Macro Paz, Catcher: There weren’t many great expectations out of Paz, last season’s backup catcher who played sparingly and fared abysmally against big-league pitching when he did. But after a terrible spring that led most to believe he would spend another long season incubating on the bench, Paz exploded out of the gate in April, hitting a scorching .339-.383-.607, and didn’t let up, batting for .346-.398-.533 over the first half and gaining the primary catching role. As hot as his first half was, Paz began to wither as the season went on – his second half stats were just .237-0.305-.372, dialing down his overall numbers to a respectable .295-.351-.457. Nonetheless, the 18-year-old Paz made a remarkable leap in his 2nd season.
Tina “Experimental Error” Quach, Backup Catcher: Just one year after finally assuming the full-time catcher role, Quach appears as though she’s lost her major-league touch already. While her drop-off last year was attributed to growing pains in adjusting to the rigors of the full-time role, Quach continued her regression. Though her batting average bumped slightly from .286 to .296 (mostly on the strength of severely cutting down her strikeout rate, from 6.50% of plate appearances to 3.17%), Quach continued to struggle with picking up on walks (her 10.62% walk rate last year dipped down to 8.97%) and hitting for power (1.329 bases per hit in 2006 to 1.218 this year). With the more-rapid-than-expected-development of Paz, Quach was quickly relegated to backup catcher position and utility infielder, where she mainly substituted for the inconsistent Joanna Maung.
Derek Lew, First Baseman: Following up his stellar comeback and Batter of the Year season in 2006, Lew proved again his worth as the Montis’ roundhouse power hitter and dependable franchise star. He hit a solid .291-.343-.559 on the season, and demonstrated an improvement in his patience at the plate, setting a new career high with 55 walks, while striking out just 13 times in 735 plate appearances. He also bested the doubles record he set last season by 1, setting 78 as the new high water mark.
Henry Nghe, Shortstop: After his all-star season as a rookie in 2005, the aging Nghe produced little in his 3rd season, struggling along to just a .270-.330-.424 line, before a torn hamstring in early September ultimately knocked him out for the season. It will be a long road to recovery for the declining Nghe in the offseason, as he’ll face stern competition from the upstart middle infielder Wissmath and his 2005 Rookie of the Year season now seems a distant memory.
Cristian Ortiz, Second Baseman: While Ortiz set himself up last year for universal renown as the stolen base champion with 91 steals, the speedy second baseman elevated his game to a whole new level in 2007, evolving himself from simply one of the best leadoff men in the league to one of the best all-around players, period. Ortiz set new personal bests for power (.560 SLG, 34 homeruns, 42 doubles), on-base ability (.311 AVG, .393 OBP, 84 walks, and a 5.41% K-rate), and even bested himself in speed (a record-shattering 112 stolen bases, and a personal-best 13 triples as well). And it appeared he was only getting warmed up – Ortiz hit a scorching .325-.377-.692 in September, and achieved the rare feat of a 30-RBI, 30-Run month, one of the only such months recorded in history. Altogether, Ortiz batted .311-.393-.560 with 213 hits ,34 homers, 139 RBI, 160 Runs, and 151.46 Runs Created, an all-around display of hitting and durability that hasn’t been seen since the inaugural 2003-2004 seasons (the last time anyone had >140 Runs Created, or > 260 RBIs+Runs.
Joanna Maung, Saung-gah-basewoman: Like many longtime fan favorites, saung-gah-basewoman Maung is long on memories and stories but in the new age of statistical scrutiny, increasingly coming up short in real production. While she continued to play admirably in close/late situations (.344-400-.438) and put up clutch plate appearances for the ages (who could forget the opening game of the Divisional Series!), Maung’s regular season body of work was simply another middling year at the plate (.289-.355-.360). While she played in about half of the games at third, she found herself displaced often by Quach and the upstart rookie Wissmath.
Salgu Wissmath, Utility Infielder: After destroying minor-league pitching in the Berkeley Independent League, the rookie free agent pickup got her chance to shine in the bigs, and she hasn’t disappointed for a rookie, batting .318-.387-.420 and stealing 24 bases whilst filling in as part of the 3B platoon for the lackluster Maung, and in September as the primary SS replacement for the injured Nghe. For a rookie, she demonstrated great bat control and picked up walks at a nice clip, resulting int he 4th-best OBP on the team. With the left side of the infield continually in flux, the versatile Swissmath looks like she’ll play a major role in that mix next year.
Ted Kwong, Leftfielder: Rumored as the next prodigy before he even stepped into training camp, Kwong carried with him not quite huge expectations (the Montis, winners of 4 straight Universal Series and stocked with star talent, were probably the team in least need of the next superstar hitter to help carry their offense) but intrigue. While the SWL had had the other-worldly Gates Skywalker for 3 years running, no one had achieved an other-worldly season (an OPS over 1.100) since the Daly City slugging duo of Tienturier and Ho retired in 2004. The rookie leftfielder stepped onto the scene and hit like few ever have at such an age, and in ways the Montis haven’t seen since Kwong’s legendary predecessor at leftfield, Norman Ho… if that. In just his first year, Kwong set nearly unheard of marks: a godly .445 OBP (2nd in Montis history to the .467 in Ho’s 2003 season); an all-time Monti record .704 SLG (only Jason Liu in his barely-qualifying 2004 season came particular close, when he slugged .702. Ho’s 2003 had the 3rd highest mark in team history, at just .663); and 48 homers, a Monti rookie record and just 1 short of Ho’s 2004 record.
Concerningly, Kwong has also been bitten by the injury bug several times at the end of the season – he dealt with an inflamed back that forced him out for a week in September, then in the middle of the Montis playoff run, tore a calf muscle that set him out for the rest of the postseason.
Tiffany Ho, Centerfielder: Entering the season as the most experienced contestant of the centerfield platoon(145 starts there in 2006), Ho surprisingly found herself as the odd girl out – she logged just 20 starts at center, and instead found her spots in relief at left field, right field, and even shortstop for a spell (12 starts). Despite all of the defensive shuffling and the lack of a consistent starting spot, Ho’s performance hardly seemed to suffer – she improved her rate stats across the board, hitting .315-.354-.429, for the first time bringing her on-base rate above league-average levels.
Jessica Kuo, Centerfielder: Expected to be the defensive wizard and lightest-hitting of the centerfield candidates, Kuo ultimately emerged as the primary centerfielder candidate for 2007. She flashed better-than-expected on-base ability (.382, built mostly upon a .346 average), and simply slapped singles for most of the season (out of her 182 hits, just 22 went for extra bases). Aside from getting onto base, Kuo’s signature value proposition was simple: pure and unrefined SPEED. Though the record-holder (and eventual record-breaker) Ortiz stole the headlines for most of the season, Kuo was able to match him nearly steal-for-steal after spotting him a huge head start (she stole just 3 bases in sparse play when she first started in April, compared to 22 for Ortiz). From May through September she stole 86 bases to Ortiz’s 90, while being caught only 14 times (86%) to Ortiz’s 19 (82.6%), and was partially responsible for many of his steals, allowing the leadoff hitter to piggy-back off her double-steals after getting on-base from the 9-spot. If she can maintain her on-base ability and playing time, 2008 could shape up to be a stolen base race for the ages.
Francis Chen, Rightfielder: Ever since he stepped onto the scene in 2004, blasting 13 homers in just 162 part-time at bats, Chen has attracted intense interest as a player who flashed all the tools to be a star in the league and was only in want of the consistency to put it all together. The next step was the 46 walks in just 304 plate appearances in 2005 (15.13% walk rate), enough to raise his appalling .179 batting average to an acceptable .307 on-base-percentage. Despite the paltry overall numbers (Chen was just .179-.307-.417 that season), the potential there was enough for the Montis to make a commitment, and again, Chen was almost there, putting together a decent 2006 season that mixed flashes of appallingly bad flailing at the plate with locked-in power surges.
Finally, 2007 was that season that Francis Chen the Legend arrived. Racking up 83 walks and 14 steals, Chen put stacked himself up to a .354 OBP, and put on a prodigious power display, becoming the first Montis player ever to achieve a 50-homerun season. He hit 53 out of the park, slugged .604, and led the team with 144 RBIs. Sure, he hit only .237 and was still inconsistent, failing for weeks at a time with months like a .176-.341-.412 May and a .184-.316-.378 September, but when Chen was locked in, nearly no hitter was better, such as in the month of June when Chen hit a simply unbelievable .338-436-.925 with 14 homers in just 80 at bats. In total, Chen went .237-.354-.604 for a .958 OPS, 6.62 RC/27, and an absurd 2.552 bases per hit.
Jonathan “The Cheet” Chee, Designated Hitter: The Cheet saw his role increasingly squeezed out in 2007 as fresh faces, especially ones with better defensive prowess, emerged. After playing 1,235+2/3 abysmal innings left field in 2006, Chee barely logged any defensive innings in 2007, just 72 innings over 10 games at catcher and third. Instead, Chee found himself in a DH role, and a part time one at that, given the steep drop off in Chee’s huge drop offs in his signature hit-by-pitches (just 18 this year, surpassed by 4 other players in the league, the first time in 3 years in which Chee did not lead the league), and power, where Chee dropped off to a meek .324 slugging percentage, the lowest mark on the team and 2nd-lowest of any Montis season with at least 250 plate appearances.
Skyler Reid, Designated Hitter: The power third of the centerfield platoon, the defensively challenge Reid soon found himself in the designated hitter’s spot after Kuo’s speed and defense proved to be a winning combination in center, and The Cheet’s further declining power hitting opened up the DH spot. Offensively, Reid posted an extremely solid offensive output, hitting .327-.379-.506, giving the third-highest RC/27 (7.10) if he had made enough appearances to qualify.
Nathan Yan, #1 Starting Pitcher: What a year it’s been for Yan, who has delivered what must be considered the most dominant pitching season the league has ever seen. Pitching on a slightly aggressive schedule that saw him throw 34 starts in a 6-man rotation, Yan posted career highs in almost all his counting stats, including a 33-1 record, 296 innings (that’s 8.76 innings per start!), and obliterating the strikeout record by becoming the first ever pitcher to record 600 K’s in a season (after having already become the first, and still only, pitcher to record 400 and 500 K’s). Though his ERA (0.91) didn’t quite reach the lofty depths of last year’s 0.79, he did continue to improve his peripherals however so slightly, walking just 0.7 batters per 9 innings (down from 1.0), and bumping his strikeout rate to 18.3 K’s per 9. After a formula-breaking -0.01 DIPS ERA last year, Yan’s 2007 season completely busts it with a -0.12 DIPS mark. In a season such as this one, it would be impossible not to add to Yan’s lore of legendary games, and his highlights this season built up even more than the last, including a 22-strikeout PERFECT GAME on May 23rd against the Apple Septic Tanks (just the 5th in league history, and the first in his career), a game in which he also recorded his 2000th career strikeout. He followed this up just a few months later on August 5th with the SIXTH PERFECT GAME in league history, a 17-strikeout beauty against the Europe Cricketeers.
Whitney Anne Esguerra, #2 Starting Pitcher: After a stellar but at times trying rookie season in which she pitched well but rarely found the run support to win games, Esguerra left it all on the table in her sophomore season, pitching in such a dominant fashion that she needed hardly needed any run support at all – 1.88 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, an opponent OPS of just 0.496, 289 K’s in 235 innings (11.1 K/9), en-route to a 24-1 record in 30 starts, setting numerous team records for Daly City starters not named Yan, and finishing second in the league in almost every major statistical category. She especially dominated the last month of the season, throwing 53 K’s in 46 innings, with an 0.59 WHIP, 0.59 ERA, and 4 CG’s and 3 shutouts in 5 starts.
Samantha Chin, #3 Starting Pitcher: A 2nd straight year of improvement for Chin, who is as steady as they come – for the 3rd straight year she’s improved in just about every category, settling down her control (2.0 walks per 9 innings, down from 2.8) and allowing far fewer flyballs to go yard – she allowed just 7 this year compared to 14 in about as many innings last year. Her ERA, CERA, and DIPS ERA continue to decrease, and if the 1:1 correlation between her CERA and subsequent year’s ERA continues, her 2007 CERA (2.12) may indicate a Pitcher-of-the-Year caliber performance coming soon.
Terrence Zhao, #4 Starting Pitcher: A second straight good, yet disappointing season for Zhao, who seems to have regressed and inverse-plateau’d following his breakout 2005 season. The year Zhao put up, with 188 innings, a 3.06 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 203 K’s (9.7 per 9), can hardly be distinguished from the previous season, and Zhao continued to exhibit a worrying drop in control (allowing a .292 OBP, highest since his rookie year). While great from a production standpoint (he went 18-4 on the season in 27 starts, averaging 6.96 innings each), it feels like a missed opportunity for Zhao, once the #2 starter who has now been surpassed by Esguerra and Chin to fall to the #4 slot.
Alfred Vong, #5 Starting Pitcher: In his season-long audition for a permanent role in the starting rotation, Vong shined for the first four months of the season, but seemed to simply run out of steam down the stretch – after that 7-2, 2.83 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 101+2/3 inning start through July, Vong was an abysmal 2-4, 5.86 ERA, and 1.41 WHIP in nine August+September starts, once again casting a long shadow of doubt over whether Vong can make it as a starter, or is better suited to a life in long relief. Overall however, Vong fared decently in his first year as a starter, finishing with a 9-6 record, 3.90 ERA, and 1.11 WHIP in 157 innings over 21 starts and 2 relief appearances.
Sean Wade, #6 Staring Pitcher: And the regression continues for the one-time rock-steady rookie, who has been anything but in his two seasons since. Entering the season haven been just barely edged out by Vong for the #5 slot, Wade couldn’t establish himself as anything but the 6th-best starter on the team, throwing only 21 starts and recording an 8-5 record, 5.08 ERA, and 1.38 WHIP over 122+1/3 innings in that span, the worst season by ERA of anyone with even 50 innings, much less 122 and a third. While he did better in some peripherals, upping his K’s to 8.0 per 9 innings and lowering his homeruns allowed to 1.3 per 9, the hits (10.2/9IP) and walks (2.3/9IP) just kept coming against Wade.
Alvina Chu, Setup Reliever: Though sidelined at the end of August with a ruptured tricep tendon that put her out for all of September, Chu made it back just in time for the postseason, playing an integral part in the bullpen effort (5 innings, 4 K’s, 0.80 WHIP and no runs allowed) to deliver Daly City their 5th consecutive postseason title. Despite being cut a month short from her last season with the team, Chu still managed to set record highs in games (55), innings (67+2/3), strikeouts (63, for 8.38 K’s per 9). She retires having established herself as Daly City’s primary setup reliever (having served that role for her last 4 seasons) and one of its most accomplished bullpen leaders, with 145 relief appearances (1st), a 27-7 record (1st among relievers), 6 saves (5th), 32 holds (1st), 221+2/3 relief innings pitched (2nd, 3+2/3 short of Angel Poon’s mark), a 2.80 ERA (2nd among relievers with 100 innings), 3.45 DIPS (2nd), and 1.06 WHIP (2nd).
Kelley Cox, Long Reliever: Taking the role vacated by converted starter Alfred Vong, the rookie reliever impressed with her stamina, throwing 76 innings over 38 games, and posting solid if unspectacular stats of 3.43 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 3.76 DIPS ERA, exactly the workhorse-like performance you need from your long reliever. Cox even tried her hand in a starting role, attempting her first career start in May against the Caribbean Pirates, although it turned out disastrous (she lasted just 3+2/3 innings while allowing 9 hits+walks and 5 runs). She’d get a second chance, however, on the big stage, starting Game 6 of the Universal Series and going toe-to-toe with Parisian Kenneth Price through 8 innings, giving up 5 hits+walks and allowing just 1 run before handing off the 1-1 tie game to closer Josiah Leong.
Bernadette Dugtong, Middle Reliever: The rookie middle reliever, thrust into the primary relief role after the 2006 bullpen retirements, struggled late in the season, allowing an ugly 13 runs (9 earned) in 9 September innings, giving her a 9.00 ERA and 2.56 WHIP for the month. That brought her overall numbers down into decidedly league-average territory – only Wade posted a higher ERA or bOBP. Though her strikeout rate wasn’t impressive, Dugtong showed a remarkable resistance against giving up the big hit, allowing just 1.24 bases per hit and only allowing a single homer over 61 innings.
Josiah Leong, Closer: Leong ushered in an era of consistency to the closer role by becoming the first Daly City closer to serve consecutive seasons as the team’s closer. At this point one of the team’s most experienced relievers, Leong seems to have settled into the closer role – though he had far fewer opportunities for saves this season with the Monti’s prolific offensive production, Leong managed to gather 24 saves and emerged with a 9-2 record after being inserted into high-pressure situations throughout the season. Compared to his previous season’s 9 blown saves in 46 chances (19.6%), Leong blew just 3 in 26 save opportunities (11.6%). Overall Leong allowed fewer base runners and fewer big hits than last season, reducing his opponent’s AVG to a miniscule .176, and SLG to a tiny .300. Nonetheless he still ended up allowing about the same number of runners, having lost some control to allow a staggering 4.7 walks per 9 innings.
And the 2007 Team Award Winners…
Team Defensive Player of the Year: Whitney Esguerra
It’s a bit strange, giving your defensive award to a pitcher who logged just 235 defensive innings. But Esguerra was a dominant presence covering the center of the diamond, putting away 55 batters on the field (20 putouts + 35 assists), an impressive number for a pitcher who placed second in the league in strikeouts (11.07 K/9). All told, Esguerra relied on 408 fielding outs (subtracting strikeouts), for which she accounted for 13.48%.
Rookie of the Year: Ted Kwong
It wasn’t much of a contest this year; having established himself as undoubtedly the league’s rookie of the year, and with others clamoring for Batter of the Year honors to be bestowed, Kwong ran away with the RotY award, even against one of the strongest fields Daly City has had in years. In a season in which CF/DH Reid established himself as a solid lineup presence, CF Kuo gave Ortiz a run for his stolen base title while playing stellar defense, and relievers Cox and Dugtong both proved serviceable in the bullpen, no one set the team on fire as much as Kwong, who put up one of the best Daly City hitting seasons ever, batting .357-.445-.704, generating 10.79 Runs Created per 27 outs, and posting up 48 homeruns, 135 RBI, and 142 Runs in an injury-shortened 146 Games.
Comeback Player of the Year: Alvina Chu
It wasn’t a strong comeback year for any player in particular – on the whole the players who had been improving continued to improve, and the players who were regressing continued to regress. Chu bunked that trend just a little – while she didn’t return to the lofty heights of her 2005 season, Chu did improve a bit on last year’s regression, setting a career high in innings while shouldering the load as Daly City’s setup reliever.
Breakout Player of the Year: Whitney Esguerra
There were breakout performances a plenty for the Daly City Montis this year. From Ortiz, the speedy leadoff hitter who bulked up in the offseason and put on a power display that catapulted him into the echelon of top-flight all-around players; to Chen, who 3 years after his part-time debut finally took on the reins of a full season and put on a power display for the ages. But no player exceeded their history more than the sophomore starter Esguerra, who put on a season for the ages. In fact, measured by a whole slew of metrics – K’s, Quality Starts, CERA, DIPS ERA, bOBP, bSLG, K:BB – she put on the best season by a starter not named Yan, and overall her body of work shines more impressively than even the legendary 2004 Willis Fong’s or Zhao’s breakout 2005. And only Yan and Leong have bested the impressive 11.07 K’s per 9 mark she put up. In just two short years
Performance of the Year: Yan’s Twin Perfect Games
Everyone expected that at some point in his career, Yan would do it – post up the rare Perfect Game, flawlessly gathering 27 outs with nary a hit or walk or hit by pitch or even fielder’s error. In league history it’s only been done 4 times before, and none since Jack Seemann in 1938. Yan finally achieved this feat in 2007, blanking the not-anemic Apple Septic Tanks (they did finish 3rd of 8 in the UL in Runs) with a jaw-dropping 22 strikeouts, pulling the hat trick on 6 of 9 Apple batters (only the great SS Kenobi escaped without being struck out). Not even three months later, Yan astonished the world by dropping his SECOND Perfect Game on the Europe Cricketeers, a feat which prior-to occurred once every 13 YEARS.