We’ve reached the all-star break at the end of June, and with that the mid-point of the season. 81 of 162 games have been played, and if anything the league is packed even closer together. At the end of May, three teams were playing in the .200s, far away from contention. Now, all teams are at least above .300, and only two teams, the .765 Daly City Montis and the .630 Canon Image-Stabilizers have commanding, >.600 records.
After an incredible 24-4, .857 start, the still-dominant Daly City Montis have cooled down a bit, with a current record of 62-19, .765 that still leads the division by 15 games. They had a nearly disastrous May however, losing a series of games and going 19-8, .700, with 6 of those losses being crushing 1-run defeats. The rest of the division is falling further and further behind – all seems hopeless for the slugging Microsoft Longhorns and the small-market Mozilla Firefoxes. The Apple Septic Tanks are hanging on to what looks like a sure wildcard slot – at 47-34, .580, they’re the second-best team in the Universe League and 6 games in the wildcard lead, despite being pummeled by Daly City (2-9) and arch-rival Microsoft (4-8).
Elsewhere in the Universe League, the Terran Division has become a two-team race between the Caribbean Pirates and the surprisingly competitive Europe Cricketeers. The Cricketeers, not expected to be competitive this year in baseball-starved Europe, have played at a fairly ordinary level, going 42-39, .519, which is good enough for a division that’s otherwise entirely below average. The Caribbean Pirates, barely functioning as a team, have willed their way to a game behind Europe with their few superstars, 1B Luis Devitt (.282-.341-.541, with 61 RBIs and 47 Runs) and 2B Mike Friedel (.281-.409-.577 with 54 RBIs and 55 Runs) and David Barnett, who at 11-3 is tied for 2nd in the league for Wins.
The biggest waste of talent might just go to Asia’s duo of hitters, Alex Quiros (.306-.380-.625, including a league-leading 24 HR and 67 RBI) and Tony Clark (.307-.391-.588), arguably the two best hitters in the Universe League. Despite this huge production, the rest of the team has been abysmal, 13th (of 16) in runs scored, and 15th in the number of runs allowed, resulting in a .333 record, the worst of any team in the majors. Both players are just entering their primes, Quiros at 27 and Clark at 28, and with the 3rd ranked minor-league system in the baseball world, Asia could be coming on strong in future years.
In the other league, the Shinto-World league, Canon and Tokyo have begun to pull away as powerhouses in their respective divisions. In the World Cities division, the Tokyo Samurai have a commanding 8-game lead with a 48-33, .593 record. Despite leading the league in homeruns, they’ve got one of the worst offenses in the league, but they’ve been put ahead by a dominating pitching staff that is second only to Canon in the Shinto-World league. In terms of hitting, star hitter (and homerun leader) Richard Peterson has provided all of it, going .332-.417-.671 which puts him at #2 in terms of OPS. Tokyo’s dominant pitching has been their trump card, however. They’ve got four starters with sub-4.00 ERAs, and solid although not dominant aces in Willard Weiler (3.31 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 8.15 K/9), and Michael Contreras (3.32 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 5.27 K/9).
Good as Tokyo has been, they haven’t been nearly as dominating as the Canon Image Stabilizers, who are tops in both hitting and pitching. They’ve got two 50-run men in catcher Francis Cote and 3B Celes Lazar, and they’ve got superstar Gates Skywalker (.332-.453-.714) to drive them in, with 64 RBI and 61 Runs of his own. Their pitching is perhaps even more dominant than Tokyo’s, with leading Triple Crown candidate Justin Ramage (13-1, tops in the league, with a 2.15 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 9.11 K/9) and sub-4.00 ERA on their entire rotation.
Outside of the two dominating division leaders, the rest of the field has been average, with only the Sony SuperSteady Shots, at 28-53, .346 qualifying as clear losers. The strong Nikon Vibration Reducers, who were neck-and-neck with Canon at the start of the season, have fallen dramatically to a 41-40 record, due mostly to an utter June collapse, where they went 6-19. Up to that point, they had been at 35-21, .625, right up with Canon. What happened to Nikon? The team’s superstar hitter, CF Richard Eager, played as well as ever, going .400-.495-.656. Other key hitters completely collapsed however. Fellow RBI-man catcher Magglio Colunga went from being a .335-.368-.528 type of hitter to hitting .196-.250-.250, driving in a measly 3 runs. Similarly 2B oseph Harmon plummeted from an OBP of .396 in May to .283 in June, more than having his Runs from 26 to 10. The pitching staff also imploded – ace Trent Barnes, 9-3 with a 2.69 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, went 0-5 with a horrendous 5.89 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. A 6-game winner in May, Josue Huerta went 1-4 in June with an 8.49 ERA and 2.01 WHIP.
As an individual team, Daly City has been up-and-down, and has suffered some devastating losses. The key culprits have been a suspect bullpen, where closer Zubeda Khan and setup woman Alvina Chu lead the league with 5 blown saves each (Alvina somehow managing a 2.00 ERA and 1.03 WHIP out of all of this, while sniping 7 wins). It’s been a cause of ire for Josiah Leong, Terrence Zhao, and Miguel Pardo, all of whom have had multiple wins lost because of the bullpen. The biggest loss of all has been star first baseman Derek Lew however. On May 22nd Derek was injured with a fractured knee while running the basepaths, putting him out of commission for 7 weeks – he missed the rest of May and all of June, and still has a week on the disabled list to go before making his return. At the time he was leading the league in RBIs, and Daly City was thought to be at a severe disadvantage without their top slugger. Surprisingly however, key hitters have stepped in to buoy the team in his absence, including a continued strong season by rookie Rudy Puzon and second-year rightfielder Jason Liu, who has now taken a firm hold on the leftfield position (with Jonathan Chee moving to DH, and Puzon moving to 1st base for the injured Lew).
Sam Lau, catcher: After starting off decently, but without much power or the high OBP we’ve come to expect, Lau has continually bettered himself each month. He’s now hitting at a .277-.382-.438 level, well in line with his career numbers, and good enough to get him onto the Universe League all-star team as the backup catcher.
Tina Quach, backup catcher: After a horrible start in April, Quach didn’t fare any better in May – she managed a feeble .172-.351-.207 line for the month. She started to come around in June, playing 11 games and achieving a .311-.319-.356 record, good enough to make for a decent singles hitter, but not much else. She’s been quite a disappointment thus far this season, not achieving any of the good OBP numbers her first part-time season promised, and her defense at catcher has been suspect at well.
Derek Lew, 1st baseman: After winning player of the month in April, Lew bottomed out before eventually getting injured in late May – over the 20 games he played, he went .226-.247-.417, although still somehow managed to drive in 16 RBIs. The injury also snapped Derek’s continuous streak of 372 consecutive starts. With a return next week, Lew hopes to jump back into form.
Rudy Puzon, 1st baseman: Taking over the reins of 1st base and power slugger in the wake of Derek’s injury, the rookie sensation hasn’t failed to disappoint – he hammered in 24 RBI in May, and hasn’t let up with his numbers. He went .244-.361-.500 in May and then .318-.414-.576 in June, and right now he’s leading the team in both RBI (61) and Runs (58), as well as homeruns (with 20). He’ll likely go back to being the team’s regular DH once Lew comes back.
Cristian Ortiz, 2nd baseman: Ortiz started to fall in May, going .237-.330-.392, and continually thwarting the team’s rallies from the bottom of the order. He picked up the pace in June though, where he went .309-.330-.489. He’s also been piling up the steals, and is currently #3 in the league with 24.
Joey Wong, 3rd baseman: Wong seemed to lose his way a little bit in May, when he went “only” .310-.383-.487. He jumped right back into form, however, in June, going .360-.417-.570, and climbing right back to the top of the leaderboard for AVG. Despite being the team’s top hitter he still lags behind in run production, with only 53 RBIs to his credit.
Joanna Maung, backup 3rd basewoman: After a relatively small role in April, Maung picked up the at bats in May and June, after injuries and a minor slump by 3rd baseman Joey Wong. At the moment she’s batting a solid .318-.393-.430, and for a slow, part-time hitter has picked up a good 19 RBI and 23 Runs in only 107 At Bats. Maung has also made big strides defensively – she’s now a very competent 61 (of 100) at 3B, and has improved to 46 in rightfield.
Henry Nghe, Shortstop: Despite his average ratings, the shortstop has continued to impress, and only gets better every month. Nghe went .340-.387-.505 in May, and turned in an even more impressive .376-.427-.554 June – he’s clipping Joey Wong’s heels in both AVG and OBP, and his slugging numbers are good too. He leads the team (and league) with 27 doubles, and his 57 RBIs and 55 runs are great as well.
Jonathan Chee, Designated Hitter: After a horrible April start, Jonathan Chee is really coming along as a hitter. He batted .324 and .297 in May and June, respectively, but even more impressively has brought his OBP up to .430, the best on the team. Hitting in the #2 spot, he’s scored his share of runs, and has found his niche on the team by getting on base and keeping rallies going, even if by getting hit by pitches (with 24 hit-by-pitches, he far and away leads the league). Chee has also piggy-backed 11 steals off of Aubrey Cubilo double-steals, good for 3rd on the team, despite having a 10 running speed and 5 stealing ability rating (out of 100).
Jason Liu, Leftfielder: After an ambiguous April start, Jason Liu has blossomed as a hitter – he’s continued to hammer in the hits and get on base, bringing him up to .309-.353-.566. Perhaps most important, he’s been consistently good, without any significant lulls in any aspect of his game. For April, May, and June respectively, Liu has gone .286-.319-.583, .314-.372-.510, -326-.363-.616.
Aubrey Cubilo, Centerfielder: Cubilo has continued her strong play throughout the season – she’s currently at .302-.332-.399 as the team’s leadoff hitter. While her OBP isn’t the strongest on the team, nor her slugging percentage the best, she’s made up by stealing 48 bases, putting her on pace for a record 96 on the season. Adding in steals to her total bases would give Cubilo 201, which would be tops in the league.
Francis Chen, Rightfielder: Francis has continued to fail throughout the season. Despite having numerous chances, he’s failed completely to show any glimmers of his OBP and SLG powers. His current line is .176-.301-.399, and he’s continued to play abysmally. It’s a troubling sign, as Chen seems to have stagnated in his development at the young age of 16 – perhaps he’s in need of a trip down to AAA.
Tiffany Ho, backup Outfielder: Playing in a limited role, Ho hasn’t had much of a notable season – her current line is .248-.280-.327, without any notable improvement. She had a somewhat promising .290-.324-.387 May, but dipped right back down to a .212-.257-.303 June right after that. She seems to have road troubles, as her home/road splits are impressive: .304-.339-.411 at home, and .178-.208-.222 on the road.
Nathan Yan, #1 Starting Pitcher: After a stellar 5-0 April, Yan had somewhat of a shaky and very mortal May. He went 3-2 over 5 starts, and despite a 0.63 WHIP had a 2.41 ERA and failed to ever shut out a team. He rebounded right back with an amazing June however – over 5 starts he went 5-0, completing all 5 games and shutting out 3 of them, all while striking out 79 batters (15.8 K/9) and achieving a 0.36 WHIP and a 0.40 ERA. He’s far-and-away the league’s triple crown leader, with a 1.34 ERA, 13 wins, and 214 strikeouts, while also leading with 15.0 K/9 and a 0.50 WHIP.
Josiah Leong, #2 Starting Pitcher: It’s been a rough stretch for #2 pitcher Josiah Leong. After a shaky April, Leong appeared to be dominating May. Even with a few managerial slip-ups, he went 3-1 in 5 starts, putting up a 2.52 ERA and impressive 0.86 WHIP, the kind of lights-out Josiah Leong pitching that the team’s been waiting for. Hit by a whole bunch of blown relief appearances by the bullpen, however, and a strained back injury, Josiah’s June numbers suffered, as he went 1-1 with a 4.38 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. He starts out July injury-free however, and can hopefully regaini his dominating May form. For the season Josiah is at a 3.86 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, and is also dominating the league with 11.1 K/9, good for 2nd in the league.
Terrence Zhao, #3 Starting Pitcher: Terrence Zhao has perhaps been the most hard-lucked of the Daly City pitchers. Throughout May he had a number of botched wins, with his 7 Runners Left that Scored attest to (that’s 7 runners that subsequent relievers allowed to score). He also lost a complete game 0-1 to start out June. Somehow, Zhao has still survived with a 10-2 record and a 2.19 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, and is on the cusp of breaking into the leaderboard with his 125 K’s in 111 innings (that’s 10.1 K/9).
Samantha Chin, #4 Starting Pitcher: After a shaky shaky 7.33 ERA start to her career, Chin has settled down effectively. She was dominant in May with a 3-1 record and a 2.57 ERA, and despite an unlucky June with a 4.44 ERA, she managed only a 0.90 WHIP, a sign of good things to come. For the season she’s 5-1, with a 4.59 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP, not bad at all for a rookie.
Sean Wade, #5 Starting Pitcher: His dominant 5-0 April was a good indicator of just how good the rookie could be. Although he doesn’t have the lights-out power dominance of his fellow starters, Wade has quietly worked himself up to a 11-3 record, tied for 2nd in the league, and an 0.81 WHIP and 2.12 ERA which are unmatched outside of Daly City.
Miguel Pardo, #6 Starting Pitcher: Critics thought the magic had to run out sooner or later for the dominating Pardo. After an outstanding 1.08 ERA start, Pardo has cooled a bit. His 4.43 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in May were along the lines of his career numbers, but he still could have won all 3 of his starts if it wasn’t for the bullpen. He surprised everyone however by coming right back with a 2.93 ERA, 1.04 WHIP June, and for the season his line stands at an impressive 5-0, 2.67 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.
Alfred Vong, Long Reliever: The talented rookie has continued to perform well. Over 31 1/3 innings he’s pitched with a 2.30 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, including substituting in and pitching for 7 1/3 innings (giving up only 1 run) in a long appearance that he won. He’s done outstanding as a reliever, although with the strong play of everyone else it doesn’t look like he’ll have a chance to move into the rotation anytime soon. Nevertheless, he’ll continue to be a strong presence that’s somewhat sorely needed in the shaky bullpen, having never blown a save and not allowing any of his 8 inherited runners to score (quite a feat).
Helen Yamamoto, Mopup Reliever: The rookie mopup reliever has had a tumultuous rookie season. After an abysmal start, where she had a 12.27 ERA and 2.45 WHIP in April, she went on to an even more horrendous 18.00 ERA and 4.00 WHIP in May. After a stint on the DL though, she came back and has pitched 6 1/3 solid shutout innings so far, with a 0.95 WHIP.
Katie Clayton, Mopup Reliever: Katie Clayton has been average, without any exceptional moments of brilliance. She racked up a 6.35 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in 5 2/3 innings in May, and then put up a 4.77 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in June.
Angel Poon, Middle Reliever: A prime culprit in Daly City’s shady bullpen, Angel Poon has so far allowed 3 of her 9 inherited runners to score and blown 2 saves. Her ERAs of 3.24 and 1.29 in May and June have been fine, as has her 1.00 WHIP in June. Her shaky 1.56 WHIP played a big role in several relief meltdowns, something which doesn’t show on her ERA but has hurt the confidence in her as a surefire go-to reliever.
Alvina Chu, Setup Reliever: Alvina, Alvina. Despite a glamorous 2.00 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, and an impressive 7-1 record, Chu’s success has come at the cost of 3 of 7 inherited runners scoring, and a league-leading 5 blown saves. Despite her good numbers, the rotation has been clamoring for a more effective bullpen solution, something which only rookie long reliever Alfred Vong has satisfied.
Zubeda Khan, Closer: So dominant in April, the once-promising Zubeda Khan has fallen far and hard since then. Her 6.52 ERA and 1.86 WHIP in May only continued into June, where she had a 7.72 ERA and 1.71 WHIP, and along the way allowed 3 of 9 inherited runners to score and tied the league lead with 5 blown saves. She’ll finish out the rest of the season as closer, but it appears as if once again Daly City will be in search of a new solution in the off season.
In minor league news, the AAA Brisbane Warriors are dominating the league with a 75-6, .926 record. It’s led by dominating sluggers Norman Ho, Desiree Tienturier, and Jean Paredes, all with slugging percentages over 1.000. Lester Tam is trying to play the AA Panorama Pirates all by himself, hitting .341-.388-.451 and driving the one-man team to a .383 record, tied for last in the league with Mozilla’s AA. The only likely callups this season seem to be forgotten backup 2B Kelvin Chang and Lester Tam, but promising starting pitcher W. Esguerra, ranked as the #1 prospect in baseball, looks to be only a year away from joining the major league team in 2006…