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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).


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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