Season-so-far: May 1st, 2007

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It’s been a topsy-turvy first month for the Daly City Montis, with flashes of brilliance mixed in with puzzling losses.  The Montis sit atop the Galactica Division at 21-7 (.750), the top record in the majors and 3 games ahead of the second-place Microsoft Longhorns.

Daly City dominates in almost all statistical categories – the team is 1st in offense (201 runs scored, vs. Nikon’s 188), leading in all rate categories save for batting avergae, and is 1st by a huge margin in pitching (an ERA of 2.90 – next best in a high offensive year is 4.08 by Mozilla).  Compared to a year ago at this point, Daly City seems to be in fantastic shape, and faces significantly weaker competition in the division (last year’s 3rd place, the .568 squad Apple Septic Tanks, carry a lowly 9-19 record (.321)).

The Lineup

Tina “Experimental Error” Quach, Catcher: After spending last season as the team’s primary catcher, Quach has been all over the field in her super-utility role this season, thanks to the sudden emergence of the power-hitting (and better defensive) backup catcher Marco Paz.  Despite taking starts in the catcher, third base, and designated hitter roles, Quach has flourished thus far this season – she’s hitting .363-.431-.461, raking in the hits.  Hitting at the top of the order, her high OBP rate thus far, she’s also one of the team’s primary run scorers, with 23 runs so far in the season.

Marco Paz, Backup Catcher: After putting up the most terrible hitting season in Montis history in 2006, Paz roared into the picture as backup catcher in his first spot start, hitting a homer in his first at bat, and continuing to rake the homeruns and RBIs after that, even from the #7 and #8 slots.  With a .339-.383-.607 batting line, Paz has hit himself into the catcher mix, making half of the team’s starts at the position and forcing Quach to find playing time at the expense of other positions.  How long Paz can keep this up remains to be seen, but for now he’s fully supplanted Quach at the catcher spot, even with the career season she’s been having so far.

Derek Lew, First Baseman: After his career MVP season in 2006, Lew picked up right where he left off, going .339-.397-.627 and having an outstanding month overall.  Most notably, Lew seems to be on a prodigious doubles pace, raking in 17 so far, and putting him on pace for 98, which would shatter his record of 77 set last year.  Lew also seems to be judging the strike zone better, which has significantly boosted production – he has walked in 8.4% of plate appearances, compared to just 4.6% last season, and his now-serviceable OBP makes him much less of a liability in the middle of the order.

Cristian Ortiz, Second Baseman: The speedy Ortiz is off to a solid start, averaging what would be career highs in all rate stats (.294-.391-.471) and taking advantage of his high OBP rate thus far to absolutely blaze the basepaths to the tune of 22 steals against just twice caught stealing (a 91.7%).  He’s on pace for an absolutely incredible 127 stolen bags, but that will be highly contingent on keeping up his career-best OBP and retaining his spot at the top of the order, which has seen some stuff competition in recent weeks.

Henry “Mr.” Nghe, Shortstop: Nghe has looked completely lost at the plate, hitting a terrible .245-.305-.396, and eating up 118 plate appearances while doing it.  His batting average on balls in play (BABiP) is a low .279, compared to the .390 he’s averaged for his career prior to 2007.  Nghe should get back on track, and with only a single backup (new utility infielder Wissmath) who hasn’t exactly lit it up so far, the former #3 hitter will need to in order to get Daly City’s offense fulling humming again.

Joanna Maung, Saung-gah-basewoman: Maung’s numbers so far eerily mimic her slightly disappointing 2006 – she’s batting .281 (same as the .281 last year), getting on-base at a .352 clip (compared to .351), but her power has been almost nonexistent – Maung has slugged just .297, with a single double accounting for the extra total base above her hits count.  As such, she’s lost a good chunk of starts to super-utility player Quach, who herlf has been pushed out of the catcher spot by the emergent Marco Paz.  Maung’s trademark clutch hitting has been nowhere to be found as well – she’s hitting a terrible .133-.235-.133 with runners in scoring position.  She’ll need to pick up the pace soon, or might find herself relegated to a backup role permanently.

Salgu “Swissmath” Wissmath, Backup Utility Infielder: The rookie Wissmath hasn’t been faring well at the plate at all – she’s hit a miserable .194-.268-.333, despite a hot start (she went .333-.429-.556 in her first five games).  This is bads news for the Montis, who came into the season depending on a good chunk of production from the role, and now desperately need it with the struggles of SS Nghe and 3B Maung.

Ted Kwong, Leftfielder: Just 132 plate appearances into his young career, Kwong looks like a star already, winning batter of the month honors for April and raking his way at a .387-.485-.730 pace, with 10 homeruns, 26 RBIs, and getting on-base nearly half the time in front of a power combination of 1B Lew, C Paz, and RF Chen, scoring a league-leading 30 runs.  His 14.9 runs created per 27 outs is simply astronomical – it would exceed the 10.95 set in Norman Ho’s 2003 season by 36%.  Kwong has solidified his cleanup spot at the heart of Daly City’s batting lineup, and at the moment looks like the brightest star in the class of 2007 newcomers.

Skyler Reid, Centerfielder: At the beginning of the season, the three-way competition at centerfield looked to be fierce, and the candidates so far have done everything they can to ensure it be a highly competitive battle.  Given a slight edge (and the opening day start) on day one, Reid has flourished, hitting .357-.424-.486, while hitting all over the order from the #7 backend to the #2 tablesetting position. Establishing his consistency early on, Reid has won a plurality of starts at centerfield, with 13 games compared to 10 for Kuo and 5 for Ho.

Jessica Kuo, Centerfielder: The speedy and light-hitting Kuo didn’t get many opportunities at the start of the month (she had just 1 start through the first 10 games, but has hit just as well as anyone else (.386-.426-455)  in the fierce centerfield competition.

Tiffany Ho, Centerfielder: With two new hot competitors at her old position, Ho has found the plate appearances hard to come by – though her .386-426-.455 line is on par with the rest, she’s found space for just 5 starts at CF, with the rest of her games coming in spot relief at rightfield.  Given her versatility, she may find herself the odd-one-out at centerfield if the others continue to play well, and may have to apply her defensive skills at one of the infield positions if the incumbents and backups there continue to struggle.

Francis Chen, Rightfielder: After seasons upon seasons of futility, could this finally be the year for Francis Chen?  Chen is on pace for career-high numbers, with a .253-.383-.695 line, 11 HR’s and 31 RBI’s that rank among the top in the league.  He leads the team in homeruns and RBIs, and is second in slugging, although his swing for the fences style has also resulted in nearly a 25% strikeout rate.  As always with Chen, things could take a nosedive at any moment, but he’s off to his most promising start yet this season.

Jonathan Chee, Designated Hitter: It’s been an abysmal month for Chee, who just doesn’t seem to be able to put it together after he set career highs in 2005.  His numbers this month have fallen even further to .234-375-.281 – even more abysmal power numbers than usual, and with only a serviceable on-base percentage saving him.  With the designated hitter spot open to all hitters, and with such a logjam at the outfield and catcher positions, Chee may have a hard time finding playing time without returning to form in a hurry.

The Pitching Staff

Nathan Yan, #1 Starting Pitcher: Yan started off the season with a 2-hit, 15-K gem of a shutout, but hasn’t been able to find the magic consistently in starts since – he’s now 5-1 in 6 starts with a 1.26 ERA and a still-league-leading 15.7 K’s per 9, but those numbers include a terrible 3-run, 7-inning loss.  He’s also averaging just 8+1/3 innings per start, far off his career pace of 8.7 innings per start.  While still a historic, pitcher-of-the-year type season, Yan will need to step it up a notch to match his lights-out performances in past years.

Whitney Esguerra, #2 Starting Pitcher: The hard-luck rookie is now doing quite well for herself in her second year out – she’s dominating to the tune of a 4-0 record and 1.46 ERA in 5 starts, and hasn’t given up a single homerun yet after serving up 25 taters last year.  After getting beaten up to a 13-11 record due to poor run support and bullpen meltdowns last year, Esguerra is now enjoying a healthy record thanks to her league-high 9.7 run support per game.  The sky appears to be the limit for Esguerra – she’s second only to Yan in ERA, K’s, and OBP, and looks to be headed towards one of the best non-Yan pitching seasons not just in Daly City history, but league history as well.

Terrence Zhao, #3 Starting Pitcher: While last season just seemed like a string of bad luck, Zhao has continued to struggle into 2007, and his plunging peripherals seem like a cause for concern – he’s striking out just 7.6 batters per nine, after striking out 10.4 the previous season, and has given up 5 homers already after giving up 6 in both 2006 and 2005.

Samantha Chin, #4 Starting Pitcher: Everyone expected huge things from Chin in 2007, but they haven’t happened yet.  Though she did throw a 2-hit, 1-walk, 8-K gem in her second start, she’s been absolutely horrendous at other times, giving up 5 runs in 4+1/3 innings in her third start and 5 runs in 5 innings in her fifth start.  Despite this, Chin seems to characteristically inspire her fellow teammates – she’s among the tops in the league once again in run support per game (9.3 runs), and sits with a 3-0 record, receiving no decisions in both her shellings.  In order to take the next big step most expect from her, however, she’ll need to up her consistency and avoid the mistakes that have led to big innings.

Sean Wade, #5 Starting Pitcher: Aside from one bad, 4-run in 4+2/3 inning start, Wade seems to have found more consistency early in the season, achieving a 3.16 ERA and a 3-1 record in four starts.  However his peripherals haven’t looked overly promising so far – his WHIP is a somewhat high 1.25, and his strikeout, walk, and hit numbers are about the same as last year.  At this point Wade has simply evened out his brilliant and horrid performances for more consistency, and with a healthy 6.1 runs scored per game, it may be all he needs to consistently win games.

Alfred Vong, #6 Starting Pitcher: Vong has split duties between #6 spot starts and long relief in the bullpen, and unlike his great series of starts last season, hasn’t found himself particularly effective in either; he’s sporting a 4.15 ERA in relief and a 3.86 ERA in starts, for a 2-1 record and 3.90 overall ERA.

Kelley Cox, Long Reliever: Cox has been the lone star in the remade bullpen, but she’s been a brilliant one.  After getting drilled for 3 runs in 3 innings in her first appearance, Cox has locked down, throwing 17+2/3 innings at a 2.04 ERA clip, and logging a win, a save, and a loss in the process.  She doesn’t have overpowering stuff – just 5.1 K’s per 9, but is getting the job done, especially in the long relief situations when the bullpen need is greatest.

Bernadette Dugtong, Middle Reliever: Dugtong is still ironing out the rookie kinks, and has been spotty in relief so far, giving up runs in four of her eight appearances for a 5.40 overall ERA.  She’s been allowing a high 1.50 WHIP, and is failing to fool anyone with her curve – she’s gotten just 2.7 K’s per 9.  Fortunately, the starters have been pitching relatively deep, and Vong and Cox have been available to pick up the slack.  For the moment, however, Dugtong seems like she’ll be relegated to mopup relief until she’s fully major-league ready.

Alvina Chu, Setup Reliever: Chu’s 0-1 record, 6.00 ERA and 1.67 WHIP look terrible so far, but they don’t tell the whole story.  Chu appears to have been still working out the rust at the start of the month, giving up 7 runs (6 earned) on 10 hits in her first two appearances, but since then has bunkered down to her dominant self – she’s given up no runs and has allowed just four baserunners in the 5+1/3 innings she’s pitched since (for an 0.00 ERA and 0.75 WHIP).

Josiah Leong, Closer: It’s a hard life for a closer on a team as successful as the Montis – they’ve had blowout wins of four runs or more in all but four games (one of which was a complete shutout by Yan), and to his credit Leong has closed out all three save opportunities.  He’s pitched dominantly so far (1.50 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 9 K’s per 9, no homeruns) so far, but he’ll need closer games to get more work in beyond the scant 6 innings and 4 appearances he’s made so far.

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