Things have gotten off to a red-hot start for the Daly City Montis, who opened up with a dominant 25-3 (.893) April and currently ride a 17-game winning streak. The team leads the league in scoring with 179 runs (the second-place Tokyo Samurai have 164), but has absolutely dominated on the defensive side, giving up just 66 runs (second-place Paris Forfeiters have 122). They’re led by #1 Starting Pitcher Nathan Yan’s workhorse efforts (his 70 innings are a whopping 27.2% of the team’s total), but the rest of the team hasn’t slouched – #2 Starter Whitney Esguerra actually holds the team’s highest ERA at 3.44.
Last year’s runner-up in the UL, the Microsoft Longhorns, currently sit at the bottom of the Galactica Division at 11-17 (.393). They’ve mostly been done in by horrendous pitching – their 6.09 ERA ranks dead last in the league, and are a far cry from last year’s #3 spot. In the SWL, Canon leads the pace at 19-9 (.679), with an impressive 4.08 ERA.
Alan Wong, Catcher: The Berkeley Independent League import started slow – by 4/13 he had yet to display any of his touted power potential in those first 39 plate appearances, with just 8 singles to his name (a sad .205/.205/.205 line). After debuting at #4 in the batting order, he had dropped all the way to the 8th slot as the team’s worst hitter. On April 14, however, Wong hit his first career homerun, a 392ft shot off of Caribbean Pirates reliever James Baker. The rookie has been on a tear ever since, batting .355-.420-.774 with 7 homeruns, 16 runs, and 18 RBIs over just 15 games, and is setting up nicely as the fourth power pillar in a quickly-crowding Daly City lineup.
Marco Paz, Backup Catcher: Paz did not have a great April – he’s hit just .182-.229-.333, though he does have the 1 homerun to his credit. With the emergence of new C Alan Wong, and former C Tina Quach’s hot start, the plate appearances may be fewer and farther between for the displaced Paz.
Tina Quach, Super Utility: Quach was worried about her role going into the season, ranking 3rd in the depth chart at a multitude of positions, but with no clear avenue to any consistent starting position. Perhaps that pre-season diss was motivation enough – Quach has played like a woman on fire in April, batting .370-.417-.519 to post the 3rd-best OPS on the team at .935 while filling in at catcher, third base, and DH. Impressively, she hasn’t yet struck out this season in 61 plate appearances.
Derek Lew, First Baseman: The longtime offensive stalwart opened the season batting #6. While the veteran of five seasons had been consistent, the prevailing view was that incoming power hitters like rookie C Wong would surpass his roundhouse power, and speedsters like 2B Ortiz and CF Kuo were a better fit at the top of the order. Suffice to say, the rumors of Lew’s plateau and surpassing were GREATLY exaggerated. At age 19, Lew has developed a whole new gear, batting an absurd .367-.400-.734 (that 1.134 OPS leads the team and is good for 2nd in the league). He leads the UL in AVG, Hits, 2B, and is tied for 6th in HR, and has re-established himself in the running for the Batter of the Year award (which he won in 2006).
Cristian Ortiz, Second Baseman: Ortiz seems to have firmly entrenched himself at the #2 slot, where he’s scoring runs at a prodigious pace behind Daly City’s loaded #3-6 lineup. He leads the league with 30 runs on his .371 OBP, and is keeping close pace with last season’s steals record at 20 SB.
Henry “Mr.” Nghe, Shortstop: The old shortstop’s grip on his position is starting to slip – already on a tight leash, his .261-.333-.348 line ranks him 3rd-last on the team in OPS, and lags behind backup 3B Wissmath’s .731, who threatens to slide into his position (she’s actually the far better defender) to make way for a stronger hitter at 3B.
Salgu “Swissmath” Wissmath, Third Basewoman: Swissmath’s season so far has been pedestrian – she’s batting .284-.342-.388 while mostly toiling away at the bottom of the order and splitting time between 3B and SS. She’s done well in the clutch, however, batting .500-.600-1.125 in close/late situations and .364-.462-.727 with runners in scoring position. Defensively, she’s displayed great range, but has been sloppy while splitting duties across the two positions – her 3 errors lead the team so far.
Joanna Maung, Saung-gah-basewoman: Maung hasn’t shown much in her limited time, putting together a .238-.304-.286 line. Kept primarily for her clutch pinch hitting apperances, she did manage a hit-by-pitch RBI in her lone chance so far.
Ted Kwong, Leftfielder: The reigning MVP has slowed down lately (a sad .111-.292-.333 in the last 5 games), but is still on a torrid pace for the season – he’s batting .330-.405-.688, 2nd in HR, 2nd in RBIs, and 3rd in OPS. From the middle of the order he’s piled up 31 RBIs and 29 Runs, and leads the league with 5 intentional walks. He’s also put up 10 steals, mostly as a tag-along after getting on-base behind Kuo/Ortiz.
Jessica Kuo, Centerfielder: Kuo did well, but didn’t exactly set the world on fire from the leadoff spot with a .327 OBP, including a paltry .214-.267-.214 against LHP. With a clog of power hitters clamoring for more plate appearances, she’ll likely drop back to her old #9 slot, serving as a second leadoff hitter from the bottom of the order. Her base-stealing pace has also lagged behind last year’s – at 13 steals she’s already 7 behind Ortiz, and has only a 76% success rate so far.
Francis Chen, Rightfielder: For a player racked with inconsistency early in his career, Chen has been impressively regular in his year-over-year improvement. So far Chen is keeping pace with his usual power numbers (he ranks 4th in the league in HR and Isolated Power), and is finally shoring up his contact to league average – he’s batting .260 on the year, which lifts his OBP to an impressive .390.
Tiffany Ho, Backup Outfielder: Ho’s been off to a slow start at .250-.313-.455, and has found herself as the odd-one-out of the OF/DH rotation, with just 12 games and 48 plate appearances, 3rd last on the team. She’s seen an uptick in her power numbers however – she’s already matched last season’s total of 2 homeruns in just 48 plate appearances.
Skyler Reid, Designated Hitter: Entering the season as the primary DH, Reid’s production has dropped off significantly from his 2007 heights – he’s hitting .245-.315-.388 and is in danger of seeing his DH position usurped. It may turn out that Reid’s high BABiP last season (.376, 3rd best on the team) will be unsustainable.
The Pitching Staff
Nathan Yan, #1 Starting Pitcher: The first month of Yan’s ambitious 2008 workload – a season of starts on 3 days’ rest – has already yielded MASSIVE results. The 5-time-reigning Pitcher of the Year managed to start 8 games in April, going 7-0 with a miniscule 0.64 ERA, 0.33 WHIP, and a staggering 135 K’s – far more than double the total of 2nd-place Robert Kroger (56 K’s). In that span he’s pitched 7 CG’s, 6 shutouts, and TWO NO-HITTERS, both of which were a single fielding error away from Perfect Games. In the second of them, on April 29th, Yan struck out his first SIXTEEN batters against the Apple Septic Tanks, before the streak was finally broken up by a Santiago Parra groundball to SS Henry Nghe. He ended the day striking out 23, which ties the 9-inning record for the Daly City star.
Whitney Esguerra, #2 Starting Pitcher: Esguerra was relatively shellacked in April, struggling with her control (3.4 BB/9) and ranking last on the team with her 3.44 ERA. That last stat is actually more of a testament to the rest of the pitching staff’s dominance, which has dominated the league to the tune of a 2.21 team ERA. Her fiery stuff has still been on full display – her 11.6 K/9 ranks 2nd in the league (behind Yan).
Samantha Chin, #3 Starting Pitcher: Chin began her year with a hard-luck non-decision, going a full 9 innings, striking out 13, and yielding just 1 run in her first start against an even more impressive Joe Shelton of the Apple Septic Tanks, who had shut Daly City’s lineup out through 8 innings. A fortuitous dropped fly by Apple RF Chewie Gonzales in the 9th helped the Montis notch an unearned run, which allowed Chin to escape with the No Decision. But after 139 pitches, she yielded to closer Josiah Leong, who held on for 3 innings until a Cristian Ortiz grand slam in the 12th helped to seal the win. She’s had better luck since then, and sits at 3-1 with a 2.54 ERA, with steadily improved strikeout numbers (an impressive 10.2 K/9!).
Terrence Zhao, #4 Starting Pitcher: On the surface, Zhao had a resurgent April, going 4-0 in his 4 starts while compiling a 2.41 ERA and notching 10.4 K/9. Daly City fans have had to sweat out his starts though – his 1.29 WHIP is highest on the team, as is his 3.4 BB/9. He’s given up at least 3 walks in 4 out of his 5 starts (all of which he won).
Alfred Vong, #5 Starting Pitcher: With Yan’s 3 day’s rest schedule, Vong hasn’t had the typical number of chances for a #5 starter, pitching only 3 games in April. The small sample size hasn’t given much to go on (a 2.70 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 5.0 K/9 in 23+2/3 innings), but the highlight for Vong was his 10-inning, 1-run performance against the Asia Giants. Even that ended in a no-decision, as it took the Montis until the 13th inning to score the final 3 runs to win the game.
Sean Wade, #6 Starting Pitcher: In a hybrid role as #6 and mopup reliever, Wade has done decently. He pitched a 9-inning, 1-run gem against the Mozilla Firefoxes, but outside of that has been inconsistent, giving up 2 runs in another relief appearance and being bailed out by his offense after a 7-inning, 8-hit, 4-run performance against the Apple Septic Tanks. Still, it’s a encouraging start for Wade after his disastrous 2007 season.
Kelley Cox, Long Reliever: Cox has done well in her 8+1/3 innings thus far – she’s allowed just 5.4 H/9, though she’s floated 4 walks so far for a high 4.3 BB/9. Her 2.16 ERA is second among the bullpen as she shoulders the heaviest workload among them.
Bernadette Dugtong, Middle Reliever: There haven’t been a ton of chances through Dugtong’s 6+2/3 innings in April – she’s given up runs in just 1 of her 5 appearances, en route to a 2.84 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, both heavily improved marks against her previous season.
Connie Chen, Setup Reliever: The rookie Chen has been impressive in her first month of work – over 8 appearances she’s given up just 1 run for an ERA of 1.29, and has allowed just 6 runners for a WHIP of 0.86. She wasn’t expected to have phenomenal stuff as a rookie, but she’s on a good pace with 7 K’s in 7 innings. She’s also tied for the league lead with 5 holds in just a month, which might put her in sight of the record books (13, by Angel Poon in 2003) if more opportunities fall her way.
Josiah Leong, Closer: It’s been an adventurous month for Leong, who started the season by giving up crucial runs in two appearances, but was bailed out for a win in both cases. The first came after relieving SP Samantha Chin after 9 innings in a 1-1 tie. After coasting through 2 scoreless innings, Leong nearly crapped the bed after giving up the go-ahead run at the top of the 12th. Headed towards a loss in the bottom of the inning, the Daly City offense suddenly erupted to life, culminating in 2B Cristian Ortiz, 0-5 on the night up to that point, hitting a GRAND SLAM walkoff with 2 outs to save the day. In the second, Leong caused Yan’s only no-decision, failing to secure the 6-5 save in the 9th inning. An RBI single by LF Ted Kwong in the 9th salvaged the situation and gave Leong the win. Overall, Leong is 3-1 with 5 saves, but already 2 blown in 7 opportunities. In better news however, his K:BB is better than ever, with a 14.9 K/9 rate and a surprising 2.7 BB/9 so far this season.