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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 2007 Postseason Preview

League Review

Saturday, 2007 October 3 – the cool autumn breeze and the turning of the calendar to October means one thing for baseball fans – the playoffs are in the air, and while the Daly City Montis enter the postseason as dominant favorites once again, intriguing storylines abound everywhere, especially in the SWL where the four contenders were separated by just 4 games in the regular season.

While the past four years have been a gradual downward decline for the Montis (albeit still playing in a different class compared to other teams in the league), the Montis roared back to vintage dominance with a 131-31, .809 record, their second-best in team history and a 12-game improvement over the previous season. A weaker field also meant they completely ran away in the division – they clinched the division crown by August and finished with a staggering 41-game lead over the 2nd-place Microsoft Longhorns, who were no chumps themselves at 90-72, .556 with the 2nd-best record in baseball.

The Mozilla Firefoxes rose out of the cellar for the first time, as the bottom seemed to fall out of the Apple Septic Tanks, who have fallen from 2nd to 3rd to 4th place in the division in consecutive season, and finished with an abysmal losing record – 72-90, .444. They’re definitely feeling the loss of ace pitcher Kyle Katarn, who achieved the Triple Crown in the SWL with a 19-11, 3.34 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 298 K season.

Over in the tumultuous and always disappointing Terran Division, the Caribbean Pirates ascended to the top, posting a strong 79-83, .488 record – the best any Terran team has ever played. The Pirates were buoyed by the addition of free agent Simeon Sarvis who defected over from SWL’s Pentax and put up a .309-.376-.580 line, and the continued development of monster prospect Clifford Alfano, who followed up his outstanding rookie campaign (3rd place in UL rookie of year voting) by posting a .349-.446-.584 line and a scary 11.2 RC/27, 4th-best in the UL.

Last year’s first place Asia Giants took a slight step back, winning two fewer games but still managing to snag the last playoff berth with an abysmal 67-95, .414 record.

Following a tumultuous offseason in the Shinto-World League, the playoff picture will look massively different, both in terms of the teams present, the faces on them, and the familiar faces missing from October baseball.

The Canon Image Stabilizers, who had secured the division both years, plummeted to a tie for 3rd with the loss of all-galaxy slugger Gates Skywalker, who left to shatter his previous records in leading the Pentax Shake Reducers to the division crown. The Nikon Vibration Reducers, despite suffering from the loss of their own all-world slugger Richard Eager, replaced enough of his offensive prowess with free agent 1B Maul Foundation (.367-.403-.687, 2nd-best OPS and RC/27 in the SWL) to again finish 5th in baseball in offense, while shoring up their pitching with free agent Josue Berrero, who became the team’s ace with a 14-11, 3.88 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 234+1/3 IP season, good for the 5th-best ERA and 2nd-best WHIP in the SWL. They rose from the cellar last season to finish 84-78, .519, securing second place by 12 games.

Despite winning their division cleanly by five games, and dominating both sides of the ball by finishing 3rd in both runs scored and runs allowed (for a +119 run differential – no team outside of Daly City was better), the Pentax Shake Reducers come in with a bevy of question marks after their offseason makeover. Having lost their best two sluggers from 2006 – 1B Walter Vanish and RF Simeon Sarvis, who both went on two post .950+ OPS seasons with new teams – the Shake Reducers pulled in a free agent haul to more than replace them – 1B Barney Raymo slugged .292-.357-.558, and the ever-growing legend Gates Skywalker obliterated all records with a .359-.444-.981 season (1.426 OPS, 16.93 RC/27) to carry the team. If the prolific Skywalker can replicate his regular season success, even the veteran Montis offense will be pressed to keep pace.

The most dramatic late-September race was in the World Cities division. On 2007 September 23, with five games to go on the season, the Tokyo Samurai stood at had 84-73, and had secured a mildly comfortable lead over the 82-75 Las Vegas Valleys, who themselves had a 2-game margin over the 80-77 Paris Forfeiters. Tokyo went 3-2 the rest of the way to win the division by two games, but the Valleys stumbled a bit at 2-3, while the Forfeiters swept five games, including a crucial 161st game, 8-2 win against the Valleys to finally move ahead into second place, leaving the mercenary Richard Eager, he of the record-busting $38.3M annual salary, out of the postseason once again (something that will no doubt vindicate fans of the playoff-bound Vibration Reducers, his former team).

Matchups

Round 1: Asia Giants vs. Daly City Montis

Interestingly enough, despite being the weakest team in the playoff field this year, the Asia Giants tied with the Mozilla Firefoxes as the most succesful team against the Montis in 2007, albeit that “success” meant losing only at a 7-16 clip (.304). Still, they’ve fared much better against the Montis than either the Microsoft Longhorns or the Caribbean, who had combined to go 5-42, .106 against the Montis. Nonetheless it looks to be a longshot for the Giants – while rookie of the year Benjamin Trepanier has evolved into one of the top-five players in baseball (4th-best 11.9 RC/27 this year on a .316-.461-.606 line), and franchise cornerstone 1B Alex Quiros (who recently signed a 7-year, $8.45M per deal) whacked .294-.388-.616 over a full 162 game season, they lost their #5 slugger Tom Clark (.294-.373-.553) to a torn back muscle a few days before the end of the season. The powerful Montis lineup should also feast on the Giants’ atrocious hitting (5.87 ERA, 1005 runs allowed, both last in baseball).

Prediction: Daly City, 4-0

Round 1: Caribbean Pirates vs. Microsoft Longhorns

The Microsoft Longhorns come into this matchup noticeably less balanced than the year before, when they finished 2nd both in runs scored and allowed. Despite some importance losses – .300-.335-.583 SS Maul Foundation to free agency, .300-.339-.593 1B G.A. Thrawn to a complete skills regression (he hit .186-.233-.316 over 249 plate appearances this season), the rapid development of some of their younger hitters allowed the Longhorns to keep pace with 941 runs to once again finish second. Of particular note is the star-studded trio of gap hitters Jango and Boba Fett (.368-.453-.655 and .336-.407-.599, respectively) and UL homerun champion Jabba Desilijic Ture, who hammered 63 homers and a .246-396-.605 line). The Fetts and Desilijic Ture make Microsoft the only team with three players with a 1.000 or greater OPS. Their pitching, however, has been just mediocre – while Kernel Tyranus dominated once again (18-8, 2.80 ERA, 1.10 WHIP), no other member of the rotation has an ERA less than 5.00.

While the Longhorns’ potent offense and ace Tyranus will present a tough matchup for anyone, the 2007 Caribbean Pirates squad – 10th in runs scored and 9th in runs allowed – is about the best the Terran Division has ever fielded, about on par with the 2005 European Cricketeers. Their lineup boasts a trio of stars – 20-year-old phenom Clifford Alfano, RF Simeon Sarvis, and 1B Luis Devitt, who on a good day can hit as well as the Longhorns’ three stars.  The Pirates’ pitching features solid but thoroughly unexciting innings-eater workhorses in Wilfredo Raposa, David Barnett, and Glenn Robertson.itt

On the  surface, Longhorns-Pirates looks to be an awfully lopsided matchup, but the Caribbean pitching staff, while not the dominating playoff ideal, actually match up well against Microsoft’s #2-4 starters.  With the right offensive burst, the Pirates might manage to win out two or so games in the series.

Prediction: Microsoft, 4-2

Round 1: Nikon Vibration Reducers vs. Pentax Shake Reducers

Though the Shake Reducers’ record did not fare much better than previous Photomaker division winners (they tied last year’s pennant-winning Image Stabilizers), their team looks to be the most stacked and balanced of all in the SWL, with a solid top-3 pitching rotation and the simply unstoppable Gates Skywalker, who could absolutely demolish the left-handed hopes that Nikon will ride on, #1 starter Josue Berrero and #2 Josue Huerta (Skywalker was a staggering .444-.529-1.294 against lefties this season).  The Shake Reducers’ hopes will lie almost entirely on Skywalker, however, as the team simply has no offense outside of him, while the Vibration Reducers can rely on young sluggers Maul Foundation and Brandon Wroten (.367-.403-.687 and .322-.405-.615, respectively).  Look for the Nikon squad to win a few games on a Skywalker off-day, but there likely won’t be enough of those before Skywalker single-handedly demolishes their pitching staff (especially against the lefty-heavy rotation).

Prediction: Pentax, 4-2

Round 2: Paris Forfeiters vs. Tokyo Samurai

A classic matchup of fearsome pitching against a fearsome lineup.  Tokyo run the division by bashing away at the opposition – they tied for 2nd in homeruns and 3rd in runs scored, led not only by free-agent import Walter Vanish (41 homers) and RF Ronald Peterson (39 homers), but also three additional batters who hit at least 20 round-trippers.   Their swing-for-the-fences approach, however (they ranked 3rd in the SWL in strikeouts), could be exactly the wrong matchup against a lights-out Paris pitching staff that led the SWL in strikeouts and were 2nd in baseball, especially against Triple Crown winner and ace Kyle Katarn.  The problem for Paris will be generating enough offense; they don’t have a star hitter in the bunch, with shortstop Lamont Sanchez, at .271-.393-.471 (.864 OPS) as their best hitter.  The Forfeiters do make up for this in terms of consistency, however – their lineup is loaded with 6 regulars with an OPS between .798 and .864, which should mean slow but steady run production.  Combine that with a star-studded pitching staff that doesn’t need too many runs to begin with, and the Forfeiters should be able to upset the division champion Samurai, and have a fair shot at going far in these playoffs.

Prediction: Paris, 4-2

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2007 Midseason Review (League)

League Review

Just like the summer heat, Daly City baseball has only heated up as we hit the midpoint of the season.  After a solid April start, the Montis have shifted into full gear with a 21-4 June record (.840).  The offense has been humming along at a slightly slower pace (just 6.51 runs per game in May/June, vs. 7.18 in April), but the rotation in particular has really come into its own, and their dominance has kept the team at the top of the standings.

The standings after 81 games:

Universe League (UL)Shinto-World League (SWL)
Galactica DivisionPhotomaker Division
TeamWL%Games backTeamWL%Games back
Daly City Montis6417.790-Pentax Shake Reducers4833.593-
Microsoft Longhorns4635.56818Nikon Vibration Reducers4437.5434
Mozilla Firefoxes4338.53121Canon Image Stabilizers4140.5067
Apple Septic Tanks3546.43229Sony Super Steadyshots3546.43213
Terran DivisionWorld Cities Division
Europe Cricketeers3843.469-Las Vegas Valleys4437.543-
Caribbean Pirates3546.4323Tokyo Samurai4338.5311
Asia Giants3348.4075Paris Forfeiters3645.4448
United States Patriots3051.3708Venice Carnivale3348.40711

Team Summary

Galactica Division

Microsoft Longhorns

The deep-pocketed Longhorns (their $137.5M payroll is tops in the league) are once again in solid contention, and while they don’t have a chance of catching the dominant Montis, they have a firm hold on the wildcard slot, with the third place team, the arch-rival Apple Septic Tanks, a distant 11 games back.

The Longhorns have got the power hitting – the extraordinary Jango Fett is having an MVP-caliber season, batting .390-.464-.673, setting the table nicely for Jabba Desiljic Ture, who leads the league in homeruns and RBI with 30 and 75, respectively.  While the pitching staff has been horrid, it’s anchored by Kernel Tyranus, who is once again having a solid season (10-1 so far, with a 2.47 ERA and 1.01 WHIP).  What they lack in overall excellence, the Longhorns are making up with star power, and they seem poised to be a playoffs threat.

Runs scored: 440(7th)
Runs allowed: 426 (7th)

Mozilla Firefoxes

The low-budget Firefoxes are showing how to get things done, non-profit style, putting up a solid .531 record with the smallest budget ($45M) in the league.  Mozilla is 3rd in the league in runs allowed, where ace Rober Krogert (3.89 ERA) and breakout star Ferdinand Castro (2.95 ERA) are keeping games to a low-scoring affair, but the offense is hurting.  They’re sorely feeling the loss of superstar  Mathew Glenn, who signed an outrageous contract (4 years, $21.7M per) to be Gates Skywalker’s replacement at Canon.

Runs scored: 425 (10th)
Runs allowed: 393 (3rd)

Apple Septic Tanks

What’s happened to Apple?  A year removed from a 92-win, .568 season, production has all but dried up for the Septic Tanks, who rank dead last in the Galactica Division (although they’d remain first if they played in the lowly Terran Division).  They’re neither hitting (13th in runs scored) nor pitching (13th in runs allowed), and about the only thing they’re doing is stealing bases (Ben Kenobi is third in the league with 35).

While the rotation saw the loss of dominant ace Kyle Katarn, the offense  just doesn’t seem to be clicking, despite retaining the core of their 4th-ranked 2006 lineup.  There’s still plenty of baseball left from July through September however, and the 3-4-5 trio of Ben Kenobi, Hans Blik, and Chewie Gonzales could very well turn the fortunes of the Septic Tanks around in the second half.

Runs scored: 425 (10th)
Runs allowed: 393 (3rd)

Terran Division

Europe Cricketeers

The Terran Division hasn’t been dominant since the inception of the league, having failed to produce a .500 club in any of the two and a half seasons thus far.  This time, the 2005 Division Champion Cricketeers are back in the driver’s seat, but with an 8-game seperation from 1st to 4th, it’s still anyone’s division.

For their part, the Cricketeers have been thriving based on pitching, with a decent performance across the board.  The offense has been anemic, however, without star catcher Rolland Hochstetler, who’s been out nearly two months after tearing his abdominal muscle in mid-May.

Runs scored: 371 (15th)
Runs allowed: 421 (5th)

Caribbean Pirates

Loaded with star power, many experts predicted this would be the year the Pirates broke out from the bottom of the division, but so far they haven’t lived up to the hype, with many of the franchise stars even regressing.  Though they’ve put up just 407 runs (12th in baseball), the Caribbean has seen the emergence of 2006 first-round pick Clifford Alfano, who has already hit his way into the cleanup slot with a .358-.442-.584 line in just his second season.  First baseman Luis Devitt and RF Simeon Sarvis have also improved, forming a fearsome trio of hitters in the 3-4-5 slots.

The rotation has been where the Pirates have disappointed – innings eater and ace Wilfredo Raposa, stolen away from the Cricketeers, hasn’t been able to find a groove in his new digs at the cavernous Hiram Bithorn stadium, where he’s allowing baseruns at a 1.52 WHIP rate.  Perhaps suffering from an ego hit, former ace David Barnett hasn’t seemed to be his old self, going 6-7 with a 6.12 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, and failing to make the all-star team for the first time in his career.

Runs scored: 407 (12th)
Runs allowed: 464 (12th)

Asia Giants

The 2007 Giants once again lean heavy on offense, and unlike their 2006 run to the top of the division, the bats just aren’t enough to overcome the horrid pitching this time around.  Not a single starter has an ERA lower than 5.50, and the fielding has been worse, committing 69 errors (2nd highest in baseball).

The Giants’ core of superstar hitters is keeping them in the hunt, and they are raking like perhaps no other middle of the lineup:

Benjamin Trepanier: .320-.443-.676
Alex Quiros: .304-.402-.640
Tom Clark: .277-.362-.559

The young Trepanier is quickly becoming a star – the 2006 first overall pick and rookie of the year,  has kept up career highs in batting average and on-base percentage, and has developed a newfound power stroke.  He ranks 3rd in slugging percentage (1st outside of Daly City), and has 25 homers – already surpassing the 18 he had all of last season!

Runs scored: 430 (9th)
Runs allowed: 524 (16th)

United States Patriots

The Patriots are dwelling in the cellar of the Terran Division, although with a -4 Pythagorean differential, their performance is right in the pack with the rest of the division.  Their offense has been led by the classic American Truex-Amey duo, but their supporting cast has been absolutely dreadful – just one other member of the starting lineup is slugging over .400, and just two others have an OBP over .300, leading to just the 14th-ranked offense in the game.

Pitching has been a relatively bright spot for the Patriots, however.  Though they’ve run a revolving door of starters (10 different pitchers have made starts), the group has performed surprisingly well, with three of five of the current rotation sporting ERAs below 4.

Runs scored: 378 (14th)
Runs allowed: 439 (8th)

Photomaker Division

Pentax Shake Reducers

When the Shake Reducers finished just one game back of the division champion Image Stabilizers last season, things were looking bright for the team – they had improved steadily on their 3rd-place finish in 2005, had a strong core of middle-of-the-order hitters, and one of the game’s true aces in Augusto Figeuroa.  Then things began to fall apart – the best two hitters, 1B Walter Vanish and RF Simeon Sarvis, both bolted in free agency, but in turn the payroll flexibility allowed the Shake Reducers to land the biggest fish of all – the disgruntled two-time MVP and record-breaking slugger Gates Skywalker.

Skywalker has almost single-handedly willed this team to the division lead – his monstrous .347-.441-.990 line is the stuff legend is made of, and he’s fully healthy so far, having played in all 81 games and setting himself on pace for 110 homeruns and 208 RBI’s, which would absolutely shatter the all-time record (88 HR’s by Kenton McClinton in his magical 1942 season).

Runs scored: 482 (3rd)
Runs allowed: 376 (2nd)

Nikon Vibration Reducers

Two middling seasons stuck far away from the division-leading Image Stabilizers, and any decent playoff hopes, combined to scare away the league’s second-most prolific hitter, Richard Eager.  From there it looked as though the team – 162-162 (.500) the past two seasons, would be dead in the water, but the Vibration Reducers have played splendid ball and find themselves in a prime position just 4 games back of the division lead, and leading the wildcard race.

The key has been solid on-base fundamentals – the team is getting on at a .353 clip, 2nd best in the game – and the signing of Microsoft shortstop Maul Foundation, who is doing his best Eager impersonation with a .374-.408-.694 line, not so far off from the .347-.433-.679 clip of the man himself.

Runs scored: 471 (4th)
Runs allowed: 425 (6th)

Canon Image Stabilizers

The Image Stabilizers made perhaps the worst front-office decision in baseball history by letting their franchise face Gates Skywalker, waltz over to a division rival, but the Stabilizers have hung in the thick of things with their signing of Mozilla hero Mathew Glenn, who is putting up a season for the ages (.385-.457-.702), and a solid but not spectacular supporting cast (Francis Cote and Francisco Amaral putting up OBP’s over .400).

The true weakness of the team lies in their pitching, where ace Justin Ramage seems far removed from his Pitcher-of-the-Year-winning glory days of 2005 (he’s got a 4.07 ERA and just 6.3 K’s per 9), and none of the other rotation members seem particularly inspiring for a postseason run or even a strong September push.

Runs scored: 492 (2nd)
Runs allowed: 487 (14th)

Sony Super Steadyshots

After looking strong in 2005 (an even .500 finish), the Super Steadyshots once again find themselves back in the cellar.  While all of their division rivals picked up new MVP-caliber sluggers, the SSS stayed pat and have found themselves unable to score any runs.  Despite their league-worst scoring ability, Sony has been doing fairly well for itself on the pitching front, led by free agent signing Johnny Bussell (3.38 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) and bolstered by last season’s trade acquisition Justin Pucci (4.35 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) and longtime starter Lee Cassidy (4.20 ERA, 1.23 WHIP).

Runs scored: 344 (16th)
Runs allowed: 409 (4th)

World Cities Division

Las Vegas Valleys

The Valleys reloaded big time in the offseason in their bid for a repeat division championship, sparing no expense to acquire Nikon’s superstar Richard Eager for an unheard-of $38.3M per year, 5-year contract.  Eager hasn’t disappointed, and he joins the aging Las Vegas great Hector Valdivieso (.345-.427-.647) to form perhaps the most fearsome batting duo in baseball.

Runs scored: 459 (6th)
Runs allowed: 462 (11th)

Tokyo Samurai

With the key acquisition of Pentax slugger Walter Vanish, the Samurai seemed off to a hot start, compiling a hot 33-24 record (.579) by the end of May.  Tokyo nosedived in June however, posting an 11-14 record (.444) on a string of bad luck, despite strong months by Ronald Peterson (.287-.386-.609) and a monstrous month by Vanish (.411-.486-.642).

The Samurai did take a huge blow, however, when centerfielder Kevin Harwell, having a breakout (.398-.479-.605) season at age 38, broke his foot in mid-June, putting him out for the entire season.

Runs scored: 464 (5th)
Runs allowed: 440 (9th)

Paris Forfeiters

It’s been a tough break for the Forfeiters, who played admirably in 2005 to finish 2 games behind Tokyo, and played to a bitter tie (losing the tiebreaker) against the Las Vegas Valleys in 2006.  The Forfeiters may find themselves out of even that kind of luck in 2007, where the wheels seem to be finally falling off of OBP machine Lamont Sanchez (.245-.366-.447).

Paris paid big dollars to lure away ace Kyle Kataran to the SWL, and his mediocre performance so far (3.44 ERA, compared to 2.43 heading into the season) is what’s barely keeping the Forfeiters in contention

Runs scored: 411 (11th)
Runs allowed: 446 (10th)

Venice Carnivale

There’s been little to root for in the small baseball town of Venice, and the Carnivale have been quietly clogging along to another last-place finish.  The lone bright spots are Wilbur Phillips, who has developed into a star this season (.282-.367-.601), and the ever reliable #1 starter Gerald Freeman, who is quietly putting up yet another solid season (3.88 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.1 K’s per 9).

Runs scored: 433 (8th)
Runs allowed: 511 (15th)

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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 Season Awards

League Review

Headlining the Monti Bizarro League news, Daly City capped off an amazing postseason run with successively more dominating wins – a creaky 4-3 series win over playoff-worst United States, a decent 4-2 win over also-sub .500 Europe, and finally a dominating 4-1 victory over the Canon Image Stabilizers in the championship series.

To top it all off, Daly City then went on to SWEEP the postseason awards: As expected, Nathan Yan dominated as a unanimous Pitcher of the Year, leading in every major pitching category. Even more of a surprise, however, was the Rookie of the Year award, who went to shortstop Henry “Mr.” Nghe. The biggest surprise of all, and perhaps most fitting, is the batter of the year award, which went to Joey Wong, a perfect end to his 3-year career. Quite coincidentally, the Canon Image Stabilizers, who were Daly City’s championship series opponent and the Shinto-Wold League’s best team, also won the SWL pitcher and batters of the year, and should have won the rookie of the yea award as well.

The Pitcher of the Year, UL: Nathan Yan, Daly City SP
There were no surprises here, as Nathan Yan clearly dominated the league from the start. He threw a 10-inning, 16-K, 1-hit shutout in his first start of the season, and then never looked back. He finished the season with a record-breaking 0.98 ERA and 0.48 WHIP, unmatched in league history. His 469 K’s, and 15.3 K’s per 9 innings, are also league records, as well as personal career highs, both topping his 444 K, 14.4 K’s per 9 innings mark in 2003. Yan also pitched to a 30-2 record in 32 starts, which included 31 quality starts, 25 complete games, and 14 shutouts. Perhaps even more amazingly, Yan posted a Component ERA of 0.19.

The other runner-ups:

Name Team Record Starts QS/CG/SHO Innings K ERA CERA WHIP K/9
Nathan Yan Daly City 30-2 32 31/25/14 276 469 0.98 0.19 0.48 15.3
Terrence Zhao Daly City 23-4 31 27/11/9 237 1/3 245 1.74 1.74 1.01 9.3
Kyle Katarn Apple 22-8 34 27/17/4 283 1/3 278 2.45 2.08 1.01 8.8
Kernel Tyranus Microsoft 21-7 34 22/13/4 265 1/3 208 3.29 2.15 1.02 7.1
Robert Kroger Mozilla 12-12 26 18/8/2 199 2/3 233 3.11 2.59 1.07 10.5

 

The Batter of the Year, UL: Joey Wong, Daly City 3B
Quite a big surprise here – despite a somewhat subpar year, especially without hitting behind stellar OBP hitters like Desireé Tienturier and Norman Ho, Wong somehow still pulled off a narrow win in this year’s batter of the year voting. Wong would end up with a .361-.421-.567, which were in fact all career-lows. However, his combined OPS of .988 was still good for 3rd in the league, while he was 2nd in AVG and 3rd in OBP. Perhaps his biggest contribution, however, was his stellar run production – Wong hit 130 RBI (2nd) and scored 124 Runs (2nd), which put him firmly in 1st with 254 Runs+RBI. His total runs created was 148.5, good for 2nd in the league, and his Runs Created per 27 outs was 9.7, also good for 2nd in the league. He narrowly beat out a slew of other worthy competitors, including Asia’s power slugger Alex Quiros and the European catcher Rolland Hochstetler, both of whom missed significant time this season.
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Name Team AB 2B HR RBI Runs Walks SB AVG OBP SLG RC RC/27
Joey Wong Daly City 617 26 31 130 124 67 8 .361 .421 .567 148.5 9.69
Alex Quiros Asia 527 41 43 117 92 55 0 .315 .390 .653 131.6 9.42
Rolland Hochstetler Europe 490 33 25 88 82 88 1 .327 .430 .559 125.3 9.98
Jango Fett Microsoft 598 50 18 92 131 78 38 .346 .419 .554 151.5 9.56
Henry Nghe Daly City 607 49 12 100 118 46 19 .362 .408 .545 139.3 9.13


The Rookie of the Year, UL: Henry Nghe,
Daly City SS
In quite a surprising debut, Daly City’s starting shortstop Henry Nghe turned in a Batter of the Year top-5 performance, which garnered him the rookie of the year award, atop a strong class of Daly City and Septic Tank candidates. Sean Wade, who was 6thin the Pitcher of the Year voting, also garnered some strong attention, but at the end of the day it was Henry Nghe, who dazzled all season long en-route to leading the league in AVG, who won the prize.

Name Team AB 2B HR RBI Runs Walks SB AVG OBP SLG RC RC/27
Henry Nghe Daly City 607 49 12 100 118 46 19 .362 .408 .545 139.3 9.13
Rudy Puzon Daly City 554 16 32 115 109 76 5 .301 .383 .522 116.8 7.65
Hans Blik Apple 576 42 27 104 96 44 36 .290 .345 .528 111.1 6.99
Lando Calrissian Apple 609 29 25 86 94 24 8 .296 .324 .473 92.6 5.52
Name Team Record Starts QS/CG/SHO Innings K ERA CERA WHIP K/9
Sean Wade Daly City 20-8 29 23/3/2 201 163 3.00 2.33 1.00 7.3

 

The Pitcher of the Year, SWL: Justin Ramage, Canon SP
Like the UL awad, in the SWL the race for pitcher of the year was really a one-man contest all year long. Canon’s ace Justin Ramage, led the league in almost every category, and was far and away the best pitcher – his ERA of 2.48 was unmatched in a league where no one else had an ERA under 2, and he also narrowly missed winning the triple crown by 3 strikeouts, and was #2 with a 9.0 K/9 rate.

Name Team Record Starts QS/CG/SHO Innings K ERA CERA WHIP K/9
Justin Ramage Canon 24-3 36 27/11/5 272 2/3 273 2.48 2.19 1.02 9.0
Willard Weiler Tokyo 16-14 35 26/14/1 268 1/3 243 3.29 2.84 1.08 8.2
Augusto Figueroa Pentax 18-12 35 24/14/1 272 2/3 240 3.07 3.02 1.15 7.9
Gerald Freeman Venice 18-15 35 20/13/2 278 276 3.76 2.88 1.15 8.9
Trent Barnes Nikon 20-13 36 22/12/2 271 228 3.59 2.93 1.14 7.6

 

The Batter of the Year, SWL: Gates Skywalker, Canon LF
There wasn’t so much a tight contest in the Shinto-World League as there was a clear #1 and a clear #2, at least this season. Gates Skywalker, the Canon leftfielder, dominated in every single category, but at every turn, his archrival Richard Eager of Nikon trailed him by only a few percentage points in every single category. Nonetheless, Gates Skywalker put up some unheard-of numbers in 2005, first-year numbers that haven’t been reached since Kenton McClinton hit the scene – he posted a remarkable .328-.452-.737 line, which combined for a 1.188 OPS. He led the league in both doubles and HR with 54 in each category, led the league in OPS and SLG and dominated with 178.3 Runs Created and a staggering 12.88 Runs created per 27 outs. A quick look at the following table, however, and one will note that rival Richard Eager wasn’t very far vary behind.

Name Team AB 2B HR RBI Runs Walks SB AVG OBP SLG RC RC/27
Gates Skywalker Canon 528 54 54 132 130 121 0 .328 .452 .737 178.3 12.88
Richard Eager Nikon 516 27 46 112 111 74 21 .355 .437 .705 169.5 12.31
Lamont Sanchez Paris 538 36 29 123 114 124 25 .322 .450 .565 145.5 9.72
Hector Valdivieso Las Vegas 572 42 29 109 99 99 10 .323 .424 .570 145.4 9.71
Ronald Peterson Tokyo 574 22 51 112 101 83 2 .307 .393 .615 139 8.96

 

The Rookie of the Year, UL: Brandon Wroten, Nikon 1B
The only robbery of the four major awards, Nikon’s Brandon Wroten stole the carpet from underneath Canon’s rookie catcher, Francis Cote. In addition to the strenuous duties of a catcher, Francis Cote beat Wroten in every number on the line (.316-.393-.516 to Wroten’s .260-.340-498), and also topped Wroten in Runs Created AND Runs Created per 27 outs. Wroten, however, had the flashier HR and 2B numbers and won the overall award. Pentax also showed some of the fruits of its #3 ranked farm system, with Reinaldo Valdejuli, one of the best pitchers in the league, and the lesser-known Mark Troxel, who quietly put up a strong rookie season.

Name Team AB 2B HR RBI Runs Walks SB AVG OBP SLG RC RC/27
Brandon Wroten Nikon 596 41 33 96 93 69 3 .260 .340 .498 101.1 5.94
Francis Cote Canon 529 35 23 95 102 60 1 .316 .393 .516 108.6 7.62
Name Team Record Starts QS/CG/SHO Innings K ERA CERA WHIP K/9
Reinaldo Valdejuli Pentax 19-10 35 18/11/2 255 217 3.88 3.24 1.20 7.7
Mark Troxel Pentax 12-12 28 18/0/0 180 111 3.60 3.57 1.28 5.6
Rex White Paris 14-7 36 21/2/0 229 2/3 182 4.15 3.65 1.24 7.1
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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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League-in-Review: September 1st, 2005

League Review

It’s September 1st, 2005, and down to the home stretch towards the playoffs.  With five months down and just one left to go, things have taken a firm shape in three of the four divisions in the league, where the Daly City Montis (Galactica Division), the Europe Cricketeers (Terran Division), and the Canon Image Stabilizers (Photomaker Division) all lead by 11 games or more.  The game is much tighter in the World Cities Division, where the Tokyo Samurai, the division leader for much of the season, holds on to a slim but narrow lead over second place Paris Forfeiters.

The wildcard race is also structured fairly well.  The 2nd-place finishers from each division make it into the playoffs – currently in the Galactica Division, the Apple Septic Tanks at 80-55, .593 are in the lead, although the Microsoft Longhorns, starting off slowly, have put together a decent season and are 6 games behind.  In the Terran Division, where all of the teams save Europe have been thoroughly dominated, it appears that either the United States Patriots (58-77, .430) or the Caribbean Pirates (56-79, .415) will be making what could only be a surefire loss to the league-dominating Daly City Montis.

Over in the Shinto-World league, things are much spicier.  Paris and Tokyo are in a dead heat for first place, and with current third place Venice Carnivale 11 games behind Paris, it looks like both will enter into the playoffs, either as division winner or wildcard runner-up.  In the Photomaker division, however, Nikon and Paris are both within a game of each other.  Nikon, so close to the division lead earlier on in the season, had  been hurt by an injury to star centerfielder Richard Eager, who is currently third place in OBP, second place in slugging, and first in batting average (he adds a healthy 21 steals and a low 36 K’s to boot). Pentax, meanwhile, has been humming along steadily.

With the playoff picture looking about set, barring any surprises in the last month:

Universe League Projections:
Galactica Division
Division Winner – Daly City Montis (dominating at first, 23 games in the lead at 103-32, .763)
Wildcard – Apple Septic Tanks (Microsoft Longhorns a moderate longshot, at 6 games back)
3rd place – Microsoft Longhorns (possibly the Apple Septic Tanks)
4th place – Mozilla Firefoxes (last place pretty much all season)

Terran Division
Division Winner – Europe Cricketeers (At 69-66, .511, a feeble playoff team).
Wildcard – Caribbean Pirates (An abysmal .415 team, but likely to make it)
3rd place – United States Patriots (they lead the 
Caribbean by 2 games, but have been falling hard ever since star slugger Juan Truex went out for the rest of the season)
4th place – Asia Giants (far and away the worst team in the league)

Shinto-World League Projections:
Photomaker Division
Division Winner – Canon Image Stabilizers (far and away in the lead)
Wildcard – Nikon Vibration Reducers/Pentax Shake Reducers (pretty much a dead heat)
3rd place – Nikon Vibration Reducers/Pentax Shake Reducers (pretty much a dead heat)
4th place – Sony Super SteadyShots (last place all season)

World Cities Division
Division Winner – Tokyo Samurai/Paris Forfeiters (toss-up between the star power of Tokyo and the steady consistency of Paris)
Wildcard – Tokyo Samurai/Paris Forfeiters (toss-up between the star power of 
Tokyo and the steady consistency of Paris)
3rd place – The Venice Carnivale (
Las Vegas looms only 4 games back)
4th place – 
Las Vegas Valleys (could jump back to third if HR-hitter Luciano Ferrant, who missed most all of August, comes back into form)

With the standings aside, the more interesting stories are likely the stories of the individual players, and the league leaderboards.

Batting Title (Highest batting average – best contact hitter)
Universe League: Daly City 3B Joey Wong, a .369 career hitter, has led the league all along, and stands at a comfortable position with a .365 AVG.  The complete surprise candidate, however, has emerged as teammate SS Henry “Mr.” Nghe, who has been humming along steadily all season and hit .414 during August to bring his average up to .360.  Either Joey or Nghe will end up taking the title, and may even be within distance of breaking the Daly City team record, Norman Ho’s .375 mark in 2003.  Current third-place is RF Chewie Gonzales of the Apple Septic Tanks, at .335, so it looks like someone from Daly City will emerge with the batting crown.
Shinto-World League: Nikonian CF Richard Eager has dominated this category all year – his current mark stands at .359, far far ahead of his Canonite arch-rival LF Gates Skywalker (.328), and current third-place C Francis Cote (.327)

Hits
Universe League: As the league-leader in hitting, Joey Wong is in the lead with 189 hits, although Henry Nghe isn’t too far behind with 181 hits.  Both seem to be sure locks to reach 200 hits, although Wong doesn’t appear to be anywhere near the 248 hits he set as a record in 2004.  Boba and Jango Fett of the Microsoft Longhorns, at 171 and 167 hits respectively, are #3 and #4, and if they continue their season pace could just reach 200 hits as well.
Shinto-World League: With only Richard Eager anywhere near the league leaders in the Universe League, Las Vegas’ Hector Valdivieso (batting .322) has only 155 hits (9th most overall) to lead the Shinto-World League.  Richard Eager, after missing two full weeks has only 154 hits, but now that he’s back healthy should be able to easily surpass Valdivieso, although 200 hits seems a very long shot.  A scattering of players are all in the 150-140 hit range, and could all conceivable wind up in 2nd or 3rd place

On-base Percentage
Universe League: Despite having some of the best hitters in batting average, the Universe League is not high on walks.  Catcher Richard Hochstetler, really the only decent hitter on the Europe Cricketeers, has a firm hold on the lead at .437, while Daly City players Joey Wong and Jonathan Chee are tied for 2nd at .424 each.
Shinto-World League: The Image Stabilizers’ all-world leftfielder, Gates Skywalker, has dominated in this category all season, racking up a .457 OBP (with a .518 OBP in August).  Lamont Sanchez of 
Paris is second at .442, with Richard Eager not far behind at .438. 

Slugging Percentage (most power)
Universe League: One category that has been dominated by all the hitters from the worst teams, last-place Asia’s Alex Quiros has absolutely dominated in the UL, slugging at a .668 clip (including a month slugging .932!), and looks to walk away with the slugging crown.  USA’s Juan Truex, out for a month, hangs in at .586, while Matthew Glenn of Mozilla (.570) and Maul Foundation of Microsoft (.569) are closely in third place.
Shinto-World League: Locked in a season-long battle, Canon’s Gates Skywalker currently leads Nikon’s Richard Eager by a score of .717 to .688.  Homerun leader and 
Tokyo’s sole offense,Richard Peterson, is 3rd at .643.

Homeruns
Universe League: The Universe League’s bash brigade is led by Asia’s Alex Quiros, who has mashed 42 homers this year, and has a shot at making the 50 HR mark.  Mozilla slugger Matthew Glenn is second at 40 homeruns, with Microsoft’s catcher Jabba Desilijic Ture and USA’s Juan Truex, both of whom have been sidelined by injuries, tied for 3rd place with 36 HR each.
Shinto-World League: 
Tokyo rightfielder Ronald Peterson has been mashing his team to the playoffs, and they’ll need all the help they can get.  The .313-.403-.643 slugger has hit 46 homers so far, and based on his monthly totals, seems sure to make a 50 HR season and lead the league.  Canon’s Gates Skywalker is close behind with 42 HR’s, and Richard Eager, although tied withLuciano Ferrant at 35 HR’s, is probable to get third-place after missing so much time from injury.

Runs Batted In
Universe League: Microsoft’s SS Maul Foundation has been pounding in the runs, with 118 RBIs, no doubt due to the fantastic lineup of hitters batting ahead of him in the Microsoft batting order. Alex Quiros, by far leading the league in HR and slugging, is 2nd with 112 RBI’s, and would no doubt have a lot more if he had a halfway decent lineup in Asia.  Mozilla’s Matthew Glenn is 3rd with 103 RBI.
Shinto-World League: The top 3 in the SW league is a crowded field consisting of Paris’ Lamont Sanchez, Canon’s Gates Skywalker, and Tokyo’s Ronald Peterson, who have 102, 102, and 100 RBI’s respectively.

Runs
Universe League: Microsoft’s #3 hitter (in front of Maul Foundation), Jango Fett leads the league with 108 runs, while Daly City’s Joey Wong is in 2nd place with 101, with teammate Henry Nghe3rd at 96.
Shinto-World League: Gates Skywalker leads here with 106 runs, followed by Lamont Sanchez of Paris at 98.  Richard Eager is at 90 runs.

Stolen Bases
Universe League: Though she’s been out for two weeks with a hamstring injury, Daly City CF Aubrey Cubilo still leads the league over Apple’s Ben Kenobi, with 60 steals to his 56.  Daly City 2B Cristian Ortiz has been a distant but steadily gaining basepath threat all season, and is solid at 51 steals.
Shinto-World League: 
Venice’s Alberto Munoz has been speeding along to a dominant 50 steal season, far ahead of 2nd place Gabriel Cardillo (34) and 3rd place Joseph Harmon (32).  The most amazing thing is that all three players have extremely sup-bar OBP, with Munoz at .277, Cardillo at .264, and Harmon at .307.

Hit-by-pitch
Universe League: This category has been so dominated by 
Daly City LF Jonathan Chee that it almost isn’t even worth discussing – he leads the league with almost double the HBP’s, a league-leading 37 HBP (which has been a large contributor to his OBP).
Shinto-World League: 
Paris’ Anthony Reyes leads the league with a measly 13 HBP’s, although Francisco AmaralFrancis Cote, and Joseph Burkett aren’t far behind at 12-11 HBP’s each.

Earned Run Average (overall pitcher effectiveness)
Universe League: It should be no surprise that Daly City ace Nathan Yan once again dominates the league, with a 1.14 ERA – a continued development from his 1.46 ERA 2003 and his 1.20 ERA 2004, and setting the ERA record for the third consecutive year.  Teammate Terrence Zhao, however, is no slouch either – after a substandard May (3.97 ERA), Zhao has turned up the heat, throwing 5 shutouts in the last two months (including 4 in August alone) to bring his ERA down to a miniscule 1.69 – the best mark outside of Yan that Daly City has ever seen.  Kyle Katarn of the Apple Septic Tanks is far behind at 2.31.
Shinto-World League: The dominating starter of the SWL, Canon’s Justin Ramage has dominated his league with a 2.27 ERA, far ahead of #2 Augusto Figueroa (2.96 ERA) and #3 Michael Contreras (3.28 ERA).

Walks and Hits Per Inning Pitched (WHIP)
Universe League: It shouldn’t be any surprise that Nathan Yan once again dominates this category with an other-worldly 0.51 WHIP.  What may surprise everyone else, however, is rookie pitcher and teammate Sean Wade at #2 on the list, with an impressive 0.95 WHIP.  Terrence Zhao finishes out the all-Daly City sweep with a 0.97 WHIP, although Microsoft’s Kernel Tyranus at 0.99 and Apple’s Kyle Katarn at 0.99 are within biting distance.
Shinto-World League: Canon’s Justin Ramage holds a commanding lead in this category, with a 0.98 WHIP, perhaps the only dominating number in the SWL, where Tokyo’s duo #2 Michael Contreras has a 1.10 WHIP and #3 Willard Weiler has a 1.13 WHIP.

Wins
Universe League: Despite all the ERA and WHIP numbers, perhaps nothing defines the league’s best pitcher as much as wins.  That said, Nathan Yan currently dominates with a league-high 24 wins, while the aces of the Galactica Division – Apple’s Kyle Katarn, Microsoft’s Kernel Tyranus, and Daly City’s Terrence Zhao – are all tied with 18 wins apiece, although it should be noted that with DC’s 6-man rotation, both Zhao and Yan have starts less than the other starters.  Europe ace Wilfredo Raposa and Daly City rookie Sean Wade, at 16 wins each, shouldn’t be discounted either.
Shinto-World League: Like Yan in the UL, Justin Ramage of Canon dominates with 22 wins, leaving 2nd place Trent Barnes of Nikon 2nd place at 18 wins.  Tokyo’s Michael Contreras and Pentax’s Augusto Figueroa are tied for 3rd with 17 wins apiece.

Strikeouts
Universe League: It should be no surprise that Nathan Yan absolutely dominates here – with 368 K’s he’s more than 100 strikeouts ahead of 2nd place Robert Kroger, Mozilla’s ace pitcher, who has 231.  Yan also looks to break the strikeout record – he’s on pace for 458, which would break his old record of 444, set in 2003.  Apple’s Kyle Katarn and Europe’s Wilfredo Raposa have 222 and 221 K’s, respectively.
Shinto-World League: Justin Ramage once again dominates here, with 234 K’s, well ahead of 
Venice starter Gerald Freeman at 221.  Las Vegas’ Joseph Moser, who also leads the league in walks, is tied with Augusto Figueroa in 3rd place with 198 K’s each.

Strikeouts per 9 Innings
Universe League: Nathan Yan dominates with a career high 14.9 K’s per 9, well ahead of teammate Josiah Leong at 11.5 K’s per 9 and Robert Kroger at 10.6.
Shinto-World League: Las Vegas’ Joseph Moser barely edges out Justin Rammage, with 9.3 K’s per 9 to Ramage’s 8.9.  Gerald Freeman is at #3 with 8.7.

Quality Starts
Universe League: Perhaps the model stat for consistency, Nathan Yan leads this category with 25 out of 26 starts being quality starts.  Terrence Zhao is not far behind, with 23 of 25 starts behind quality starts.  Kyle Katarn is 3rd with 22 of 28 quality starts, although percentage-wise it’s rookie Sean Wade, with 20 quality starts out of 24 starts.
Shinto-World League: In the SWL, Justin Ramage leads with 24 of 30 quality starts.  Augusto Figueroa, Michael Conteras, and Willard Weiler are all in a pack behid him, with 21-20 quality starts and 69-72% quality start percentage.

Complete Games
Universe League: Moving into the measures of pitcher domination, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Nathan Yan currently leads with 19 complete games.  Europe ace Wilfredo Raposa and Microsoft’s Kernel Tyranus are 2nd at 12 complete games each.
Shinto-World League: Surprisingly, this is one category where Canon’s Justin Ramage and Nikon’s Trent Barnes are neck-and-neck, with 11 complete games each.  Pentax’s Augusto Figueroa, as well as teammate Reinaldo Valdejuli and 
Tokyo starter Willard Weiler are tied for 3rd with 10 complete games each.

Shutouts
Universe League: Separating dominance even further, we enter into the realm of shutouts, where it’s no surprise that Nathan Yan leads with 10 of them.  Terrence Zhao, hot off of his 5 consecutive shutout stretch, a streak of unimaginable dominance, is in 2nd with 7 shutouts.  The who’s who of UL pitching follows next with Kernel Tyranus, Kyle Katarn, and Wilfredo Raposa, who each have 4 shutouts.
Shinto-World League: One tier below Zhao and another tier below Yan, Justin Ramage is in his own category at 5 shutouts, just ahead of teammate Robert Bone who has 4, although Bone has put himself out with an injury for the next 5 weeks (essentially until the playoffs).  
Tokyo’s Pete Fajardo and Nikon’s Josue Huerta have 3 each.

Saves
Universe League: Apple’s Padme Amidala and Microsoft’s Richard Pendergast are neck-and-neck at the top of the league, with 35 and 34 saves each, although Amidala has been a far far better pitcher (2.08 ERA vs. 3.20 for Pendergast).  The two of them appear to be the only starters close to the 40-save mark.  A slew of closers, including United States’ John GaleyEurope’s Davor Avila, and Daly City’s Zubeda Khan have between 26-27 saves.
Shinto-World League: 
Paris’ Garfield Yocum leads with 31 saves, followed by Pentax’s Gonzalo Bolanos with 28, and Nikon’s William Brunetti with 27.

That’s it for the league summary.  Stay tuned for the Daly City team log next, chronicling the headlines of the past two months, including:

Rookie Wade’s second-half meltdown!
Zhao’s 5-shutout domination!
Pardo’s magic finally runs out!
Yamamoto’s July – worst month ever?!
Injury plague – Lew, Liu, Cubilo, and now Leong?!
Cubilo’s (possibly Ortiz’s?) march to the steals record
Yan setting the strikeout record – again!?
Wong, Puzon, Liu, Lew, Lau? – who will win the HR crown?

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