 2.60 ERA. Oh yeah, did I mention their closer Kennie Parrish, who is the sure bet to win the Fireman of the Year, and should also get serious Cy Young Award consideration? He has 58 saves. Four of the starters have double-digit wins, led by Andrew Gates’s 15. Their other starter has won 9.

Great job, Montreal! It’ll be a great final series to watch.

Friday, November 23, 2012

AL Playoff Push by cebola

A couple teams still have an outside chance of getting in, but for the most part, the stage seems to be set for the “tournament.”

Defending AL champ LA boasts a formidable murderer’s row out West. Seven players have 30-plus homers, and six of those have 90-plus RBI. At the top row are three MVP candidates in Geovany Molina (.288/.396/.536), Clay Stanley (.293/.363/.576) and Jamie “Fire” Byrne (.295/.386/.528). Spot starter and veteran Derek Hardtke leads the team with 14 wins while having the hot hand down the stretch. He has a .198 opponents’ BA, a 0.99 WHIP and 2.61 ERA in over 120 innings. Carlos "Slim" Valdes is handling another huge workload out of the pen and has a 1.19 WHIP in over 140 innings.

Jackson will claim another South division title and are thriving under its new ownership. Three starters have 15-plus wins. Hector Batista leads the team with an 18-8 record. Perennial MVP candidate Ralph “Billy the Kidd” Kydd(.353/.439/.524) is thriving after being dropped in to order to take advantage of his productions skills. The team has responded with one of their best offensive seasons in years. Bryce Dupler (34 HR/101 RBI), Dan Blair (27/104) along with Kydd, have each driven in more than 100 runs.

Trenton repeats in the East. Nick Jacquez is having a nice little follow-up to his Triple Crown season with a line of .300, 38 HR and 112 RBI. His middle-of-the-order mate, John Suzuki is boasting a .282, 38, 106 line. Second year 2B Jonathon Hamelin has also smacked 36 homers and Victor Morales should soon hit his 30th to join the club. What makes Trenton dangerous however, is its top of the rotation. Pat Combs (17-5, 2.77 ERA) and Karl Hurst (15-5, 2.87) are each doing their thing, and youngster Victor Diaz (11-8, 3.28) isn’t a bad third starter option. The pen is strong, led by Ricky Mullin (1.13 WHIP in 83 games) and closer Charles Chen (31 of 36 saves.)

In the North, Augusta and Cincinnati are going at it again for the division title. The ‘Bears have the upper hand at the moment with a 3 game lead, and are favorites to take back the division title. Their middle of the line-up is stacked with the likes of Cleatus Alexander (.275/.425/.511), Javy Alvarez (.275/.375/.507) and Tony Juarez (.291/.346/.546). Alexander leads the squad with 127 RBI, all three have at least 30 bombs. Their deep rotation boasts 4 guys with at least 13 wins, led by Cy Young hopeful Flip “Lennon &” McCartney, who’s 18-10 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Pedro “High” Sierra is also having another strong season at 13-4, 2.85 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Osvaldo Castillo is having a great follow-up as the team’s closer, converting 30 of 33 save chances.

If Cincy can’t catch Augusta again, they’ll claim one of the wild card berths. Starter Guillermo Manzanillo is having a career year at 29, in going 15-5 with a 3.76 ERA, and is the star of the rotation. The line-up is stacked. There remains at outside chance that 4 guys will slug at least 30 homers and drive in 100 runs. The ones who are already there are C Brant Ducey (37/101) and newcomer Dioner Moreno (37/102). John Martin needs just one more ribbie to join the club (31 HR), and Pedro Quitero needs 7 more to go with his 35 bombs.

Charlotte will get back to the tournament as a wild card after taking an uncharacteristic year off. Peter “Crazy Ole Building & Loan” Bailey has provided a lift after coming over from Chicago midseason. He’s slugged 27 homers and driven in 64 since his arrival. He joins mainstay slugger Carlos “Exxon” Valdes (33 HR/88 RBI), Omar Estrella (30/87) and Tommy Jordan (28/82). Kenny Adams has swiped 67 bags while being caught just thrice. Mr. Consistent Estaban Guapo is having another outstanding season at the top of the rotation, going 12-8. Veteran Einar Tavarez made the All-star team, and is having a great year at 14-5 with a 3.64 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Relievers Norm Cohen and Charlse “1000 Ways to” Dye are solid options at the back end of the bullpen.

Jackson earns one of the first round byes. LA and the winner of the North are battling for the second.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

NL Playoff Push by cebola

Down the homestretch and still plenty of teams playing meaningful ball…

The Colorado Shock built a big enough lead to enable them to stave off the hard-charging Helena Peacemakers in the NL West. The Shock’s ten game lead was made possible by several MVP candidates in veterans Benito Rijo (36 HR/119 RBI) & Marc Clarke (36 HR/116 RBI), and youngsters Felipe Mercado (.335/.393/.633) & Dock Sanders (.321 BA with 18 steals and 104 runs.) Dante Zoltan is getting Cy Young consideration for his 16-5 mark with and ungodly Coors Field 1.12 WHIP .

Defending champ Iowa has separated themselves from the rest of the tough NL South, and currently hold an eight game lead over Tampa. The Rounders’ frontrunner for the Cy Young is Elrod Coke, who is putting together an incredible season with a WHIP of 1.02 in over 200 innings. He and fellow ace Bruce Mullens, who may be looking to test the market this off-season, each have 18 wins. On-base machine Bob Newson (91 walks) is making life easier for run producers Curtis Lewis (30 HR/92 RBI), Cutter Darr (18/81) and MVP hopeful Sammy Cochrane (30/111.) Five guys on the team have at least 20 steals and another 3 have double digits, making their attack a nightmare for the opposing team’s catcher.

In the East, Washington DC is feeling the heat of the Philadelphia Colonials, who are absolutely on fire. DC’s lead is down to three. Veteran slugger Homer “Henry” Hill (2.94/.390/.511) and ROY favorite, courtesy of his 38 HR and 109 RBI, Oleg D’Amico (great baseball name!) are trying their best to maintain their lead. DC’s pitching staff ranks second in the league in ERA, due in large part to a tremendous depth. The rotation is led by Birdy “Boys of Summer” Henley, who remarkably has only 9 wins to go with his 1.17 WHIP in over 220 innings. Estaban Colome and Bill Scheppers each have 15 wins, and 38 year-old legend William Wagner has pulled a Smoltz and has become a reliable closer in the, dare I say “twilight of his career.”

Cleveland has built a 7 game lead in the North, due in large part to the efforts of veteran starter Alex Estalella, who is 16-8 with a 1.97 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. The line-up boasts a legit MVP candidate in Andy Jacobs (36 HR/97 RBI). Veteran Wil Pote has 24 homers to go along with his 43 steals and gold-glove caliber D in right. Art Kraus is also a beast on both sides of the diamond, locking down 3B while slugging 26 homers.

The wild card races are where most of action is, as most of the division also-rans are battling with each other for the final two spots.

Tampa is trying to hold on for dear life and currently hold a one game lead over Helena for the 5th seed, fueled by great performances by starters Rob Cormier (15-5) & Harry Lee (16-8), and by closer Alfonso Villefuerte (43 of 47 saves.) The line-up features mainstays Hi Shouse (20 HR, .297 BA) and Derrick Grissom (94 RBI) as well as a slew of veteran role players, such as Lew Evans (19 HR) and Roy Miller (.305/.362/.646), who have excelled in limited roles.

Helena boasts tremendous depth as well, and have not only stayed the course, but excelled while dealing with several nagging injuries to key players. Hersh Glynn should be getting some MVP votes thrown his way, as his 122 RBI lead the team. His 31 HR are second on the club to the aptly named Butch Power, who has 33 while serving in a platoon role. Christy Rivers has done a great job from the top of the order by getting on base (.370 OBP) and by stealing 53 bags. Gerald Hull has manned CF while contributing a line of .292/.364/.506. Starters Babe Colin, Rico Petit and and Darrell Rigby all have double-digit wins, but the pen is mightier, as set-up men Pasqual Estrada (1.03 WHIP in 77 relief innings) & Wellingto Seanz, and closer Stump Matheson (40 of 42 saves) make any late inning lead a near-automatic W.

For Philadelphia, Gary Pressley has been the difference maker, as he’s gone 7-3 with a 2.40 ERA since his arrival. Another mid-season pick-up, Clarence Coleman, hasn’t been as successful, but has nasty stuff and can shut down any line-up when he’s on. Charlie Rushford provides the veteran leadership in the rotation, and leads the team with 11 wins. Closer Shawn Lo Duca has been near automatic with 31 saves in 33 chances. 22-year old Geoffe Cunningham is making a name for himself in his second season by clubbing 36 homers and driving in 81. Vicente Bennett is having a career year and should get serious MVP consideration. He leads the team with 104 RBI and has a line of .332/.401/.540. The Colonials are currently 4 games out for a playoff spot.

Tied with Philly and equally as hot are the Texas Wildcats. Their recent three-game sweep of division rival Tampa thrust them into the hunt again. They have an extremely young but talented line-up, fueled by Alvin Logan (.378 OBP, 49 SB and 99 runs) at the top. Last season’s ROY Wellington Rijo isn’t putting up last year’s numbers, but his 107 RBI lead the team. Francis Kelly (37 HR/97 RBI) and Randy Stoops (21/81) have been lighting it up as well. But what gives the Wildcats a legitimate shot are the veterans at the top of the rotation in Alex Gabriel (16-6) and Reese Hemphill (12-9, 3.16 ERA). These guys have pitched a big game or two, and will help tremendously down the stretch. Luis Brito has stabilized the closer’s role in going 7 for 7 in save opportunities since taking over for the struggling Chris Bowen (12 losses, 6 blown saves.)

Long shots, but still breathing: St. Louis, Milwaukee and Scranton.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

ARod Top Ten - S24 - 11/10/12

1)  Los Angeles Dodgers (70-46) - There's not shortage of power in the City of Angels, though slashtc's lineup isn't hitting as well as they have in the past (see the low OBP and low OPS).   The starting pitching has been OK, but the strength of this team appears to be its bullpen.  Hardtke, Valdes and Jones have been great at closing out games!!  (1)

2) Augusta Polar Bears (75-43)  -  The commish is getting some great starting pitching from Flip McCartney, Pedro "High" Sierra and Clavin "Sweet as" Sugarwara.   Couple this with masher Cleatus Alexander "The Great" and the Polar Bears will be trouble for anyone in the post-season. (6)

3) Colorado Shock (79-39) -  The Shock have been absolutely great at home this season posting a record of 45-16.  MVP candidates Benito "Bam Bam" Rijo and Felipe "The Count of Monte Cristi" Mercado lead an offense hitting nearly .300 as a team!! (3)

4) Jackson Colonels (79-39) - Kydd and Blair,  Blair and Kydd;  either way it's magic.   sneekes has taken this team to the next level, but get Jackson to the World Series?   The blog isn't sure about this and needs to see more for the Colonels to move up this list.  (4)

5)  Cincinnati Sextons (70-48) - Moreno, Ducey, Martin, Quintero -  The Bash Brothers!!!   This group continues to carry sex and his Sextons to the promise land, but that pitching has been borderline atrocious for a top-end team.   The Beer League Bombers are having their way so far. (2)

6) Iowa City Rounders (69-49) - Nothing new under the sun in the corn fields of Iowa.  Pitching continues to be the story, though Curtis Lewis and Sammy Cochrane are certainly doing their part at the plate.  The Rounders are a team no one wants to see in the playoffs!!  (6)

7)  Washington D.C. Senators (68-50) -  38 yr old William Wagner, a former Cy Young winner in Chicago, has re-invented himself as a lock down closer.   Wagner veteran presence has been a huge reason for the Senators sudden emergence.  Combine Wagner with RBI machine Oleg D'Amico and the Senators have a great change to make noise in the post-season.  (8)

8)  Charlotte Minute Men (65-53) -  Veteran pitcher Einar Tavarez is leading the way for safetyman and his Minute Men who are picking things up down the stretch.   Has Jackson ran out too far for Charlotte to catch or can Charlotte hold on to their wild card spot?   Tommy Jordan and Pete Bailey are sure to have something to say about this.  (NR)

9)  Tampa Bay Don Caesars (67-51) - The blog feels like this might be a little low for cebola's squad after seeing the Don Caesars take 2 of 3 from his beloved Shock.   Clearly they have lost their air of invincibility but TB is still tough with guys like Hi Shouse and Rob Cormier leading the way.  (9)

10) Montreal Maroons (65-54) - Young star Casey Adams has quietly put together a Rookie of the Year seasons in the cold north of Canada and Kennie Parrish has closed out 43 of 46 games.  I don't think he's going to break the record of 63, but it could be close!!

On da Cusp:  Helena, Trenton, Texas, Cleveland, San Diego