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The 2006 Playoffs: Divisional Series Recap

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Tuesday, October 12th – tensions are high on the eve of the league championship round of the 2006 Monti Bizarro Baseball postseason.  From eight teams down to four, the teams here are more evenly matched, and the stakes higher than ever.

As expected, both the Daly City Montis and the Microsoft Longhorns blazed past their Round 1 opponents.  Daly City was dominant with a set of five strong pitching performances:

Game 1, W8-3: Whitney Esguerra, 7 1/3 innings, 3 runs, 4 hits, 4 walks, 8 K’s on 108 pitches
Game 2, W6-2: Terrence Zhao, 7 innings, 1 run, 5 hits, 1 walk, 7 K’s on 108 pitches
Game 3, W9-1: Nathan Yan, 9 innings, 1 run, 4 hits, 1 walk, 19 K’s on 152 pitches
Game 4, L3-4 (12 innings) : Samantha Chin, 6 innings, 3 runs, 5 hits, 3 walks, 6 K’s on 96 pitches
Game 5, W9-2: Sean Wade, 8 2/3 innings, 2 runs, 7 hits, 1 walk, 7 K’s on 132 pitches

After being dominated for three games, the United States managed to avoid the sweep by mounting a stubborn upset bid in game 4 – they scored 3 runs on Chin, were held scoreless by Khan for 3 innings, but finally came away with the win in the bottom of the 12th inning, when third baseman Juan Truex hit a homer off of reliever Alvina Chu.  Nonetheless, Sean Wade came in Game 5 and dominated, carrying a shutout through 8 2/3 innings and winning the game.

Microsoft had a similarly easy time with the Asia Giants, winning the series 4-1.  They’ve been lead by a monstrous postseason run by SS Maul Foundation, who batted .579-.591-.842 with 5 RBI and 6 Runs in the five Round 1 games.  Staff ace Sherwood Bertsch, who was disappointing in the regular season, has stepped up so far in the playoffs, winning both his starts with a 2.25 ERA and 0.88 WHIP, going a long way towards compensating for the loss of SP Kernel Tyranus.

Over in the Shinto-World League, as expected the tight matchup between the Pentax Shake Reducers and Paris Forfeiters went down to the wire in a 4-3 matchup, in which FOUR out of the seven games were 1-run decisions.

Game 1 went into extra innings, as starter August Figueroa blew a 3-1 lead in the 8th inning, sending the game into extra innings.  Having thrown 141 pitches over 9 innings, many questioned the Pentax manager for leaving in his starter.  Going into extras, Paris DH Jeff Borum hit a HR off of Pentax’s shaky closer Gonzalo Bolanos in the 11th inning to take a 1-0 lead.

Things bounced right back to Paris’ court the next game, however.  Pentax SP Moises Silva was working on a 1-run gem going into the 8th with a dominant 8-1 lead.  Things started to fall apart, however, as Paris mounted a comeback bid, scoring 2 runs off of back-to-back Ernesto Monalto-Luis Sanchez homers in the 8th, and a BIG 4-run 9th inning, pulling them within 1 run.  Alas, it wasn’t to be.  Pentax’s shaky reliever Gonzalo Bolanos closed out the game and gave Pentax the win, despite giving up FOUR runs in the 9th inning.

Game 3 was another tight matchup, with Robert Arredondo pitching an edge-of-your-seats 7-inning, 3 run performance that took up 111 pitches and saw 9 hits and 2 walks (1.57 WHIP!).  2B Christian Lee provided all the offense they needed, however, with a pair of two-run homers to give Paris the 4-3 win.

Entering into Game 4 after three consecutive 1-run matches, everyone was expecting another tight game.  Instead, Paris surprised everyone, and the Shake Reducers most of all, by exploding for a 9-0 shutout win.  Christian Lee hit yet another pair of 2-run homers to lead the team again with 4 RBIs, but the story of the night was Paris’ phenom Rex White, facing Pentax’s ace Augusto Figueroa yet again and shutting down the Pentax offense with an 8 2/3, 0-run start.

At this point, Pentax was put into serious doubt.  Paris was hot off the heels of a 9-0 shutout performance, their best hitter was on a 4-HR, 8-RBI tear in the past two games, and their hero Augusto Figueroa had just suffered an embarrassing 6-run loss in one of the most critical games of the postseason.  With the momentum Paris had, there didn’t seem to be much hope for Pentax.  They turned to Moises Silva, who again broke out with a dominant start, bringing a 1-run game into the 8th inning.  With another commanding 6-1 lead, it seemed as if Silva had this game squarely locked up.  Paris rallied however, and at the end of the eighth had answered back with 4 runs to make it a 1-run game.  Turning yet again to Gonzalo Bolanos, the Pentax closer pitched a 1-2-3 9th for the save, ensuring Pentax would live to play another day.

Things began falling apart for the Forfeiters, who after Game 4 seemed to be in such a dominating position, with a 3-1 series lead.  Game 6 saw the utter implosion of the Paris pitching staff – starter Robert Arrendodo lasted only 3 1/3 innings and gave up 6 runs, and the subsequent relievers were equally abysmal, giving up a collective 7 runs over the next 5 2/3 innings.  The Pentax hitters had a field day, led by RF Simeon Sarvis, who had a 4-5 day with 5 RBI and 3 runs.  Pentax won the game 14-3, and all of a sudden the series was tied 3-3, and headed to Game 7.

Here it was, Game 7, and both teams were throwing out their best.  Pentax had their hero pitcher Augusto Figueroa on the mound, who had dominated before but definitely showed his age in the last matchup, where he gave up 6 runs.  On the visiting side, Paris had their 22-year-old boy wonder Rex White, who dominated Pentax the last time around with a near complete game shutout.  Things seemed to be going Paris’ way at first, when they scored 3 runs in the 4th, while White went into the 5th with another shutout bid at hand.  Things fell apart, however, as the Pentax hit hard with a 4-run 5th inning, and not letting up even after White had been taken out, tagging the Paris relievers for 2 runs each in the 6th and 7th.  At the end of the day, Paris was up 8-3, and Augusto Figueroa had a complete game victory, proving why he’s still one of the game’s best.

Although Canon’s 4-2 series win doesn’t show it, they were perhaps the most dominant team all the way through the first round.    Right out of the gate, they slammed down the Las Vegas Valleys on a 2-hit, 7 2/3 shutout start by ace Justin Ramage.  #2 ace Robert Bone picked up right where he left off with a dominant 1-run start for an 11-1 win.  Out of nowhere, however, the Valleys came back to win the next two games, both by 4-3, one run victories.  This apparently woke some sort of sleeping giant, as Canon exploded the next game with a 20-3 victory, with Skywalker’s 2-HR, 5RBI performance and SS Antonio Nevarez’s 5RBI day leading the way.  The Image Stabilizers wrapped up the series on a low-key 6-2 victory.

Round 2: Microsoft Longhorns vs. Daly City Montis
The top two teams in the league meet in perhaps the real world championship round.  Without Microsoft’s ace Kernel Tyranus and their slugger (and league HR leader) Jabba Desilijic Ture, this may very well be the match that could’ve been, but nevertheless Microsoft brings a strong lineup and a so-so pitching staff to the table.  Microsoft outscored Asia 28-19 in Round 1, while Daly City was 35-12, but Microsoft’s offense has looked unstoppable at times, with SS Maul Foundation (.579-.591-.842) and Boba Fett (.409-.409-.636) leading the way.  Daly City has been no slouch either, and despite their star hitter, Derek Lew, struggling at the plate (.182-.174-.364), other light-hitting members of the batting corps have been surprisingly good, including 3B Joanna Maung (.591-.625-.727) and CF Tiffany Ho (.565-.583-.870).  Surprisingly, or perhaps not, Daly City’s playoff hero has been Francis Chen, who is once again on his October tear with a .333-.444-1.067 performance, leading the team with 3 HR, 6 runs, and 7 RBI. Pitching-wise, the series is hands-down in the favor of the Daly City Montis, especially without Microsoft’s star (and #2 pitcher in the league) Kernel Tyranus.  Even Microsoft’s #1, Sherwood Bertsch, seems a shaky bet to be able to beat any of Daly City’s starting 5.
Prediction: Daly City, 4-2

Round 2: Pentax Shake Reducers vs. Canon Image Stabilizers: In the David vs. Goliath battle out in the Shinto-World League, Canon seems to be firing on all cylinders after their dominating performances over Las Vegas.  Their 48-14 run differential in Round 1 was by far the best of any team, and it dwarfs the 41-36 performance by Pentax in the 1st round.  Pentax has a fleet of hitters firing on all cylinders.  However, the production from Canon’s Gates Skywalker alone (.450-.556-1.550, 14 RBIs, 8 Runs) nearly dwarfs all of them combined.  Pentax still’s got a fighting chance, however, with Canon’s all-world catcher Francis Cote on the DL, along with two of their starting pitchers.
Prediction: Canon, 4-2

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Season-so-far: September 1st, 2006

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It’s Wednesday, September 9th, 2006, and with only 27 games to go, the league is coming down to the wire as usual.  Except for the Galactica Division, no division leader leads by more than 4 games, and the wildcard slots are tight in all four divisions.

Compared to their 29-game lead at the conclusion of the 2005 season, the Daly City Montis are hanging onto a history-worst, yet still-sizable 16-game lead going into September.  With a 12-game magic number, another division title for Daly City seems secure, and all eyes turn towards individual recording-breaking opportunities and preparation for the playoffs.

In the two months since the All-Star break, Daly City has gone 38-16, .704, off of some absolutely dominating star performances.  They’ve been even more dominant in pitching, and are now solidly back at the top in terms of batting, leading by a large margin in OBP and total runs.

But before we get there, let’s have a quick look at the rest of the league:

Things were lopsided in 2005 in the Universe League, when Daly City and Apple placed 1-2 in the division, and the Microsoft Longhorns, 94-68 and a full 17 games ahead of sub-.500 Terran division winner Europe, failed to make the playoffs.  This year, the Universe League and especially the Galactica Division seem more stacked than ever – while Daly City still leads the pack, Microsoft and Apple follow up 2-3 not only in the division, but in all of baseball.  The fourth best team in baseball, the Canon Image Stabilizers, are four games behind Apple, and within the Universe League, even the last-place Mozilla Firefoxes, 66-71, .474 and 33 games out of first place, lead Terran division leader Asia by 6 games!  Sadly, with the current playoff structure, Daly City and one of Microsoft or Apple look to head into the playoffs against two sub-.500 teams from the Terran Division.

The headlines in the Universe League have been dominated once again by the epic Microsoft-Apple struggle.  The most dramatic change for both teams has been a huge beef-up in hitting – Apple, who went .262-.312-.435 in 2005, are now .286-.341-.465, riding almost purely on the shoulders of their two superstars, SS Ben Kenobi and RF Chewie Gonzales.  Microsoft, meanwhile, has developed into an offensive juggernaut, from .262-.330-.444 to .274-.337-.488, on the strength of a slew of power hitters – SIX out of their nine starters are slugging over .500.  On the pitching front, their aces have been dueling it out all season long, with Apple’s Kyle Katarn 18-8, with a 2.31 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 240 K’s in 249 1/3 innings (8.7 K’s/9) and Microsoft’s Kernel Tyranus at 21-5, with a 2.03 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 189 K’s in 217 2/3 innings (7.8 K’s/9).  So far in the season, Microsoft is leading by two games, and Tyranus is 2-0 in 2 starts against Apple, with a 1.13 ERA and 0.75 WHIP, while Katarn is 1-2 in 3 starts against the M-Dollar, with a 3.38 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.

Over in the Shinto-World League, the league is dominated by a smattering of mediocrity, save for Canon’s Gates Skywalker’s single-handed march to the record books.  At the young age of 24, Skywalker appears headed straight for his second straight Batter of the Year Award, hitting .354-.442-.907 with already 67 HR through only 5 months, putting on pace for 80.  If Skywalker continues his amazing August run, however, in which he hit 23 homers, he may very well challenge Kenton McClinton’s 66-year old HR record of 88.  With 157 RBIs already, he may be on his way towards the RBI record as well.

But despite Skywalker’s individual achievement, his Canon Image Stabilizers are only 75-60, .556, hanging onto a tenuous 4 game lead over the Nikon Vibration Reducers.

Tina “Experimental Error” Quach, Catcher: The Daly City catcher hit a bit of a cold streak after the end of the all-star break, going .238-.313-.298 in July, but like the rest of the lineup, heated up n August, where she posted a .307-.402-.426 line.  Quach has seen a noticeable uptick in walks – she’s drawn 25 in July and August, compared to only 24 in April-June combined.

Marco Paz, Backup Catcher: Things haven’t gone well this rookie season for Paz.  After posting some of the worst numbers in the league, Paz hasn’t seen much of any opportunity, seeing a total of only 31 plate appearances since June, in which he’s gone .138-.194-.172.  Among players with 100 plate appearances, Paz is by far the last in the league in almost every single hitting category.  On the bright side, Paz’s fielding has been flawless – he’s the proud owner of a perfect fielding percentage, and has thrown out 3 of 6 baserunners.

Derek Lew, 1st Baseman: What a comeback season it’s been for Derek Lew!  While Lew was consistently good throughout the first half of the season, he has simply exploded in the second half – he posted a .312-.342-.615 line in July, and he followed that up with an even bigger .398-.419-.771 August in which he drove in a staggering 39 RBIs and scored 25 runs.  He’s now leading the league by a large margin with 143 RBIs, and with a line of .318-.350-.609, is poised to set career highs in all the batting categories, not to mention shatter his career high of 160 RBIs he set in his rookie year and the league-record 74 doubles he hit in 2004 – all this in likely 100 less at bats than he had in 2003-2004.  He’s 7th in the UL in batting average, 3rd in hits, 1st in doubles, 3rd in triples, 1st in RBI, 2nd in SLG, and looks to be in strong contention for the Batter of the Year award, especially if he can keep up his August hot streak through September.

Rudy Puzon, Designated Hitter: As big of a season as it’s been for Lew, Daly City’s designated hitter Puzon, batting in the third slot ahead of Lew, has been every bit as critical to the team’s success.  Like Lew, Puzon seems to have turned on the burners since the All-Star Break, since which he’s posted consecutive .400+ OBP months (.453 in July and .427 in August), which has been key to Lew’s prodigious RBI totals.  Puzon has built on his rookie success, and has been an OBP machine all year – he currently leads the team with a .407 OBP (4th in the league), and is 4th in the league in Runs Created as well, and his 108 runs are 2nd in the league.

Cristian Ortiz, Second Base: While it’s been up and down for Ortiz, the one thing he can say is that he’s never been abysmally bad.  He appeared to be in a prolonged July slump but still pulled out a .250-.317-.407 month out of it, and rebounded back with a .293-.356-.455 August.  Throughout all this, he’s been as quick as ever on the basepaths, stealing 11 more bases in July and 19 in more in August, when he finally eclipsed Ben Kenobi for the lead league in steals.  For the season, he’s just reached 72 steals, and looks just about ready to break Aubrey Cubilo’s freshly-set steals record of 77.

Joanna Maung, Saung-gah-basewoman:  Despite everyone else’s breakout second-half performances, Maung has been a sore lack of production so far, barely even reaching  the .300 OBP plateau.  Her power has seen a noticeable increase of late – her total bases per hit has gone up to 1.45, compared to 1.23 in the second half.  If she can get her batting average back up, which might be tough considering the number of strikeouts she’s accumulating.

Henry “Mr.” Nghe, Shortstop: The story’s stayed the same for Nghe, who’s been combining solid hitting all year long with a complete and utter power outage.  So far in the second half, Nghe’s added another weapon to his arsenal – walking power, drawing 10 in July and 19 in August, to post OBP’s of .360 and .380.  He’s also increased his speed prodigiously, swiping 7 bags in July and 9 stolen bases in August, to put him at 30 steals for the year.  Despite all this improvement, Nghe still can’t seem to hit the ball much further than the infield – he’s slugged .363 and .383 the past two months, and still isn’t showing any signs of improvement.

Jonathan “The Cheet” Chee, Leftfielder: After a solid first half of 2006, Chee hasn’t been anywhere close to the mark since the All-Star break.  While he’s maintained a high OBP through walks and hit-by-pitches (including a combined 29 walks and HBP in August), he’s his .239 and .198 in July and August, and slugged only .337 and .271 in those months.  Nonetheless, Chee’s consistent OBP has still kept him in the #2 slot, where he’s managed to score 93 runs so far in front of sluggers Puzon and Lew, and is on pace to record his first-ever 100 run season.

Tiffany Ho, Centerfielder: The young spunky outfielder continues to provide life to this team, as Ho continued her success through the second half.  She had a monstrous .340-.384-.437 July, in which she also stole 13 bases, and she’s also been steadily increasing her walks every month.  For the year so far she’s .294-.332-.382, demonstrating dramatic improvements across the board, along with some star contact ability and stellar defense.

Francis Chen, Rightfielder: Where has the long road known as the 2006 season led for Francis Chen?  While he appeared to be off to a blistering start, Chen fell long and hard in June, and only continued that through July, with a .182-.289-.364 line, playing only 18 games.  Things got slightly better in August, where Chen went .177-.311-.435, but Francis is still far off from his April-May marks in which he appeared to show his true potential.  With just a month to go, and with a batting average barely above the Mendoza line (it sits at .203) it looks sadly like another wasted season for Chen.

Jason Liu, Rightfielder: Speaking of wasted seasons, Jason Liu and his enormous power potential has sat on the bench for much of the season, being placated by the more popular Chen.  As a result, Liu’s performance seemed to suffer with the inconsistent playing time.  Liu finally appeared to get it together in August, however, where he played 15 games and accumulated 55 at bats, going .309-.345-673 with 6 homers.

Nathan Yan, #1 Starter: Yan’s continued his dominance so far in the season, although he accumulated his first loss and had a fairly ugly 1.90 ERA August.  Regardless, Yan appears on pace to shatter all records (and personal career highs), including the hallowed 500-K mark (he’s up to 462 K’s, on 18.0 K’s/9).  Since August he’s had a number of phenomenal performances, including perhaps his best start yet, an 11-inning 1-hitter, in which he struck out 25 batters (and had K’d 21 through 9 innings).

Whitney Esguerra, #2 Starter: It’s been a long, hard season of bad luck for Esguerra, who can’t seem to get a break anywhere.  Despite her 3.26 ERA, ranked #6 in the league, Esguerra has been the victim of the 12th worst run support in baseball, garnering only 4.2 runs per game on a team that scores 5.9.  Despite being perhaps the best pitcher on the team in August, where she pitched 38 1/3 innings with a 1.88 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a shutout, she was only 2-3, and overall is 10-10 with a 3.26 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 19 quality starts (76%), which is ranked 5th in the league.

Terrence Zhao, #3 Starter: While his numbers may now show it, Zhao has been one of the most dominant in the second half – seven of his last 11 starts have been complete games, and 8 of those 11 have been 1-run starts.  Zhao seems to have a habit for getting bombed, however, which is where the worst of his numbers come from – despite all this he’s been a healthy 6-2 in July-August, and his 1.67 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and 13.14 K’s/9 in August show that the lights-out 2005 Terrence is still buried in there somewhere.

Samantha Chin, #4 Starter: Chin’s break out season continues, as the sophomore starter was nothing but brilliant in July and August.  She went 6-0, with a 2.41 ERA and 0.90 WHIP, and has been just a couple runs of support and a few shaky bullpen appearances short of being a perfect 10-0 so far this second half.  4th in the league in ERA, 3rd in WHIP, 5th in wins, 7th in K’s per 9, Chin appears well on her way to becoming a superstar in who is surely this year’s breakout player for Daly City.

Sean Wade, #5 Starter: After an abysmal first half, Sean seems to have righted himself back on track, with sub-1.00 WHIPs in both months so far, and an especially dominant 0.75 ERA in July.  While Wade isn’t going to come anywhere close to his rookie season numbers, a seemingly strong finish to the 2006 season is a positive sign that Wade will be able to begin 2007 with a fresh start.

Miguel Pardo, #6 Starter: Pardo suffered a tragic end to his season, tearing his rotator cuff muscle clean off in his 3rd August start.  He’s now shelved for the end of the season, and perhaps not a moment too soon – his July ERA hit a high 4.38 with 1.38 WHIP, and his three starts in August seemed to show a regression to the Miguel of old, with only 10 1/3 innings in 3 starts, with an 11.32 ERA and 1.84 WHIP.  A somber end to another season of hope and heartbreak for Pardo – one wonders whether he’ll ever break through to become anything more than a #6 starter, especially in Daly City’s stacked rotation.

Helen Yamamoto, Mopup Reliever: After a blistering first half, in which Yamamoto brought her ERA all the way under 3, she’s regressed significantly to her 2005 form – so far in the second half she has a 9.00 ERA and 2.33 WHIP, mostly in non-consequential games.  She still stands at a decent 4.95 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in the season, although if she were to retire right now (as she’s expected to be sent down to the farm at the end of 2006), her 7.30 ERA and 2.17 WHIP career numbers would go down as the worst in Daly City history – a little bit of September effort, and she might manage to get her numbers down lower than Clayton’s 7.28 ERA and 1.67 WHIP

Angel Poon, Middle Reliever: After her shaky start, Poon has been nothing but sheer brilliance since June, with 18 innings of work and a 2.00 ERA and 0.72 WHIP.  While her ERA from 2006’s early months still weigh  her numbers up at 4.19 ERA (right now, a career-worst), her WHIP is a career-best and league-#4 1.02.  On another note, despite another year of declining appearances and innings, Poon has just broken the 200-inning mark, a first for a Daly City reliever.

Alfred Vong, Long Reliever: It hasn’t been a good year for the sophomore reliever, who was expected to make great strides on the mound, but has instead regressed in every way.  Vong was abysmal in July, where he accumulated a 7.27 ERA and 1.73 WHIP.  With Pardo’s season-ending injury, Vong gets a reluctant chance to prove himself, although with the way he’s pitched this year, he hardly seems ready to become a starter.  In two semi-starts so far, however, Vong seems to have risen to the occasion – he filled in for 5 1/3 innings the game that Pardo was injured, giving up only 1 run and earning the win.  The next game, Vong’s first start this season, Alfred pitched a complete game, allowing 2 runs and striking out 8, and accomplishing it in only 109 pitches, no less.  Perhaps this is Vong’s big break – he’s got a whole September (2 or 3 starts) to show his stuff, and all eyes will be watching perhaps Vong’s first and last big chance to make the rotation permanently.

Zubeda Khan, Middle Reliever: The former closer has quietly put together a season of steady improvement – while her ERA at 3.44 isn’t much better than last year’s at 3.47, and she’s blown 3 saves as a middle reliever, her WHIP has dropped dramatically to 0.93 (good for 2nd in the league, if she was an inning qualifier).  Perhaps more tellingly, her Component ERA has dropped from last year’s solid 3.28 to a gaudy 2.27.  She’s been the one steady part of a tumultuous season in the bullpen, and who knows… she may well see herself back in the closer’s role next year.

Alvina Chu, Setup Reliever: It’s been a season of ups and downs for Chu, who seems to have put it all together in the last three months after a dreadful April and May.  She’s 4-0 with a 0.93 ERA in 19 1/3 innings since June.  However, her WHIP remains at a high 1.27 (including a scary 1.67 August WHIP), and her CERA is a pedestrian 3.24.  She has, however, only blown 1 save in 8 opportunities this season, although she’s allowed 41.2% of her inherited runners to score.  On another note, her 7 wins this year puts her in the all-time lead for reliever wins with 27, toppling Sarah Jimenez’s old record.

Josiah Leong, Closer: What looked so right has gone horribly wrong this second half for Leong.  The player who led the league in saves and had a sub-2.00 ERA at the end of the first half has been hammered all second-half, posting a 9.95 ERA and 1.84 WHIP. He’s also blown a staggering 9 saves so far this season, far more than any Daly City closer in history, and 2nd in the league.  Despite all this he’s still 2nd in the league with 31 saves , is #1 with 12.8 K’s per 9, and could conceivably become the 1st reliever in Daly City history to strike out 100 batters in a season.

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The 2006 Mid-season Review

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It’s the midseason, July 1st, 2006, in the land of Monti Bizarro Baseball. After a somewhat disastrous start to May, the Daly City Montis have rebuilt themselves into dominant form. Fresh off a 15-game winning streak (and 21-4 overall June), the Montis are now 59-22, .728, and leading the 2nd place Apple Septic Tanks by 9 games. The team is once again in dominant form, with a league-first 3.23 ERA, and 2nd-place 468 runs scored (trailing the Canon Image Stabilizers’ 497 runs).

Daly City seems to have regained its form, and appears to be cruising to another Division Championship, although their 9-game lead is more tenuous than in any year past. What’s more, for the first time the Montis are looking at some formidable competition all around in the league. While they top the league in almost all pitching statistics, as expected this year, the offensive machine has been more mortal, though still good. They’re 2nd in runs, but whether that’s sustainable is a legitimate question – they top the league in OBP, but lag behind a lot in SLG, with only .439 (which ranks 5th out of 16 teams). Most importantly, the rival top-team Canon Image Stabilizers of the Shinto-World league, who faced Daly City in the finals last year, has far and away the top offense in the league, although their pitching doesn’t hold a candle to Daly City’s.

It’s been an exciting half so far, and with three months to go, anything can happen.

On the Daly City homefront, the pitching staff has settled into a strange mellowness – the staff as a whole has been performing fine, but no one, outside of Yan, of course, has shown much signs of dominance. The bullpen has been in taters all year, except for one surprise standout. On the offensive front, things have gone pretty much as expected, with the lineup barely hanging on together and eking out just enough offense to get those wins.

Tina “Experimental Error” Quach, Catcher: After a slow start in April, Quach has come around to her usual production levels, hitting a combined .317-.379-.411 over May and June, filling in nicely in the OBP department, with a surprisingly high AVG as well. What Quach is lacking, however, is true run production – she has 27 RBI and 39 Runs, mostly due to a poor .269-.354-.299 line with runners in scoring position, which thus far has kept her in the bottom of the order, besides otherwise decent stats.
Stats:

Games AB Hits 2B 3B HR RBI Run K Walk SB AVG OBP SLG OPS

72

272

79

16

1

2

27

39

22

24

7

.287

.344

.375

.719

Marco Paz, Backup Catcher: The power-hitting prospect has been off to an abysmal start so far in the season. His meager .250-.317-.515 numbers in AA last year might have indicated he wasn’t yet ready for the big leagues, and so far at least, those projections have born out. In 71 plate appearances he’s .132-.141-.206, not really finding any kind of groove. As a result, he hasn’t seen that much time behind the plate, either, logging only 111 defensive innings. Hopefully his power numbers come along as the season progresses, as Paz is one of the few power-hitting prospects the Montis have got.

Games AB Hits 2B 3B HR RBI Run K Walk SB AVG OBP SLG OPS

19

68

9

2

0

1

12

5

12

1

0

.132

.141

.206

.347

Derek Lew, First Baseman: After a promising April, Lew has been bashing away at a steady clip and seems to be demonstrating a full comeback from his injury-riddled 2005 (he also hasn’t missed a game). He knocked in a tremendous 36 RBIs in May, and is, like before, hitting towards record doubles numbers – he’s hit at least ten every month, and is on pace for 74, which would tie his 2004 record (although in less at bats). He also has 10 triples, which leads the league and already breaks his previous career high of 6 in 2005 and 2003) With a .552 slugging percentage, he’s by far the best hitter on the team, and the only one to remain consistently good all throughout the first half.

Games AB Hits 2B 3B HR RBI Run K Walk SB AVG OBP SLG OPS

81

346

101

37

10

11

78

48

4

18

6

.292

.328

.552

.880

Rudy Puzon, Designated Hitter: Puzon got off to a blazing hot start, and didn’t let up at all in May, going .330-.403-.563. Puzon dipped significantly just before the all-star break, however, with a disappointing .247-.330-.443 start. Puzon nonetheless leads the team in OPS, and is second in OBP, SLG, and AVG, and hitting from the #3 spot, has the highest RBI+Run total of any player on the team. While his June cool-off seems to be temporary, Puzon seems to have solidified himself as the real deal in 1 ½ seasons of playing time.

Games AB Hits 2B 3B HR RBI Run K Walk SB AVG OBP SLG OPS

78

320

98

18

7

12

61

64

54

43

7

.306

.386

.519

.905

Cristian Ortiz, Second Baseman: Ortiz has been hot and average this season – after starting the season off with a mediocre .265-.312-.393 April, Ortiz hit .318-.381-.482 in May, and then dipped down to .258-.348-.340 in June. His numbers are in line with his 2005 season, except that his ability to hit for power seems to have disappeared . While his numbers have been fluctuating, his patience at the plate seems to be improving – he’s increased his walks drawn every month, and the one constant for Ortiz has always been speed – this season he’s faster than ever, with 42 steals that seems set to obliterate not only his previous career high (58 in 2005), but Cubilo’s league record as well.

Games AB Hits 2B 3B HR RBI Run K Walk SB AVG OBP SLG OPS

81

324

91

9

4

8

46

63

42

32

42

.281

.347

.407

.755

Joanna Maung, Saung-gah-basewoman: After three seasons under the shadow of former superstar Joey Wong, Maung has proven herself, well, sufficient at third base. After she started out with a hot April that somewhat concealed an alarming lack of power (.333 AVG, but only 2 extra base hits for a .354 SLG), Maung had a rough May (.247-.319-.329), before bouncing back to the kind of solid, consistent numbers that she’s showed the previous three years: .293-.375-.424. If she can continue hitting at that level, she’ll have played out the team’s most optimistic expectations from Maung’s first full year. Defensively, Maung hasn’t fared so well at third base – her fielding percentage of .935 is disappointing, especially compared to the rest of the infield (Nghe, .963, Ortiz, .979, Lew, .999).

Games AB Hits 2B 3B HR RBI Run K Walk SB AVG OBP SLG OPS

74

276

81

10

1

3

32

44

45

35

5

.293

.382

.370

.751

Henry “Mr.” Nghe, Shortstop: Perhaps the fairy-tale story for the sophomore shortstop is over. After surprising everyone by winning the rookie of the year award in 2005, Nghe picked up right where he left off with a sizzling April, quieting many critics who said he was overrated. In the two months since, however, Nghe has fallen back to Earth, hard. While he hasn’t been bad, Nghe’s numbers have been very average – .278-.346-.364, most shocking of all being his complete power outage (last year he had a SLG of .545)., fueling many of those same critics who have said all along that Nghe has outperformed his ability.

Games AB Hits 2B 3B HR RBI Run K Walk SB AVG OBP SLG OPS

81

319

95

26

1

4

50

40

46

39

14

.298

.375

.423

.798

Jonathan “The Cheet” Chee, Leftfielder: Following up on last year’s breakout season, Chee is once again having an awesome season – he’s batting .318-.413-.449, about in line with last year’s numbers. In fact, Chee leads the team in both AVG and OBP, and has been a run machine at the top of the order. A trivially alarming sign, however, is Chee’s low hit-by-pitch rate – he’s got 20 this year, compared to his record-shattering 49 from 2005. While he still leads the league, #2 Jabba Desilijic Ture has 19 HBP, trailing Chee by only one.

Games AB Hits 2B 3B HR RBI Run K Walk SB AVG OBP SLG OPS

73

296

94

13

1

8

47

54

42

30

7

.318

.413

.449

.862

Tiffany Ho, Centerfielder: After a typical first two months, Ho seems to be showing signs of blossoming into a strong contact hitter – in June she hit .337-.378-.446, and overall is .294-.323-.391, already improving on her rookie season, with half the year still to go. She seems to love the home crowd, where she has a .327-.361-.442 home split against .263-.285-.342 on the road. Defensively, Ho’s been showing great improvement – Ho’s zone rating of 1.96 dwarfs that of the other outfielders (1.40 for Chee in leftfield and 1.58 for Chen in right), although she still can’t cover quite the same range that Cubilo did (2.35 in 2005). Nonetheless, Ho seems to have grown into a very capable replacement at centerfield, a slightly better hitter and slightly worse fielder than her predecessor.

Games AB Hits 2B 3B HR RBI Run K Walk SB AVG OBP SLG OPS

73

299

88

12

7

1

36

44

35

11

7

.294

.323

.391

.714

Francis Chen, Rightfielder: Just when you thought Chen was back, it turns out he’s… not. Chen followed up his huge April with another flashy, although not quite as spectacular, May, going .195-.340-.524, hitting another 7 homeruns and winding up with the league lead. Chen faltered in June, however, putting up the ugly .212-.303-364 numbers of the Francis of old. Interestingly, like Ho Chen has a noticeably home-road split. At home he’s hitting like the all-star Francis Chen – .264-.391-.568, but on the road he’s an abysmal .162-.289-.385. This actually somewhat mirrors his 2005 splits – hm… maybe a platoon is in order?

Games AB Hits 2B 3B HR RBI Run K Walk SB AVG OBP SLG OPS

67

242

52

10

3

16

40

48

60

40

16

.215

.341

.479

.821

Jason Liu, Backup Outfielder: Things just haven’t been bright for poor Jason Liu. After being “swiftly” ousted from his starting job by old-fashioned politics, Liu struggled out of the gate, while his rival Francis Chen had a monster season, further eliminating any hope of Liu regaining his starting role. Since then, Liu doesn’t seem to have found his groove anywhere – he had a good .275-.351-.549 May, but hasn’t really found a groove anywhere else otherwise – so far he’s .226-.273-.481 on the season, although his 9 HR is actually not that far off of the mark.

Games AB Hits 2B 3B HR RBI Run K Walk SB AVG OBP SLG OPS

37

133

30

5

1

9

17

19

37

9

2

.226

.273

.481

.754

Nathan Yan, #1 Starting Pitcher: In a season that hasn’t gone so well for the pitching staff, everything is going right for Yan, who seems to be on an extended fire streak – in three months he hasn’t registered an ERA over 1.00, or a WHIP over 0.60. In addition, Yan’s maintained his amazing 18 K’s per 9 innings rate and is all set on actually breaking the 500-K mark (right now he’s projected for 572 K’s!) Since his two 20-K performances in April, he’s hit that mark another three times, hasn’t struck out less than 14 batters, and on June 24th, threw a 21-K NO-HITTER. Things look better than ever for Yan, who just may have reached god status with his now 0.08 CERA.

Games Starts W-L QSCGSHO S IP Hits Walks R ER K K/9 ERA CERA WHIP

15

15

14-0

15137

0

133

46

17

12

9

268

18.1

0.61

0.08

0.47

Whitney Anne Esguerra, #2 Starting Pitcher: It’s been a weird, trying season for Esguerra. After an extremely promising April, she’s now had an abysmal May, highlighted by a 4 2/3 inning, 11 run (8 earned) start. She seemed to come into her own in June, however, going 2-0 in five games with a 2.84 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, garnering her first shutout. She’s also second on the team in K’s, 2nd in ERA, and 3rd in WHIP.

Games Starts W-L QSCGSHO S IP Hits Walks R ER K K/9 ERA CERA WHIP

15

15

6-4

1131

0

106_2/3

102

24

53

40

124

10.5

3.38

3.34

1.18

Terrence Zhao, #3 Starting Pitcher: Zhao has been perplexingly average all season this year, and has only a 66.7% quality start rate, compared to his 87.1% last year. His complete games (2), and shutouts (1) also indicate that Zhao is far from the dominating form he’s had the past two years. His CERA, however, still indicates a dominating 2.69 (despite his 3.44 actual ERA).

Games Starts W-L QSCGSHO S IP Hits Walks R ER K K/9 ERA CERA WHIP

15

15

5-5

1021

0

96_2/3

81

32

39

37

103

9.6

3.44

2.69

1.17

Samantha Chin, #4 Starting Pitcher: Chin has followed her spectacular start to the season with an equally impressive May – she went 4-0 yet again in 5 games, with an even lower 2.68 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, and seemed to be well on her way to becoming one of the game’s elite. She somehow got derailed in June, however, with a 5.40 ERA, although a somewhat more forgiving 1.20 WHIP. Perhaps the best indicator is that her CERA, at 2.93, is third best on the team and 8th best in the league. All in all, Chin seems well on her way to developing into one of the best pitchers on the team, and yet another cornerstone of the Daly City rotation.

Games Starts W-L QSCGSHO S IP Hits Walks R ER K K/9 ERA CERA WHIP

15

15

11-2

12

0

105_2/3

86

31

44

42

104

8.9

3.58

2.93

1.11

Sean Wade, #5 Starting Pitcher: Wade’s fall from grace continues to spiral. While Wade hasn’t been as bad as in April, he hasn’t done much to turn his season around – his May and June ERA was 4.39, with even worse WHIP numbers (1.50 and 1.35 in May and June), along with a rapidly disappearing ability to strike batters out (5.96 K’s per 9 in May, 5.40 in June, off from 7.3 in 2005). With a 5.18 ERA and a 4.92 CERA that doesn’t give much cause for hope, the season only looks to drag on for Sean Wade.

Games Starts W-L QSCGSHO S IP Hits Walks R ER K K/9 ERA CERA WHIP

13

13

6-4

511

0

83_1/3

92

20

50

48

62

6.7

5.18

4.92

1.34

Miguel Pardo, #6 Starting Pitcher: What can be said about Miguel Pardo? The sporadically brilliant pitcher is once again on his good side, and so far this season, he’s achieving – dare I say it? – consistency. After a good April, Pardo has gone 3-1 in five starts (including a shutout), achieving a decent 3.85 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. So far in the season, Pardo’s 3.47 overall ERA ranks fourth on the team, and were he to have enough qualifying innings, 11th in the league.

Games Starts W-L QSCGSHO S IP Hits Walks R ER K K/9 ERA CERA WHIP

8

8

5-2

621

0

57

49

23

27

22

40

6.3

3.47

3.54

1.26

Alfred Vong, Long Reliever: It hasn’t been a good sophomore follow-up for Vong. While he’s pitched a lot of innings (39, putting him on pace for 78), he hasn’t been particularly effective. His K’s per 9, ERA, WHIP – almost everything is worse than his first season. He’s blown two out of two save opportunities (last year he blew none in 7 chances) and has allowed 4 out of 9 inherited runners to score (compared to 3 of 17 in 2005). What’s happening to Vong? Is it mechanics? Tiredness? No one seems to know, but at this point he’s got to be thanking Wade for providing those mopup long relief situations to pitch in.

Games Starts W-L QSCGSHO S IP Hits Walks R ER K K/9 ERA CERA WHIP

11

0

0-1

0

1

39

42

9

23

23

30

6.9

5.31

4.50

1.31

Helen Yamamoto, Mopup Reliever: Color this a surprise. After an abysmal 9+ ERA 2005, and coming back to start the season with a 7.72 April ERA, Yamamoto has somehow transformed herself into the second best reliever on the team with a 0.96 ERA since May and 3.21 ERA overall. Her WHIP, however, is still a scary 1.43, so the mopup reliever’s newfound brilliance may not last for long.

Games Starts W-L QSCGSHO S IP Hits Walks R ER K K/9 ERA CERA WHIP

9

0

0-0

0

1

14

13

7

6

5

9

5.8

3.21

4.34

1.43

Angel Poon, Middle Reliever: After a nasty April, Poon didn’t seem to improve a whole bunch in May, when she threw a nasty 10 innings of 5.40 ERA ball. She’s begun to show signs of life in June, however, when she had a 1.69 ERA and 0.56 WHIP over 5 1/3 innings. Perhaps Poon is back to form? Despite a high ERA, her 1.15 WHIP is back to her career average, and actually lower than last season.

Games Starts W-L QSCGSHO S IP Hits Walks R ER K K/9 ERA CERA WHIP

12

0

0-0

0

0

21_2/3

21

4

14

13

15

6.2

5.40

4.51

1.15

Zubeda Khan, Middle Reliever: Talk about lights-out brilliance. Like the rest of the bullpen, Khan came out with an abysmal April start, but has flourished in the time since then. While none of the other relievers really were, Khan proved to be a rock of consistency in May, throwing 7 1/3 innings with a 3.68 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Since then, however, Khan has just been other-worldly brilliant – she’s currently on an 8-inning shutout streak, during which she’s also carrying an 0.25 WHIP. Maybe removing her from the closer’s role was a bit premature… or maybe it was just the ticket she needed to rebuild her confidence.

Games Starts W-L QSCGSHO S IP Hits Walks R ER K K/9 ERA CERA WHIP

13

0

3-1

0

2

21_1/3

19

1

10

8

15

6.3

3.38

2.44

0.94

Alvina Chu, Setup Reliever: Chu pitched and struggled again in May, with a 4.82 ERA and 1.61 WHIP over 9 1/3 forced innings. With June has come some glimmer of improvement – her 1.50 ERA and 1.00 WHIP harkens back to the Alvina of old, although her season numbers are still at an ugly 4.50 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Chu does, however, have six reliever wins, leading the league and setting her on pace for a career-high twelve.

Games Starts W-L QSCGSHO S IP Hits Walks R ER K K/9 ERA CERA WHIP

17

0

6-2

0

1

26

29

4

14

13

26

9.0

4.50

3.76

1.27

Josiah Leong, Closer: From the category of sheer brilliance comes Josiah Leong, who after struggling a bit with a white-knuckle April, has settled into one of the most dominant closers in the league. Leong saved 5 games with a 1.00 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in May, and then vaulted into the leaderboard with 10 saves, a 0.47 ERA, and 0.88 WHIP in June. He’s striking out batters at an amazing 12.9 K’s per 9 innings, and he seems to have been particularly thorough with right-handers, who have a .069-.213-.069 line against Leong. With 23 saves, Leong leads the league by two, and has 1.71 ERA ranks 4th best, and best in the Universe League.

Games Starts W-L QSCGSHO S IP Hits Walks R ER K K/9 ERA CERA WHIP

28

0

3-1

0

23

42

25

19

27

22

40

12.9

1.71

2.50

1.05

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Season-so-far: May 1st, 2006

Uncategorized

It’s a month into the season, and already big changes are evident in the dying Spring air of the 2006 season.

At the conclusion of April, Daly City stands at 19-9 (.679), tied with the Canon Image Stabilizers in the Shinto-World League for the best record in the majors.  However, the Monti’s 19-9 mark is not only their lowest starting mark ever, but leaves little margin for error as the all super-.500 Galactica Division hotly tails the team, with the Apple Septic Tanks two games back, the Mozilla Firefoxes 3 games back, and the Microsoft Longhorns 4 games back.

Despite standing atop the standings, Daly City is far from being the dominant team it used to be.  It’s ranked 2nd in runs scored, and with a 3.79 team ERA, a full run over 2005’s ERA, ranked 3rd in pitching.  What’s been plaguing the team?  Everyone knew the team would be worse hitting-wise, losing a huge chunk of production in Batter of the Year Joey Wong and all-star catcher Sam Lau.  Compared to 2005’s .304-.369-.484 average line, the team is down to .283-.357-.436 – a similar on-base ability, but a huge power outage (OBP in fact ranks 1st in the league, while SLG is 5th out of 8 teams).  The problem seems to have stemmed from a lack of any midrange whatsoever.  Several players (Derek Lew, Rudy Puzon, Henry Nghe, and surprisingly, Francis Chen) have all performed fairly well, each slugging in the .521-.546 range.  After this, however, there is a significant dropoff to Jason Liu, who slugs .429, Jonathan Chee, who slugs .404, and then 3 ¼ more sub-.400 sluggers after that.  Lacking a 1-9 slot of consistent slugging power, and lacking a single supreme slugging force (like Wong, or the Lew of years past), Daly City seems to be struggling a lot more with scoring runs.

On the pitching side, there seems to be a heavy contrast between the rotation and the bullpen.  The rotation’s ERA is a fairly low 3.15, which is still a bit higher than usual.  However, the bullpen ERA is at a hideous 5.93, driven by several abysmal performances among nearly every single member of the bullpen (save Josiah Leong, ironically).

Despite the struggles, Daly City is still winning, although these days there seems to be more haphazard duck-taping of the leaks rather than smooth sailing.

Tina “Experimental ErRR” Quach, catcher: After finally inheriting the catcher position after two seasons waiting in the wings of Sam Lau, Quach began the season behind the plate… only to fall flat when stepping up to it.  She’s played in 23 games out of 28 so far, but has done so with an abysmal .228-.287-.304 line.  Defensively she’s getting her bearings straight, and despite a weak arm has thrown out 3 out of 9 would-be base stealers.  One of the biggest drop-offs so far from 2005 production, Tina definitely needs to turn it around for the team to return back to form.

Marco Paz, backup catcher: The rookie hasn’t seen too many chances so far he’s had 7 starts to play, and in 30 plate appearances, a .143-.167-.250 line to show for it.  Given time, Paz looks to come around, although at this time there really isn’t much to see.

Derek Lew, first baseman: After a bit of an agonizing 2005 season, Lew looks to be back to form so far in 2006.  He’s hitting .277-.346-.546, and while his contact numbers are a little off, he’s slugging every bit as well as he used to, and is currently Daly City’s top power hitter in terms of slugging.  A surprisingly new aspect of Lew’s game is his newfound penchant for walks – after only 14 in all of 2005, Lew already has 11 so far in 2006, a .083 BB/PA that far exceed’s 2005’s .027 BB/PA.  With Wong gone, Lew emerges as the veteran and leader of this team, and so far he’s done a superb job returning to form and leading what’s left of the hit parade.

Rudy Puzon, designated hitter: There’s no sophomore slump for this rookie hitter, who burst right out of the gate to hit .333-.412-.541 in 27 games, averaging well over his 2005 numbers in each category.  Part of Daly City’s new 3-4-5 core of Puzon, Lew, and Nghe, Puzon has so far been instrumental in keeping the team afloat, and his continued hitting is vital to the run production of the team, especially in his dual role of run-driver for the 1-2 hitters and place-setter for RBI leaders Lew and Nghe.

Cristian Ortiz, second baseman: Hounded by critics all offseason, Ortiz appeared to silence most of them as he raised his batting average to well over .300 in late April, only to see a slump that would bring it all the way back down to a meager .265-.312-.393 line.  While a single month isn’t very telling, the beginning of the season has been a bad sign for Ortiz, whose critics have lamented that he performed far pass his actual skill level in 2005.  On the bright side, Ortiz has 13 steals in April, putting him on pace for 78, which would just barely top Cubilo’s record.

Henry “Mr.” Nghe, shortstop: The rookie of the year returns in 2006 to slightly less flashy numbers but overall better performance.  While his batting average of .333 is off his league-leading .362 mark, a newfound ability to walk and new penchant for extra base hits has left his OBP at .430, higher than 2005’s .408, and his .536 slugging not far behind 2005’s .545.  Hitting at the backend of the 3-4-5 core, Nghe is tied for the league in RBI, and perhaps due to his high OBP, also leads the team with 21 runs, despite having only the 6-7-8 hitters to drive him in.

Joanna Maung, saung-gah-basewoman: Coming in with the need to fill big shoes, and at the same time with no expectation to do so, Maung in her first full starting role has adapted beautifully.  Both her AVG and OBP at .333-437 are career highs, yet at the same time her SLG of .354 is a career low.  Despite cranking out the hits and walks at a dizzying pace, Maung has only 2 doubles, leaving her with 31 singles out of 31 hits for a shocking .939 1B%.  While the team will take what it can get – solid on-base production – from a good tablesetter, there’s some luster missing from a Joanna Maung who no longer hits those clutch pinch-hit homers.  When or if those start to come around, Maung looks, surprisingly, to join the echelon of elite hitters on the team, at least based on her performance so far.

Jonathan “The Cheet” Chee, leftfielder: After making a big name for himself in 2005, Chee returned again to a permanent starting role in LF.  He’s been doing well so far, with a .314-.392-.404 line that isn’t too far off from his 2005 numbers, although he’s scored only 16 runs despite hitting well at the #2 spot in front of the 3-4-5 core.  HBP-wise, Chee’s monthly total of 4 is a far ways off from his 2005 total of 49, so he’ll need to start leaning in towards those beanings if he wants to duplicate his 2005 success in that regard.

Tiffany Ho, centerfielder: After a meager half-season with not much in the way of noteworthy statistics, Ho plowed into the 2006 season as the starting centerfielder.  While her fielding has been decent, her batting abilities are clearly still developing.  With a .292-.309-.349 line, she’s been building up her average, although her OBP and SLG numbers aren’t really going anywhere for now.  Time will tell, but until then Ho slaves away at the bottom-of-the-order 7-8-9 slots.

Francis Chen, rightfielder: Guess who’s back to form?  Surprise!  It’s Francis Chen, who was set to become a bench player in favor of Jason Liu, only to be brought back by grassroots activism.  It turns out that all 2005 postseason indicators (where Francis went .244-.404-.805) were correct – so far this season Francis has batted .234-368-.521 and leads the team with 7 HR, right around where most optimists estimated his performance, and setting the stage for potentially greater development in the coming months.  It’s always a roller coaster ride with Francis Chen, so stay tuned to see what happens in the coming two months.

Jason Liu, backup outfielder: Once slated in the offseason to become the opening day rightfielder for the first time, Liu surprisingly found himself back on the bench, despite arguably being Daly City’s best hiter in 2005.  Maybe it’s frustration and discouragement, but Liu hasn’t been hitting well at all so far, with a mere .171-.189-.429 line (check out that AVG to SLG ratio though!).  As long as Francis Chen keeps slamming away and The Cheet keeps getting on-base, the plate appearances may be hard to come by for Liu, especially if he keeps hitting like this.

Nathan Yan, #1 Starting Pitcher: It’s been a rough month for Yan, who somehow still comes out better than his 2005 average.  In his first start Yan got slammed for a career-high 10 hits in only 8 innings, allowing 4 runs (only 1 earned).  He was, however, still set to win that game, when he handed off the ball to Josiah Leong for the save.  Instead, Leong BLOWS THE FIRST SAVE OPPORTUNITY OF THE SEASON and renders Yan with his first ever career No Decision, breaking the streak.  Since that first game, Yan has bunkered down, throwing four complete games but only one shutout.  Nonetheless, his 0.82 ERA is fairly below 2005’s 0.98 ERA, and Yan’s K per 9 rate has skyrocketed to a godly 18.2, over last year’s already-record 15.3.  Yan also threw a 20-K game in his 2ndstart, and tied that record again in his 5th start.

Whitney Anne Esguerra, #2 Starting Pitcher: The rookie starter has had four great starts and one bad one thus far, and has emerged with a 1-2 record to show for it (including a complete game 1-run loss), which isn’t too surprising given her team-low 2.9 runs per game.  She’s currently pitching at a 2.83 ERA, 1.06 WHIP level, which just may be the best performance from a rookie pitcher in years.  So far, she’s shown every bit of the potential that put her into the #2 slot, and it’s just a matter of time (and some offensive support) before the wins start rolling in.

Terrence Zhao, #3 Starting Pitcher: Another victim of poor and inconsistent offensive production, Zhao, like Esguerra, has thrown four good starts and one bad one, including a 9 2/3 inning, 1 run performance that went far into extra innings and resulted in a no decision.  Zhao’s ERA stands at 3.77 and his WHIP at 1.29 with a 1-1 record, but the real culprit has been his low 5.2 runs per game offensive support.  On the plus side, Zhao seems to be gaining a little bite on pitches, striking out 9.9 K’s per 9 innings and fast approaching the magical 10-K mark.

Sean Wade, #4 Starting Pitcher: The steadfast rookie, who has built his reputation on consistency in his rookie year, has been anything but so far this season.  In four out of five starts Wade has given up 6 runs or more, and yet the fifth start was a complete game shutout.  This all combines together for a 6.35 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, which may easily be Wade’s worst month ever.  However, with a team-high 9 runs per game offensive support, Wade’s record stands at 2-1.  So early into the season it’s hard to make any judgements, but Wade’s performance thus far has been most disappointing, to say the least.

Samantha Chin, #5 Starting Pitcher: Going through her rookie year brimming with potential, Chin seems to have achieved that sooner rather than later.  So far through April, she’s 4-0 with 2.92 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP, although she’s thrown with a more consistent style rather than sheer dominance (no shutouts or complete games, but four out of five quality starts).

Miguel Pardo, #6 Starting Pitcher: For yet another year, the enigmatic Pardo starts out the season blazing, defying all analysts’ predictions.  In three starts this year (all quality starts), he’s 2-1 with a 2.86 ERA, including a beautiful 2-run complete game, despite a high-ish 1.32 WHIP.  As always with Miguel, it’s a game of roulette every time he takes the mound, but for now it seems as if luck is on his side once again.

Helen Yamamoto, Mopup Reliever: I guess the one thing that can be said about Yamamoto is that she has improved.  Where her ERA used to be 9.35, she’s now down to 7.72, her WHIP down from 2.54 to 1.93.  She’s given up an earned run in every appearance she’s made, although she’s not actually the worst of the bullpen woes…

Angel Poon, Middle Reliever: What’s happened to the steady Poon?  Once humming along steadily as one of the team’s better relievers, Poon seems to have hit a very rocky spot.  Her ERA has ballooned to a team-high 8.53, with her WHIP at 1.58.  Could this be the beginning of the end for Daly City’s longest-tenured reliever?

Zubeda Khan, Middle Reliever: Khan seems to have taken her fall from the closer’s role hard, as she gets slammed for a 6.43 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in her first month as a middle reliever.  More than anything, she seems to be particularly affected by big hits, having given up 3 HR and 3 doubles in only 7 innings of work (her SLG of .688 is far higher than 2005’s .408).  Like the rest of Daly City’s ailing bullpen, things need to turn around quick for Khan before the efforts of the rotation and feeble offense are squandered away.

Alfred Vong, Long Reliever: Things have gone from bad to worse for Vong, and no one is quite sure why.  His ERA has risen all the way to 5.89.  In his share of close games, Vong has stepped in to throw 4, 4, and 6 inning outings, which may be stretching things  a bit for the young reliever (he’s on pace to throw 110 innings, after having only thrown 63 2/3 in 2005).  Surprisingly, his other performance metrics aren’t all that bad, with his WHIP at 1.15 and both AVG and OBP numbers lower than last year’s. Maybe a bit of luck is all Vong needs, and the team is hoping the bullpen, and most especially Vong (who’s thrown 30.2% of bullpen innings), finds it soon.

Alvina Chu, Setup Reliever: The leader of the Daly City bullpen, it’s perhaps most shocking of all to see the troubles of Chu, who owns a 5.91 ERA from two very bad relief outings.  Her 1.13 WHIP still offers hope, however, although it is a far cry from her 0.91 2005 WHIP.  At the very least, Chu is no longer vultering those starter wins into no-decisions…

Josiah Leong, Closer: When the team announced that Josiah Leong would be returning to the closer role in 2006, everyone braced themselves for one hell of a ride.  Leong has delivered, to say the least.  In his first four appearances Leong blew three saves (and in the process three wins, including Yan’s first no-decision), going into extra innings in both of them to win two for himself and lose the other.  Outside of those three blown saves, however, Leong has been flawless, and since his last blown save has gone six shutout innings with only 2 hits and 2 walks, and seven consecutive saves.  In fact, with 8 saves, Leong currently leads the league!  With a return to the bullpen, Leong is also throwing at a 3.95 ERA, 1.24 WHIP clip, slightly below his career averages, and throwing out his three blown saves, has got a 0 ERA and .60 WHIP.  More rough spots can be expected along the way, but perhaps this current shutout streak is a sign that Leong may have finally put it all together as a dominant reliever.

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The Season 2006 Preview – Aftermath of the Hitter Exodus

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The morning shines again on the Daly City Empire.  Of course, these days the sun never really sets.  On yet another sunny April in the Gateway to the Peninsula, spring training abounds yet again with the same enthusiasm, determination, and fresh faces.

Coming off yet another World Championship, last year’s team nonetheless fell short with their first sub-.800 season in history, finishing at 125-37, .772.  The falloff was somewhat expected, given the mass departures of team stalwarts such as 3-4 hitters Ho and Tienturier, a .951 OBP SS Mok, and a full ½ of the pitching staff.  If 2005 was any indicator of how Daly City could carry on without many of its star players, 2006 might see even further decline.  The 2005-2006 offseason saw the departures of all-star catcher Sam Lau, Batter of the Year Joey Wong, speedy CF Aubrey Cubilo, and reliever Katie Clayton.  The trio of batters accounted for 337.4 out of the team’s 1083.7 runs created, or 31.1%, and so far none of their replacements seem completely capable of approaching their production levels.

There are new faces, and new roles, however.  Last season’s crop of promising rookies return, and this year sees two new rookies in starting pitcher Whitney Esguerra, who looks to take role of #2 starting pitcher, and catcher Marco Paz, who will likely fill into the backup catcher position.  In the wake of the latest round of retirements, longtime backup catcher/utility outfielder Tina Quach finally gets her chance at the starting catcher position, while longtime benchwarmer Joanna Maung steps into the big shoes left by Joey Wong at third base.  The centerfield position is the biggest question – Tina Quach, having the best CF defensive ability, used to fill in here (21 games in CF in 2005), but with her new role as catcher, Tiffany Ho seems the best candidate (67 out of 100 defensive rating), although her hitting skills are still a bit underdeveloped and her defense is better at the corner outfield positions.  Jason Liu, with a 55 out of 100 CF rating, also seems capable, although again his defensive skills seem much better suited for the corner positions.  On the pitching side, the departure of Clayton has opened up a spot in the bullpen, which no other than 2005’s closer, Zubeda Khan, steps in to fill.  After a tumultuous season filled with blown saves, the closer position for 2006 goes back to a known commodity in Josiah Leong, who despite shaky stats managed a bottom line of 40 saves and only 3 blown saves in 2004.

More than ever, the team seems to rest on the strength of the pitching staff – though still quite formidable, the lineup has taken yet another strong punch this year, and would be hard-pressed to repeat last year’s league high 1085 runs.

Without further ado, the hardened sophomores, old stalwarts, and new faces of Daly City’s 2006 team.

Tina “Experimental Error” Quach, Catcher: After two years as an understudy to retired all-star catcher Sam Lau, Quach finally moves up to take the reins of the catcher position.  Playing in two partial seasons, Quach has shown signs that she can be a capable on-base hitter, with her .381 career OBP, but this season will be a test of how well she can sustain that level of production over the course of an entire season, in addition to handling her defensive responsibilities as catcher and her management of the pitching staff.

Marco Paz, Backup Catcher: Straight from AA ball, Paz is a new recruit who spent part of 2005 in the minor leagues, beginning in AAA where he struggled and then moving onto AA, where he batted .250-.317-.515 in 20 games. While still a bit underdeveloped, the retirement of Lau and the lack of any other viable catcher meant that Paz was needed up with the major league club to serve as a backup.  The 17 year old is projected as a below-average defender, although he has a cannon arm.  His hitting skills are in the below-average range, but as indicated by his short time in AA last year, he projects out to be an average hitter with decent slugging skills.  He’ll be watched closely as the season winds along, making sure he isn’t impossibly challenged at the major league level, in which case someone else, such as emergency catcher Jonathan Chee, would have to fill in.

Derek Lew, First Baseman: After a vigorous offseason of training, Lew bursted into spring training like a vicious Vladimir Guerrero-type swinger.  So far he looks like he’s been more aggressive free-swinging with the bat, meaning even less walks and a bit more strikeouts, but he’s also been doing it with much greater contact and power than last season.  With last year’s disastrous campaign, Lew is looking to come back, and in a big way.  With Joey Wong gone, Lew remains the last of the “Big Four” of hitters of the inaugural 2003 team, and more than ever, the offensive production will rest squarely on his shoulders.

Rudy Puzon, Designated Hitter: Puzon looks to follow up his explosive rookie season with further development, although it might even be fair to say that he had already began hitting like what many hitters projected he would do after he reached his prime. After a solid all-around performance, with no clear weaknesses in his game, nobody knows what to really expect in terms of development for Puzon.

Cristian Ortiz, Second Baseman: The defensive wizard surprised everyone last year as he turned in a strong statistical season, most especially on the basepaths.  Despite being deemed Daly City’s “breakout” player of the year, many of the league’s scouts still rate Ortiz as simply average in almost all categories, and put strong doubt on whether Ortiz can replicate his 2005 numbers.  2006 will be the year Ortiz proves that his ‘breakout’ performance was no fluke.

Joanna Maung, Saung-gah Basewoman: After three years coming in from the bench, Daly City’s most prolific pinch hitter steps into her first starting role.  With only limited playing time over three seasons, Maung has shown decent OBP ability and virtually no power skills, although it’s anyone’s guess what kind of hitter Maung will actually be in her 4th year and 1st full season.  On the defensive side, Maung has been training hard, and has built herself up to a very respectable 61 defensive rating at 3B. She certainly won’t be an MVP Joey Wong (or will she?) but in terms of sheer love for the game and enthusiasm at finally getting the coveted starting third basewoman role, she may yet turn out to be the Wiggin to the now-retired Wong’s Bean.

Henry “Mr.” Nghe, Shortstop: Reigning Rookie of the Year and oldest player at the same time, Henry Nghe returns for his sophomore campaign hoping to continue on his first-year success.  Surprisingly, like Ortiz many scouts still have doubts over Nghe’s ability, believing he far exceeded performance expectations last year.  Without a dedicated middle infield backup in Kelvin Chang (since retired back to AAA), both Nghe and Ortiz will test their endurance and look to gut out all 162 games on their own out in the middle this year.

Jonathan “The Cheet” Chee, Leftfielder: Daly City’s “comeback” player of the year, Chee looks to continue his tremendous success into 2006, this time going the distance to play in a whole season (last year, he played in only 119 games and had 446 at bats).  Chee’s slated to be in either of the 1-2 leadoff positions, where he’ll set the table for the more powerful hitters with his team-high career .392 OBP.  Having come ever so close to the 50 hit by pitch mark (he had 49 HBP last year), Chee looks to make another run, this time possibly getting there with a full season.

Tiffany Ho, Centerfielder: Taking over the reins from longtime incumbent Aubrey Cubilo, the rookie Tiffany Ho, who had an unremarkable rookie year (.279-.305-.361), is one of the biggest question marks.  While she’s still one of the more promising hitters in terms of skill, she hasn’t demonstrated the ability to hit well yet.  Although originally a corner outfielder, with Quach at catcher, Ho is the best fielder left at the center position, although her 67 CF rating lags behind her 77 rating at the LF and RF positions.  Nonetheless, she’ll be thrown out of the frying pan and into the fryer, starting centerfield on opening day in baseball’s biggest small-town stage.

Francis Chen, Rightfielder: The enigma Francis Chen returneth once again.  Afer enduring a horrendous 2005, Francis was dropped from a starting role, replaced by slugger Jason Liu, and at times, utility player Tina Quach.  After toiling away all during the regular season, however, Chen seemed to catch on fire in the postseason, batting .244-.404-.805 in 41 at bats.  Despite all this, he was about to be dumped back to the bench, or even back to the minors for more conditioning, before the Daly City fans emerged.  All winter long they picketed and protested the stadium and front office with a grass-roots “Bring Francis Back” campaign, ultimately succeeding when management gave in to demand.  So by popular demand, the oft-inconsistent and fleetingly brilliant Chen is back to his role in RF, ready to take a backseat manage whenever Yan is on the mound, albeit with a tighter hook than ever.  He’ll have to jump out of the April gates full blast if he hopes to establish any security at the RF position.

Jason Liu, Backup outfielder: For the third straight year, Jason Liu finds himself starting the season on the bench, despite consistently demonstrating his skills at the plate, and in the field.  After a breakout rookie campaign in 2004 and a strong 2005 followup, Liu was all set to become the starting rightfielder, before the “Bring Francis Back” campaign derailed the club’s plans.  For now, Liu remains on the bench, his pure strength and raw power ready to pounce the second Chen begins inevitably slipping at rightfield.

The Pitching Staff

Nathan Yan, #1 Starter: After a record-shattering 2005 campaign, in which he went 30-2 yet again, with a 0.98 ERA and 0.48 WHIP, the staff ace and three-time reigning Pitcher of the Year returns with his overpowering arsenal of stuff.  Virtually unrivaled anywhere in the league, at this point it’s pretty much just a guess of what record highs he’ll accomplish next.  Zero-loss season?  A 500-K campaign?  30 complete games?  In any case, Yan is on track to surpass 1000 career innings, 1500 K’s, and 100 wins, and 100 complete games and 50 shutouts is not out of the question either.

Whitney Esguerra, #2 Starter: After a year of demonstrating her skills in the minors, rookie Whitney Esguerra makes her way to the big leagues in a surprise move, taking over Josiah Leong’s spot in the rotation.  The young right-hander comes in fully polished already, with a 93-96mph fastball, good control and movement pitches, and dominating stuff.  Her Stuff-Control-Movement rating is 101-77-70, with a talent potential of 124-78-96.  Spending nearly a full season in the minors in 2005, Esguerra pitched 29 games, dominating with a 27-0 record, 2.01 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and 341 K’s in 246 innings (that’s 12.48 K’s per 9, and 8.48 innings per start!

Terrence Zhao, #3 Starter: Daly City’s unexpected staff ace continues to flourish.  A year after a breakout 2004 campaign, Zhao found himself with yet another breakout beyond all expectations.  There doesn’t seem any stopping Zhao, who worked hard to improve his control, his one point of slight weakness, this offseason.  Zhao looks to continue his winning ways and dominating stuff, although he once again finds himself sitting pat behind the #2 spot for the second straight year.

Sean Wade, #4 Starter: Daly City’s other star rookie is back for a sophomore season.  Wade was a breakout success in his rookie year, and despite not having spectacular stuff, cruised by on sheer consistency to earn himself a 3.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.  All signs point to Wade repeating his rookie success, although his second-half dropoff in performance could be some cause for reservation.

Samantha Chin, #5 Starter: Chin finds herself in the not-so-enviable role of being the best #5 pitcher in the league, by a far margin.  With at times dominating stuff, Chin floundered with a bit of inconsistency in 2005, with a 4.06 ERA.  Her 3.23 CERA, however, indicates that she can do a lot better, and much like Zhao breaking out in 2004, after a shaky 2003 that was brimming with potential, many scouts believe Chin will break out into one of the league’s most dominating pitchers this seasons.

Miguel Pardo, #6 Starter: Daly City’s #6 returns to round out the DC6, the only rotation in the majors consisting of 6-man rotation.  Pardo has improved in some aspects – his 2005 season certainly saw significant improvement over his past seasons, although the second-half Pardo looked much more like Miguel at his worst.  It’s perhaps time to see if Pardo can work his fleeting magic once again, and it might be his last chance to do so, with new rookie Alfred Vong breathing down his neck for the #6 slot.

Alfred Vong, long reliever: The oft-forgotten rookie pitcher, Vong spent much of 2005 as the long reliever, a role in which he was, in a word, inconsistent.  While clearly displaying good all-around talent, consistency has been a bit of a problem, which is why Vong once again finds himself back in the bullpen.  With a little more time to develop, however, Vong looks to become a solid pitcher, and could look to dislodge Pardo from his coveted #6 starting spot soon.

Helen Yamamoto, mopup reliever: After the worst season in recorded history, Yamamoto returns in 2006 with her 2005 numbers not leaving much to hope for: 9.35 ERA and 2.54 WHIP, and an opponent’s line of .379-.475-.672.  The upcoming season will probably be make-or-break for Yamamoto, as the reliever, especially the mopup kind, seems to be a dying breed in the Daly City system.

Angel Poon, middle reliever: Once again, Poon finds herself in the middle relief role, although the increasingly better pitching staff and increasingly closer games may mean even fewer innings than ever.  While her ERA has been erratic – 4.15, 2.88 3.75, Poon has shown consistency in her WHIP (1.14, 1.14, 1.19), and she looks to fill in a few, although likely not many innings, in middle relief.

Zubeda Khan, middle reliever: Once the team’s great hope at closer, a season marred by blown saves and stretches of downright atrocity have left her out of the running, despite averaging out to a decent 3.47 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 2005.  She joins the regular bullpen, although like Poon she doesn’t expect to see many innings this year, especially with the development of Vong at long relief, the introduction of Esguerra, and the movement of starter Leon to the closer role.

Alvina Chu, setup reliever: Perhaps the most maddening member of the bullpen in 2005, Chu put it down with one of the league’s best 1.70 ERA and 0.91 WHIP, yet at the same time blew wins and saves like no other.  Still, over the past two years (102 innings, 2.03 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 95 K’s), she’s been Daly City’s most dominant reliever by far, and she once again earns her spot as the team’s setup woman.  Forever the bridesmaid, never the bride, I guess….

Josiah Leong, closer: After an unsuccessful try at turning rookie Zubeda Khan into closer material, it was an offseason back to the drawing board, and at this point, the best Daly City has turns out to be none other than their 2004 closer, Josiah Leong. Partly driven by his prior experience, and partly by his abysmal track record as a starter, 2006 will bring Leong back to the bullpen, where he pitched 58 1/3 innings with a 3.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 40 saves in 2004.  All signs point to things being more of the same for Leong, who still hasn’t quite gotten a handle on his control issues, but many still hold out hope for a Gagne-like conversion (without the Gagne-like injury flameout)

On a closing note, everyone’s contract ends after the 2006 season, so it’s time to rework those $1/year salaries.  That’s right: Contract year for everyone.

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