Browsing the archives for the Pentax Shake Reducers tag.

The 2007 Playoffs: Divisional Series Recap

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Saturday, October 9th – in a divisional series round with few tight races, things went even easier than expected for the favored teams. One series ended in  a sweep, and the three others went 4-1, setting up the earliest league series round (starting October 10th) in recent memory.

For a supposed pushover opponent, Game 1 of the Daly City Montis-Asia Giants series started off with a dramatic opener – Whitney Esguerra, leading off the series after #1 Starter Nathan Yan pitched the final game of the regular season, turned in a solid 2 run, 7+1/3 inning performance against the Asia Giants, striking out 7.  The prolific Montis offense, however, couldn’t quite get started against the Giants’ Ramon Obando , racking up only 3 runs through the first 8 innings.

With middle reliever Alvina Chu effectively handling the 8th, it was up to the erratic closer Josiah Leong to finish out the 1-run lead. Despite evolving into one of the most dominant closers in the league this season (his 2.09 ERA and 11.6 K/9 were both 3rd-best among relievers), Leong promptly imploded with a walk, two hits, a wild pitch, and two runs to give up the lead and throw the Montis into a rare do-or-die at the bottom of the 9th, down by a run.

Nonetheless, the Montis had reason to hope, with the core of their lineup coming up, starting with Reid-Kwong-Chen-Lew. The group went 2 for 4 to set up runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs, and then it was up to the feeble-hitting catcher, Tina Quach, to make things happen at the plate.

Strike 1, taken.

Strike 2, taken.

Then a diving split-fingered fastball, some hesitation, and a late swing.

Fouled off, just barely, dribbing in the dirt down the first base line.

And then like a Cinderella story gone terribly wrong, it all seemed to unravel  for the underdog Asia Giants.  Closer Pendergast issued four straight balls, to grant Quach a walk and load up the bases, and set up a final showdown against Daly City’s #8 hitter.

And for a game as dramatic as this, who else would be waiting on deck, in the 9th inning with two outs, but the legendary clutch hitter of storied postseasons past, Joanna Maung. Naturally, she loads up a full 3-2 count…

The count is 3 and 2…
Pendergast kicks and fires…
fastball…
Maung swings…
it’s lined
Simmons dives…
but he can’t get it…
Reid scores with the tying run…
Kwong is rounding third…
Batchelder throws home…
Beasley takes it…
Kwong slides…
it’s going to be close…
SAFE!
And the clutch hero Maung comes through yet again with a game-winning, 2 RBI single!

The rest of the series ended without too much fanfare – the versatile middle infielder Wissmath powered the offense in Game 2 with 2 hits, a walk, a homer, 2 runs and 2 RBIs, and a stolen base in 4 plate appearances from the 9-spot, as the Montis won a 6-2 game that was never much in doubt.

The Montis then closed the series out with dominating performances in games 3 and 4, with Yan pitching a 1-hit, 1-walk, 20-K shutout in game 3, backed by 12 runs and 21 hits and 2 walks in an offensive massacre.  The clinching game 4 ended 8-2, on the strength of a 5 for 5 on-base day for leadoff hitter Kuo (4 hits, 1 walk, 3 stolen bases, 3 runs) and 3 for 5, 4 RBI game for leftfielder Kwong.

There weren’t too many surprises elsehwere in the league, either.  Microsoft looked to be in dire trouble aftr their first game, when ace pitcher Kernel Tyranus (18-8, 2.80 ERA, 1.10 WHIP in the regular season) strained his rotator cuff after pitching just 2 outs into the 2nd inning, and the Carribean hitters feasted on the Longhorns bullpen to the tune of 22 hits and a walk in 47 at bats, including 6 doubles and 2 homers for an overall .468-.479-.723 day en route to 13 runs.

The Pirates seemingly spent up all of their offensive energy in that first game, and weren’t able to mount much of any offense thereafter, even against a Longhorns pitching staff ranked woefully below-average this season.  The fading Sherwood Bertsch, who mustered only a 5.01 ERA and 1.23 WHIP this season, kept the Pirates down to just 1 run over 7+2/3 innings. Willhuff Tarkin, who earned a 5.48 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in the season, then pitched a gem in a 5-hit, no walk, 1-run, 8+2/3 inning Game 3 performance.  And then lastly Eddie Castilleja (6.59 ERA, 1.62 WHIP in regular season), combined with relievers Ellsworth Hartzler (4.98, 1.26) and rookie reliever Miguel Ojeda (3.28 ERA, 1.35) for another 1-run performance in the game 4 win. The clinching game 5 was delivered by a fearsome hitting clinic put on by Jabba Desilijic Ture (3 for 4 with 2HRs, 3 RBIs, and 2 runs), but also came with a cost: #2 starter Sherwood Bertsch went down after just 3+1/3 innings with an inflamed rotator cuff, making him doubtful for the rest of the playoffs, and possibly putting down the Longhorns to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th starters of their already woeful staff.

League Series: Daly City Montis vs. Microsoft Longhorns

Even at full strength outset, this matchup would have been tough – the Longhorns might have hoped to hammer some of Daly City’s starters with their core lineup (the only one in the league with 3 hitters with a  > 1.000 OPS this season), but after losing their ace and only above league-average starter Kernel Tyranus, and then even losing their #2 starter Bertsch, it’s hard to imagine the Longhorns being able to do much at all to stymie the onslaught of a Montis offense that is firing on all cylinders, with four hitters (RF Chen, DH Reid, CF Kuo, and LF Kwong) with a divisional series OPS greater than 1.000, and an overall team performance in the first round of .354-.429-.524.

Prediction: Montis, 4-0

Over in the SWL, some analysts questioned how well Skywalker would produce in his first postseason stint with the Shake Reducers, and if it would be enough to propel the otherwise weak-hitting Pentax offense over the more well-balanced Nikon Vibration Reducers.  To the first question, as if it were anything but rhetorical, Skywalker raked the Nikon pitching staff to put up an incredible line: .550-.609-1.800, going 11 for 20 with 8 (EIGHT!) homeruns while driving in 14 RBIs and scoring 9 runs himself.  He homered in every single game of the 5-game series, hitting 2, 1, 1, 1 and 3 homeruns.

The second question is more vital to how far the Shake Reducers go this season. While Skywalker certainly led the way, Pentax piled on 41 runs in five games over the Vibration Reducers, who were no slouches as the 5th-best staff in baseball by ERA this season.  The offense was bolstered by a hot week by centerfielder Steffen Richardson (.400-.455-1.000 in driving in 10 RBIs and scoring 8 in 22 plate appearances) and 2B Joseph Thomason (.450-.500-.650 in 22 plate appearances), two players who didn’t show much offensive prowess during the regular season (.737 and .736 OPS, respectively).  If they cool off, and no one else heats up, things could get much more challenging for the Shake Reducers.

In a masterful demonstration of pitching dominance, Paris pulled off a dominant 4-1 series victory over Tokyo by allowing just 11 runs over 5 games – 2.2 runs per game, compared to 4.0 allowed by Pentax and 4.2 allowed by Microsoft in their 4-1 series victories. They were led by two dominant outings by ace Kyle Katarn, who pitched two complete games to go 2-0, 18 innings, 15 K’s, with a 1.00 ERA and miniscule 0.61 WHIP.

League Series: Pentax Shake Reducers vs. Paris Forfeiters

The SW league series once again pits offensive prowess against dominant pitching, with baseball’s hands-down Batter of the Year, Skywalker, hoping to lead a one-man offense against a solid rotation led by the hands-down SWL Pitcher of the Year and Triple Crown winner Kyle Katarn.  While the Shake Reducers bashed the other side into submission and the Forfeiters mowed down the opposing offense, both dominated to similar degree – Pentax outscored Nikon 41-20 (2.05x, 0.808 pythag. win%), while Paris outscored Tokyo 21-11 (1.91x, 0.785 pythag. win%). The deciding factor may be Forfeiters ace Katarn’s limited schedule, having pitched complete games in both Games 1 and 4 of the division series, ruling him out for what may be a critical Game 7 third start.

Pentax: 4-3

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The 2007 Postseason Preview

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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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The 2006 Playoffs: League Series Review

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Friday, October 22nd – It’s been a rollercoaster ride the last ten days in the baseball world, as the powerhouse teams came together in the final four round.  The DC Montis against the M-Dollar Longhorns, and the Canon IS vs. the Pentax SR.

The bookies won little and lost big this round.  Heavily favored going into the series, the Daly City Montis swept past the #2 seed Microsoft Longhorns, outscoring the team from Seattle 28-13 to take the series in 5 games.  Daly City led off with a 9-0 shutout start by ace Nathan Yan, who pitched a gem of a 2-hitter, while Derek Lew provided the offense with a 4 for 5 game, hitting two solo homers, but dropped the next game behind an average start by Esguerra and a dominant 1-run start by Microsoft starter Eric Holl.

Tragedy struck game 3, as midway into the fifth inning, starter Terrence Zhao pulled a bicep tendon, taking him out of the game.  Alfred Vong finished the rest of the game out, which Daly City won 9-6.  Zhao, however, will be out for 1-2 weeks with the injury, taking him out of the rest of the playoff picture.

Samantha Chin pitched another strong game in Game 4, in which Daly City’s offense took care of the rest by slamming Microsoft ace Sherwood Bertsch for 13 hits and 7 runs.  By Game 5, it was all over, as the reborn Sean Wade took to the mound for another masterful start, throwing a complete game, 2-hit, 1-run gem to shut down the Longhorns 2-1.’Like the Galactic Colossus growing ever stronger with each new planet it consumes, the Montis seem unstoppable on its quest for a 4th straight World Championship. They’ll have a surprising opponent for the final round, however.

Originally picked to bomb out in the first round, Pentax, with a bit of luck, eeked into the 2nd round with a 4-3 series win over the Paris Forfeiters, who had blown a 3-1 series lead.  Facing the powerhouse Image Stabilizers, however, few gave them much of a chance.  True to form, the Image Stabilizers cleaned house with the Pentax Shake Reducers the very first game, obliterating them 15-2 behind a solid start by Justin Ramage and explosive by hitting from the 1-9 spots in the batting order.  The IS slipped the next game however – going into the 8th leading 5-4, the bullpen blundered and gave up two runs in the 8th and 9th, off solo shots by RF Simeon Sarvis and CF Steffen Richardson.  Interestingly enough, Gonzalo Bolanos once again pitched for the save.

The very next game, Canon was embarrassed 4-10, behind a near complete game by Augusto Figueroa and a couple of 3-4, 2HR, 4RBI games by CF Steffen Richardson and SS Noe Pessoa.  If Canon ever needed a wake-up call, it was then, and Justin Ramage stepped up to make it, bowling over Pentax with a 4-hit shutout in a scant 106 pitches, while Gates Skywalker brought the hardware with a two-homerun performance.

The surge, however, was momentary, as a Robert Bone implosion the very next game (7 runs and 12 hits in 6 1/3 innings) doomed Canon, no matter what 4-4, 2HR performance Gates could pull out that day.

As in any great back-and-forth matchup, Canon rebounded back to make it 3-3, with a 6-3 win in Game 6.

With the series and a shot for a 2005 World Series rematch on the line, the Image Stabilizers needed to bring it, and who else to have on the mound by ace Justin Ramage, who was almost single-handedly responsible for two of Canon’s three wins, and would surely be MVP of the series if he worked his magic to win 3 out of 4 wins for Canon.  Ramage pitched 7 innings, with 9 K’s and only 2 runs, and Gates Skywalker hit another homer for his SIXTH homerun in four straight games.  What nobody counted on was the game put on by 29-year-old Moises Silva, who in four postseason starts had gone 2-2 with a 7.11 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.  Silva brought the heat with an 8-inning, ONE RUN start, inexplicably besting Ramage and bringing the Shake Reducers to their first  WORLD SERIES!!

Round 2 was a round of what could’ve beens.  Microsoft lost two save-situation games, where the production brought by their slugger Jabba Desilijic Ture could’ve made the difference.  Microsoft’s #1 starter, Kernel Tyranus, and #2, Wilhuff Tarkin, could have also easily made up two or three games.  Similarly on Canon’s end, the team felt the absence of their #2 best hitter Francis Cote in their three save situation losses, as well as the two of their starters.

Canon’s Gates Skywalker, who blew away the league in the regular season with a 182 RBI, 146 Run, .350-.441-.891, 79 homer regular season campaign, and bashed away with a marvelous 27 RBI, 20 Run, 12HR, .467-.561-1.467 postseason (his run production alone outnumbers that of the entire Las Vegas or Pentax teams during their matches).  A free agent this year, Skywalker could very well move on to greener pastures, after two seasons without a ring in Canonland.

Looking forward to the World Series, 2006 seems to be another easy one for the Daly City Montis, who coast into this series outscoring their opponents 63-25 in the postseason (that’s 6.3 runs to 2.5 runs per game), while Pentax has stumbled along into two miraculous underdog 4-3 series wins, scoring 73-76 along the way (that’s 5.2 runs to 5.4 runs per game).  Yes, that’s right, Pentax has actually been outscored in the postseason, despite arriving at the World Series with the Shinto-World League pennant. 

Round 3, World Series: Pentax Shake Reducers vs. Daly City Montis

The Daly City Montis come into this series like they came into the regular season – a so-so offense backed by a lights-out pitching staff.  This description may be more true than ever now, as Daly City has stumbled with poor performances by their top players, and has relied heavily on star performances from their light-hitting batters like Joanna Maung (.429-.489-.595) and Tiffany Ho (.488-.543-.683).

The pitching has been lights out, however.  Daly City’s starting five: 

Nathan Yan: 2-0, 0.50 ERA, 0.44 WHIP, 16.5 K’s per 9
Whitney Esguerra: 1-1, 3.86 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 10.9 K’s per 9
Terrence Zhao (injured, out for playoffs): 1-0, 2.38 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 8.7 K’s per 9
Samantha Chin: 1-0, 2.77 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 8.3 K’s per 9
Sean Wade: 2-0, 1.53 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 7.1 K’s per 9

The pitching has been so good, the bullpen’s barely been tapped at all, meaning Daly City has a well-rested reserve compared to Pentax.

Pentax’s star hitter Walter Vanish has been ailing so far, with a .236-.300-.382 line in the postseason.  They’ve been buoyed mostly by two very strong performances by RF Simeon Sarvis (.298-.386-.660, 14RBI, 16 Runs) and CF Steffen Richardson (.373-.439-.824, 16RBI, 12 Runs).  The rest of the lineup has been downright abysmal, and right now Pentax is relying on both of those players heavily to come up with some kind of offense.

Their pitching is worse than average, and while they have a clutch workhorse in Augusto Figueroa, who’s thrown 39 innings in 5 games this postseason, his ERA is still a middling 4.62.

Prediction: Daly City, 4-1

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The 2006 Playoffs Preview

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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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League-in-Review: September 1st, 2005

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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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