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The 2007 Playoffs: World Series Recap

Game Recaps

27 October 2007 – After utterly dominating their league once again on both sides of the plate, the Daly City Montis roared in once again to the Fall Classic in what has for years been an annual victory march. Last year they went 8-2 in the postseason before their coup de grâce, a 4-0 sweep of the SWL Champion Pentax Shake Reducers, and the 2007 version of the Montis looked even more dominant, bashing their way to 1098 runs (besting 2nd place by 157 runs, after only leading by 28 the previous year) and allowing an anorexic 485 runs (440 earned) all year, for an astounding 2.68 team ERA in a year when the UL average was 4.94 (a team ERA+ of 184!).

Their opponents from the SWL side had a less glamorous road to the championship series. The Paris Forfeiters scored just 834 runs this season (7th out of 8 teams in the SWL), though they kept opponents to a SWL-low 784 runs (second in baseball to the Daly City), thanks largely to a rotation led by free agent import Kyle Katarn (who attained the first SWL Triple Crown after playing runner-up to Daly City pitchers in the UL league for years).

Game 1 started with a duel of star pitchers Yan and Katarn, almost certainly the Pitcher of the Year award winners for their respective leagues. Katarn gave up an early unearned run in the 3rd inning when second baseman Christian Lee failed to put away a 2-out grounder, allowing leadoff wunderkind Christian Ortiz to score. At the bottom of the 6th, Daly City slugger Francis Chen hammered a massive solo homerun to stake the lead to 2-0. The way Yan was pitching, Chen’s homer looked like the nail in the coffin – Yan had pitched 7 shutout innings, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 15. But over the course of a barely-over-.500 season and a gritty 7-game series victory in the League championship just to get here, the scrappy Paris Forfeiters wouldn’t give up. In the eighth, rightfielder Willis Hoffman led off with a double, and just two batters later was driven in by a Shigemoto Noriyuki PINCH-HIT homerun that tied the game up. The Montis failed to score in the 8th, and in the 9th Yan ran into trouble again, giving up a leadoff triple to Anthony Reyes, who was promptly driven in by Lamont Sanchez’s single for the go-ahead run. Despite catcher Tina Quach earning herself a walk with 1 out to set up the tying run, the game was to end on a pinch-hit strikeout by Jonathan Chee. Katarn pitched brilliantly against a high-octane Daly City offense, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) on 7 hits and a walk over 8 innings, while striking out 8. Yan, in perhaps a more awe-inspiring but leaky performance, allowed 6 hits (4 going for extra bases) and 3 runs, despite striking out 18 batters and requiring just 9 outs from his fielders. It was his second loss of the season.

The Montis came roaring back with a vengeance in the next three games, winning by a combined score of 23-3. In an all-team effort, the Montis piled up for 44 hits, 3 walks and a combined line of .379-.388-.543 to back a dominant  trio of performances by starters Esguerra (1 run on 4 H+BB in 8 innings, 10 K’s), Chin (1 run on 6 H+BB in 8 innings, 13 K’s), and Zhao (1 run on 8 H+BB in 9 innings CG, 13 K’s). The Montis line up exacted a blistering revenge on Forfeiters ace Kyle Katarn in Game 5, ripping him for 14 hits and 9 runs in 7+2/3 innings in by far his worst outing of the season.

The Forfeiters would not go out so easily, however. Determined to win at least one on the last night of their homestand, leadoff CF James Talmage put on a 1-man show, stroking 2 doubles and a homerun in 3 hits to score 3 runs and drive in 4 himself, having a hand in 7 of the Shake Reducers 8 runs in their 8-6 victory. The young starter Alfred Vong was hit hard in this game, allowing 5 runs in 5+2/3 innings, and even closer Leong could not stop the bleeding – he gave up 3 more runs in just his 2nd appearance this postseason, driving up his ERA to a comical 33.76.

The Montis made things interesting in Game 6. Despite having both #1 and #2 starters Yan and Esguerra fully rested, the Montis manager instead trotted out long reliever Kelley Cox, making just the 2nd starter of her young career. She was the most well-rested of anyone on the Daly City pitching staff, having pitched just a two-inning outing in the opening series against the Asia Giants. Still, it was a curious choice, considering that Cox had not fared well in her only other audition as a closer, a May start against the Caribbean Pirates in which she lasted just 3+2/3 innings and gave up 5 runs on 9 Hits+BB.

The move proved to pay off, however – Cox threw an understatedly dominant 8 innings, allowing just 3 hits, 2 walks, and a single run in by far the longest outing of her career. Unfortunately for Cox, the fairytale of clinching the World Series championship win in her first postseason start in her rookie season was denied by Paris starter Kenneth Price, who pitched an equally dominant 9 innings with just 6 hits, 1 walk, and allowing a single run, all in an efficient 102 pitches. Cox left the game in the 9th with a 1-1 tie, having thrown 116 pitches, yielding to closer Leong.

The stalemate went on for what seemed like forever – after a Francis Chen double to put him on base at the bottom of the 11th, the Montis passed up two potential chances to score – the first when Chen (speed 70/100) was stopped at third on a Derek Lew single to leftfield (not wanting to challenge LF Luciano Ferrant’s 91-rating arm), and another on Salgu Wissmath’s flyout to right (with RF Willis Hoffman’s 84-rating arm).

It was finally down to bottom of the 15th frame, with 2 outs in the bag. By this time, the Forfeiters had exhaused 3 pitchers and were on their 4th reliever, middle reliever Bobby Kantor. Josiah Leong, drawing from his experience as a converted starter, had muscled through an astonishing 7 shutout innings in relief, utterly dominating the Forfeiters to the tune of allowing just 2 hits, a walk, and a hit batter, while striking out 10 batters. With 2 outs against Kantor, RF Francis Chen, just 1 for 6 on the day, reaches base on a hit by pitch. With the aura of a man who’d been here many times before, Daly City all-time great Derek Lew strolled up to the plate.

Stepping up to the plate is… first baseman Derek Lew.
He is 2 for 6 tonight with a double.
There are two down, the count at 3 balls and zero strikes.
A walk here would bring up shorstop Salgu Wissmath.
Lew waits for the 3-0 pitch…
fastball…
Lew swings…
LINE DRIVE to left-center
a long run for Luciano Ferrant, but he’s got the stronger arm.
He is running fast…
it rolls to the wall…
Lew is heading for second…
and this time there is NO hesitation for Francis Chen, he is blazing past 3rd…
Chen slides, the throw will not be in time…
and Lew will have the game winner, the series winner with a stand-up RBI double!!!

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The 2006 Playoffs Preview

League Review

Saturday, October 2nd – dawn as the playoff series begin.  Eight teams jockeying to win the pennant, although once again there’s one sole favorite.
The last month of the season ended with few surprises and a bit of heartbreak, and ultimately a playoff picture that again leaves the Daly City Montis as the clear favorite to win this season.

Finishing with a 119-43, .735 record, their worst season yet, the Daly City Montis are again the #1 seed in the playoffs, finishing 23 games in first place with the top offense and top pitching in the league, once again.  Microsoft stayed strong in the Galatica Division, holding onto a 96-66 record for 2nd place, and 2nd seed, beating out Apple by four games.  With another year, the Galatica Division’s dominance over the Terran Division seemed all the more obvious – this year all of the Galatica Division finished with a record above .500, while every team in the Terran Division was sub-.500.  In fact, the 4th-place Mozilla Firefoxes, 37 games out of first place, led Terran Division champions Asia Giants by 13 games.  An unfair world, surely, and one that means a playoff season without Galactica stars Pitcher of the Year runner-up Kyle Katarn (Apple), Batter of the Year contender Ben Kenobi (Apple), or Mozilla’s Robert Kroger.

Although all of their teams finished under .500 once again, things were certainly shaken up in the Terran Division.   Last year’s last-place Asia, who had the worst record in the league, rose to 1st place prominence (with a measly 69-93, .426 record), bolstered by their #1 draft pick and likely Rookie-of-the-Year Benjamin Trepanier, who set the table this season with a .437 OBP, #3 in baseball and #1 in the UL.  Last year’s division winners Europe Cricketeers, who were the closest to .500 with a .475 record, narrowly missed the playoffs by one game, failing to win their last game against the Daly City Montis, which would have forced a 1-game playoff with the United States.

Over in the Shinto-World league, Canon once again leads the league, although their division championship this year was cut down to a meager 1-game lead over the Pentax Shake-Reducers.  Despite being led by the 2005 SW Pitcher of the Year Justin Ramage and Gates Skywalker’s record-breaking season, they were narrowly beaten by Pentax, who mounted an 18-9, .667 September surge to come within one game of a tie for the division championship.  Nikon, interestingly, despite posting the 2nd-best offense in the SW league and possessing possibly the 2nd and 3rd best hitters in baseball, finished below .500 and in last place in the Photomaker Division.

Fast becoming like the Terran Division, 2006 wasn’t a good year for the World Cities division, whose 4 teams all finished below .500, albeit only marginally.  While both Tokyo and Paris dominated the division in 2005, with records well over .500, Tokyo, who last year was fairly dominant with star slugger Ronald Peterson, dual aces Willard Weiler and Michael Contreras, and the #2 pitching staff in baseball (behind only the Daly City Montis), finished 3rd place this year, although their projected 84-78 record would have tied them for first in the league.  Making the playoffs instead are the light-hitting Paris Forfeiters (only one player over .500 SLG, only one player over .300 AVG), who look to be mere Round 1 pushovers, and the even weaker Las Vegas Valleys (like Paris, only one player over .500 SLG, one player over .300 AVG, and no players                over .333 OBP).

Playoff projections:
Round 1: United States Patriots vs. Daly City Montis
The US brings the power, led by sluggers Juan Truex 3B, and Andrew Amey, C.  Outside their top hitters, however, they haven’t gotten anyone else who can set the table (next highest OBP is .335), or who can drive in runs (next highest SLG is .458).  Daly City pitching should mow through them, and even the relatively light Daly City offense should have a field day with the Patriots’ league-worst 5.73 ERA.
Prediction: Daly City, 4-0

Round 1: Asia Giants vs. Microsoft Longhorns
The Giants’ two-star offense has become a 3-star offense this year, with outstanding rookie Benjamin Trepanier one of the best in the game at getting on-base (#1 in OBP, #1 in walks in UL).  Tom Clark is a good run-producer, and the monstrous bat Asia has in Alex Quiros makes them a contender in every game.  When it comes to Microsoft, however, Asia is facing an uphill battle.  Microsoft possesses FIVE bats in their lineup slugging over .500, not to mention 3 players over .375 OBP.  They scored the second-most runs out of any ballclub, and are solidly 2nd in all the major pitching categories.  Microsoft has taken huge hits over the last month, however, when in a span of a week they lost their best starter, and arguably the league’s second best pitcher, Kernel Tyranus, who was dominating hitters with a 22-5 record and 2.03 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in only 30 starts.  They also lost a workhorse starter in Wilhuff Tarkin, and in another big loss, are also without slugger Jabba Desilijic Ture, an .885 OPS hitter who also ended up leading the league in homeruns, despite missing the last half month.  Microsoft definitely isn’t the same team they were a month ago, and while they’ve been absolutely decimated, they should still be able to pull this one out against the Giants.
Prediction: Microsoft Longhorns, 4-2.

Round 1: Las Vegas Valleys vs. Canon Image Stabilizers
With a 12th-ranked offense and 7th-ranked defense, the Valleys don’t bring much to the table against Canon’s #3 offense and #6 defense.  Aside from the terribly inconsistent Luciano Ferrant , there is no one on this Vegas team who can hit.  Vegas’ lone hope rests in their star hitter, 35-year old SS Hector Valdivieso, who currently sits on the DL with a fractured knee.  After 5 weeks on the DL, he makes his comeback in 5 days – Las Vegas just hopes it can stave off elimination by Canon’s Gates Skywalker wrecking ball until then.  Canon is perhaps not the juggernaut it was last year, with the flawless 2.48 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 24-3 Justin Ramage pitching more like a mortal this year.  Despite his 18-10 record, 3.46 ERA, and 1.27 WHIP, he’s still one of the best in the league. Canon also lost their #1 hitter, catcher Francis Cote, for the rest of the season, leaving a large hole in their lineup.  Nonetheless, they still have the best hitter in the game in Gates Skywalker, which should get them past this first round, at the very least.
Prediction: Canon Image Stabilizers, 4-2

Round 1: Paris Forfeiters vs. Pentax Shake Reducers
Perhaps the only toss-up in the first round, the red-hot Pentax, 8-2 in their final 10 games, play host to the Paris Forfeiters.  Paris has been merely mediocre this year.  They’re still led by OBP machine Lamont Sanchez (.427 OBP, #4 in the SWL), and have a decent supporting cast in an improved Christian Lee (.289-.372-.508) and James Talmage (.289-.393-.496).  In fact, Paris topped the SWL in OBP, and came in only #2 to Daly City.  The Shake Reducers plan to counter that with their raw power, however – finishing #3 in homeruns (and #1 in the Shinto-World League, beating out even Gates Skywalker and the Image Stabilizers).  They have three players over .500 SLG, and with three players over a .350 OBP, they can set the table as well.  Pitching-wise, both teams are fairly mediocre.  Pentax’s ace, Augusto Figueroa, who last year dominated with a 3.07 ERA, has been all over the place this season, posting a 4.10, and their #2, the promising young Warren Hobson, is out for at least the first round with a tight elbow.  Pentax has a 4.69 team ERA, while Paris has slightly better 4.60, and the teams are ranked 8-9 in the league.  Paris, however, has the outstanding Rex White, their 22-year-old star of the future, who has been getting better all season long – he was 5-0 in 6 starts in September, posting a 2.23 ERA and 1.12 WHIP.  The series might be decided by Pentax’s one weak point – closer Gonzalo Bonalos, who has been abysmal this season with a 5.09 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, blowing 5 saves in the process.  Pentax’s inability to close out games, along with some Rex White dominance, and inconsistency in their hack-or-miss offense, might just hand this round to the Forfeiters.
Prediction: Paris Forfeiters, 4-3.

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The 2005 Playoffs Preview

League Review

With the end of September comes an end to the hopes and dreams of many a team.  16 teams in the league, but the playoffs hold only room for an elite eight.

There weren’t many huge surprises in the last month of the season.  The Daly City Montis, who dominated the league, emerged with a 125-37 (.772) record and 29 games ahead of runner-up Apple Septic Tanks, who finished with a 96-66 (.593) record.  The Microsoft Longhorns, who went 19-7 (.731) in the last month, came up just a bit short, two games behind Apple, although a whopping 17 games of the Terran Division winner, the Europe Cricketeers, and 24 games over the Terran wildcard, the United States Patriots.

Over in the Shinto-World League, Canon ran away with the Photomaker Division crowd and finished with a 96-66 record, 14 games over wildcard and archrival Nikon.  In the World Cities Division, Tokyo emerged victorious from the season-long Tokyo-Paris struggle – the two teams were tied for much of the season, all the way until the final two games – Tokyo won both games and Paris lost its two games, making Tokyo the division winner by two games, although both teams will be in the playoffs.

A season recap will come later, but it’s time for the postseason – an exciting postseason preview comes your way!

Here’s how the things look on the Universe League side:

Daly City Montis, 125-27, .772, Team ERA: 2.94, Team OPS: .853
vs.
United States Patriots, 70-92, .432, Team ERA: 4.85, Team OPS: .708

This matchup looks a bit lopsided – Daly City possesses a 55-game lead over the United States in regular season play.  In the regular season, Daly City faced the United States 23 times, winning 18 of the contests.  Looks to be a cakewalk for Daly City, but let’s look at the projected lineups and staff:

US Hitting: The United States is led by sluggers Juan Truex (.297-.361-.574) and Andrew Amey (.280-.391-.537), but aside from those two solid hitters lack much of any supporting cast – the only other decently high OBP on the team is .354, and no one else slugs over .500.  It’s part of the reason why no player on the Patriots has amassed more than 85 RBIs or Runs this season.

DC Pitching: Daly City looks to go to a four-man rotation, or possibly even three – the masterful Nathan Yan, followed up by the mercurial Josiah Leong and the dominating Terrence Zhao, and finally the consistent rookie, Sean Wade.  With luck, it could be a 1-2-3-4 shutout series, with strong starting performances.  If not, Alvina Chu is well-rested and ready to pitch from the bullpen, although the shakiness of Zubeda Khan (5 blown saves out of 34 opportunities) means that a few of the close, late games might slip away.

US Pitching: The US pitching staff doesn’t look much better, either – no one on the pitching staff is under a 4.00 ERA, or even remotely close.  Closer John Galey has a 5.57 ERA and setup man Isaias Rodrigues has a 6.90 ERA, and based on those gaps in the bullpen alone, the US doesn’t seem like they’ll ever be able to close out a win over Daly City.

DC Hitting: The Daly City lineup ended the season on a declining note – after an explosive start to September, many of the veterans slowed down, in particular stalwarts Joey Wong and especially Derek Lew, who tanked with a .176-.211-.308 September, easily one of his worst.  Several other players have stepped up, however – Rudy Puzon, Henry Nghe, and Jonathan Chee all had solid performances in September.  Overall, the team looks to be in good shape, with explosiveness coming from one player or another, and the is after all still the #1 offense in the league, by a wide margin.  It should have no problem handling the weak US Pitching staff.

Apple Septic Tanks, 96-66, .593, Team ERA: 4.00, Team OPS: .747
vs.
Europe Cricketeers, 77-85, .475, Team ERA: 4.33, Team OPS: .724

EUR Hitting: Europe, unsurprisingly, lacks much punch in the offensive department.  They have one true star, catcher Rolland Hochstetler, who was one of the top hitters at .327-.430-.559 this season, and another decent slugger in Renato Trujillo (.281-.312-.534).  The #.276-.367-.456 Frank Cristobal is also a decent on-baseman.  All-in-all, the batting isn’t horrible – certainly not as bad as many other Terran Division teams, but their ability to score runs consistently will be severely tested when they face Apple’s strong pitching staff.

MAC Pitching: The Septic Tanks had one of the strongest pitching staffs in the league this year.  They were led strongly by Kyle Katarn, who at 22-8, 2.45 ERA (1.01 WHIP), would have been Cy Young any other year.  He’s followed by two fairly capable starters in #2 Wedge Antilles, and #3 Jeffrey Reese.  The bullpen is also one of the stronger ones in the league, with long reliever Ambrose Ackbar, as well as Mohammad King and quite possibly the best closer in the league, the 2.26 ERA Padme Amidala.

EUR Pitching: The Cricketeers are led by staff-ace Wilfredo Raposa, who ranked among the top pitchers this year with a 3.49 ERA and 8.7 K’s per 9 innings.  After him are mediocre pitchers Justin Pucci and Joshua Hack, who have on occasion pitched extremely well.  Europe has also got one of the better bullpens in the league, with Napoleon Chien (3.67 ERA) and Dwight Fenton (2.84 ERA), and 3.40 ERA, 28 save David Avila as the closer.

MAC Hitting: Unlike many other teams, the Septic Tanks have composed an extremely well-rounded hitting lineup.  They have a few star players, notably RF Chewie Gonzales (.327-.362-.547), 3B Hans Blik (.290-.345-.528).  Raposa aside, the Europe pitching staff might have a tough time taming the Septic Beast.

Overall, the series seems heavily slanted in Apple’s favor – even Europe’s star Raposa seems as if he’ll be neutralized by starting against Apple’s Kyle Katarn, who pitched at a full one run lower per game than Raposa.  Over the course of the season, Apple leads the series 13-10.

Canon Image Stabilizers, 96-66, .593, Team ERA: 4.04, Team OPS: .798
vs.
Nikon Vibration Reducers, 82-80, .506, Team ERA: 4.32, Team OPS: .768

As the 1st and 4th seeds in the Shinto-World league, the two archrivals waste no time in duking it out in the divisional playoff round.  The two have butted heads all season, and while Canon seems to have a dominating regular season lead, Nikon actually leads the regular season series between the teams 13-12.

NIK Hitting: The Vibration Reducers are led by Nikonian CF Richard Eager, who was a dominant force in the league with a .355-.437-.705 line, not to mention 21 steals and a low 44 K’s.  He’s backed up by fellow superstar and youngster Brandon Wroten, who started the year off slowly but caught fire at the end of the season.  The two players more or less carry the team, however – three other players set the table with OBP’s in the .340 range, but no other players has a higher OBP than .350 or a SLG higher than .500.  The Vibration Reducers will rely heavily on the back of Richard Eager to provide the offensive production needed to overcome Canon’s heavy-hitting lineup.

CAN Pitching: Canon is led by star pitcher Justin Ramage, who posted a 2.48 ERA and 273 K’s in 272 2/3 innings this season.  Beyond him, however, Canon is sorely lacking – the rest of the rotation seems extremely awful, save perhaps for Max Allen, who seems to have enormous potential with a 1.95 September ERA.  Canon also has the best closer bar-none in Lee Thornton, who saved 27 games with a 1.62 ERA.  Justin Ramage certainly has the right stuff, but it’s an open question as to whether any of the pitchers will be able to contain Nikon’s Richard Eager.

NIK Pitching: The pitching staff is about average – they’re led by Tim Barnes, who put up a good 20-win season and 3.59 ERA, but most of his success came early on – he’s posted consecutive 4+ ERA months in August and September, and at this point looks like a very vulnerable starter.  The rest of the staff doesn’t exactly bleed confidence – they have a strong closer in William Brunetti, who saved 30 games with a 2.81 ERA, but there doesn’t seem to be any other dominant force on the staff, which looks like it’ll bode well for the Image Stabilizers.

CAN Hitting: The Canon lineup is led by none other than the infamous Gates Skywalker, who dominated the league with a .328-.452-.737 line this season.  Skywalker alone would be enough of a force to level many other teams in a 7-game series, but in this he’s matched up against no other than Richard Eager, who more or less equalizes Skywalker’s production.  Skywalker, however, is surrounded by a couple of star hitters in catcher Francis Cote (.316-.393-.516) and RF Wilfredo Martinez (.314-.358-.550) – Nikon has a tough task if it hopes to limit Canon’s core lineup enough so that their one-man offense Eager can score enough to win the game.

Tokyo Samurai, 90-72, .556, Team ERA: 3.98, Team OPS: .743
vs.
Paris Forfeiters, 88-74, .543, Team ERA: 4.41 ERA, Team OPS .751

PAR Hitting: Paris is led by SS Lamont Sanchez (.322-.450.-.565) and is a high-OBP offense – their .331 OBP was 2nd in the SW league behind Canon, and third overall behind Canon and Daly City.  The Forfeiters also have 2B Cristian Lee, and two >.360 OBP men, although they’re missing a big table setter in their CF James Talmage, who went out in early September with a broken wrist, and will be out of the playoffs.

TOK Pitching: Tokyo has a strong pitching staff, that’s led by Willard Weiler (3.29 ERA, 1.08 WHIP), but also includes a #2 in Michael Contreras that’s as good as many others #1.  It’s anybody’s guess who will win out in a battle between consistent OBP hitting and lights-out pitching domination.

PAR Pitching: Paris has a decent pitching staff, filled with starters who middle around the 4.00 ERA mark.  However, their #1 starter Rex White, a 21-year old rookie, has been steadily improving all season, and closed off with a 2.98 ERA in September.  Paris also has a dominant closer in the 39 save, 1.96 ERA Garfield Yocom.

TOK Hitting: Despite Ronald Peterson’s 51 HR season highlight, the Tokyo offense is about a lot more.  Kevin Harwell (.297-.397-.470) is a strong force alongside Peterson (.307-.393-.615).  Tokyo also boasts a rash of inexperienced half-season players, who have put up good numbers so far, although it’s anybody’s guess how well they’ll stick.

It’s an all-out battle between two very good teams that have duked it out all season.  For what it’s worth, Tokyo leads the season series 15-8, although Paris, relying on consistent OBP production rather than Tokyo’s individual flair and flash, could pull off a series win, especially if Tokyo’s season-long reliance on unproven half-season players backfires.

Update in about two weeks (game time!) with round two of the playoffs.

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