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.

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