Doesn’t anybody want to win the South?

By most standards, the South Grand Prairie Warriors had a pretty crappy August. They lost three of their four series, chugged to an 8-12 finish, and now sport a less-than-spectacular 57-63 record.

Congrats, SGP! You’re in first place in the South!

West Atlanta dealt away Chris Sale before the season started to rebuild with Dansby Swanson. Dyersville has made three deals this season with an eye toward the future. They won 11 games in August — between them.

They are both one game out of first place.

Savannah’s best players play for Margaritaville. Yet the Scorpions are just two games out of first.

Such is life in the sad-sack South Division, where the top four teams boast the league’s 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th-best records, and one of them will make the playoffs.

At least it makes for an exciting race, in the same way that watching carnival bumper cars makes for an exciting race.

About the only league certainty with 40 games left to play is Margaritaville’s lock on the No. 1 overall seed, with 76 wins and a 9-game lead in the North.

And then there’s the West, also known as the anti-South, where the five teams racked up 61 wins in August (the South had 34), led by 15-win Applegate, which flipped the script on its 5-15 July to climb within two games of front-running Boulder, which won 13 games of its own. Satellite Beach notched 14 wins of its own to break through the .500 ceiling. Superior is running out of time to repeat its late-season surge of 2016, adding 10 wins but falling to eight games back of Boulder.

With lots of intra-division play on tap during the league’s final two months, just about anything still can happen. Here’s a look at the wild-card standings:

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BOULDER 69 51 .575
MARGARITAVILLE 76 44 .633
S. GRAND PRAIRIE 57 63 .475
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SPRINGFIELD 67 53 .558 +1
APPLEGATE 67 53 .558 +1
BUSHWOOD 66 54 .550
TATOOINE 65 55 .542 -1
SATELLITE BEACH 62 58 .517 -4
SUPERIOR 61 59 .508 -5
DESTIN 58 62 .483 -8
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Clip Files for August

Applegate’s Jekyll and Hyde season continued in August. A month after going 5-15, Applegate regrouped for a 15-5 month to thrust itself back into contention for the West Division crown with 40 games to play, sitting two games behind front-runner Boulder. …

Hendricks

Kyle Hendricks took a no-hitter into the ninth against New New York, surrendering a one-out double on a 1-8 roll to ninth-place hitter Tim Anderson to break up his chance at history. Hendricks walked two, struck out eight in raising his record to 12-4. … In the same series, after Applegate won the first four games, New New York’s Sonny Gray was twirling a perfect game against the Clips before being inexplicably pulled with one out and a 2-0 lead in the sixth. Jamie Garcia continued the perfecto through the seventh. But A.J. Ramos came on with six outs to go and walked Hunter Pence to ruin the perfect game, and with five outs to go gave up a single to Kole Calhoun to spoil the no-hit bid. New New York hung on for a 4-1 win to spoil Applegate’s bid for a sweep. … The Clips also went 4-1 vs. Destin and Savannah, plus 3-2 vs. South Grand Prairie. …

Tyler Glasnow took Stephen Strasburg’s No. 2 spot in the rotation for the month and got scorched by Savannah in his first as-played outing, coughing up 13 hits, nine walks and 14 runs. He went on to get three five-inning wins, never allowing more than three runs, to ‘lower’ his ERA for the month — and the season, since he’s used up all 23 of his innings — to 8.22. …  Applegate won all four of Hendricks’ starts, as the ace went 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA. … Six different pitchers recorded saves for a total of nine on the month. … Hard-righty Shawn Kelley appeared in 13 of the 20 August games. … Continue reading

Lava Flow for July

July saw the Volcanoes post their second consecutive 14-6 month, raising their record to a league-leading 63-37 after 100 games.  Offense continues to drive the Volcanoes, with 634 runs in their first 100 games (on-pace for 1014 runs on the season).  David Ortiz, Robinson Cano, Kris Bryant and Joey Votto continue to drive the Volcano offense, ranking 1-2-4-5 in Hal’s MVP voting.  Looking at the season record book, Margaritaville has a hand in dominating the “most runs 1-team” category – its opponents rank #’s 1, 2 and 3 (Tatooine scoring 26 runs against Marcus Stroman, Boulder scoring 20 runs against Stroman, and Savannah scoring 17 runs against Adam Wainwright).  At the trade deadline, the offending parties were rewarded with trades:  Stroman to Savannah for Jon Lester and Wainwright to New New York for Matt Moore.  The re-worked starting pitching should bolster the Volcanoes’ drive through August, September, October and into the playoffs.  The Volcanoes also “welcome home” Andrew Triggs, who was traded to Savannah in May after posting a 4-0 record but was unused by Savannah in June and July play.

In a surprising complement to their power bats (203 HRs), Volcano basestealers (primarily Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Ichiro Suzuki and Keon Broxton) are leading the league with an .828 efficiency (48 steals in 58 attempts).  This is partly driven by a conservative approach on hit-and-run attempts (only three on the season).  The Volcanoes have also been conservative in advancing on the basepaths, creating only two outs in 107 potential base-advance situations:

BRC BRA BRO Out %
Mar 107 35 2 1.9%
Sup 112 47 5 4.5%
Sgp 105 55 9 8.6%
Bol 91 38 8 8.8%
Sav 68 29 6 8.8%
Apl 95 38 10 10.5%
Tat 101 57 11 10.9%
Spr 91 42 10 11.0%
Nny 71 32 8 11.3%
Dye 91 35 11 12.1%
Des 81 31 11 13.6%
Bus 91 37 13 14.3%
Sat 103 32 15 14.6%
Bis 73 16 12 16.4%
Wat 76 34 13 17.1%

Got notes like these on your team and want to see them on the league webpage? E-mail them to me by the 4th of the following month…

Clip Files for July

Kontos

Revenge of Draft-Alyzer unleashed its fury on the Clips in July, hurtling them into a 5-15 death spiral following a 47-33 start to the season that was good for the second-best record in the league through 80 games. Now the Clips stand at 52-48 amidst a pile of other teams with similar records, pondering which club is the real Applegate. … While the offense stunk up the joint with a .233 average in July, it was reliever George Kontos who felt the wrath of Paperclip fans, as he managed to go 0-5 with an 11.88 ERA, allowing 16 hits (three of them homers) and eight walks in 8 1/3 innings. … Starter Tyler Chatwood fell back to earth and a few hundred yards below it with an 0-4, 6.45 month, after being saluted in this column in June for his 9-4, 3.28 start. … Springfield swept the Clips 5-0, with its studly pitching staff holding Applegate to just six extra-base hits in the entire series, as the Isotopes outhomered Applegate 10-1. … The Clips went 4-6 at home despite hitting .203 there, and 1-9 on the road despite hitting .259 there. … Ninth-place hitter Billy Hamilton hit .321 on the month, raising his season average to .283. … Hamilton leads the league in both sacrifice hits (39) and stolen bases (33) … Johnny Cueto leads the league’s starting pitchers in lowest home run rate, averaging 0.46 homers per nine innings. … Kyle Hendricks (0.76) and Drew Pomeranz (0.79) rank eighth and ninth. … Pomeranz also owns the league’s best opponents-batting-average-against value vs. LHBs at .165. … Applegate pitching has allowed just 89 homers for the year, the league’s best mark in that category. … The Clips have only one hit in 22 hit-and-run attempts.

Got notes like these on your team and want to see them on the league webpage? E-mail them to me by the 4th of the following month…

Boulder fortifies playoff run with deadline deals

The Boulder Tree Huggers were late to the trade deadline party but still left with the prettiest girls.

Underused slugging utility infielder Sean Rodriguez, slugging first-round pick shortstop Trevor Story and top-flight starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez will be joining the Tree Huggers in time for the 60-game sprint to the finish, acquired at the July 28 trade deadline following a month that saw Boulder climb into first place in the Westbound Division.

Boulder gave up lefty Alex Wood to Dyersville in exchange; Wood today, with somewhat limited innings, has the best OPS in baseball (.518) among starting pitchers. And to Destin it sent unused all-star outfielder Justin Upton, while also acquiring shutdown closer Kelvin Herrera (who only has 16 innings remaining).

“I wasn’t planning on making any trades,” said Head Hugger John Renbarger, “but with a little luck I feel I was able to really bolster my team for this year at the expense of the future.”

Five total deals were consummated on deadline night:

  • Boulder sends OF Michael Saunders, P Alex Wood and P Colin Rea to Dyersville for P Aaron Sanchez and SS Trevor Story.
  • Destin sends IF Sean Rodriguez and RP Kelvin Herrera to Boulder for OF Justin Upton and RP Fernando Abad.
  • New New York sends RP Jeremy Jeffress to Superior for P Matt Boyd.
  • Margaritaville sends P Adam Wainwright to New New York for P Matt Moore.
  • Destin sends OF Yoenis Cespedes to Bushwood for 3B Mike Moustakas.

The deals helped set the stage for a frantic turn for the homestretch, which sees nine teams sporting 50 wins or more and 12 of the league’s 15 teams still in the playoff hunt with 48 or more wins. Four of those nine teams reside in the Northbound Division, lead by the best-record-in-the-league Margaritaville VolScorpions. (All of the Volcanoes plus anybody who was worth a darn on the Savannah Scorpions this year.) Springfield, on the heels of a 15-win month, and muscling-up Bushwood (a 12-win June) are looking strong at 56 wins, and the rookie-managed Tatooine Rebels are in the hunt with 52 wins.

But the division with the tightest race is the Southbound, where West Atlanta, barely treading water at 51-49, holds a one-game lead over 50-50 Dyersville, which spent deadline deal night setting itself up for next season. Defending division champ South Grand Prairie lies in wait just one game back at 49-51.

In the Westbound Division, Boulder took advantage of Applegate’s 5-15 death spiral to leap into first place with 11 wins at 56-44. Superior also posted 11 wins to nudge above the .500 mark, one back of Applegate and five back of Boulder.

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BOULDER 56 44 .560
MARGARITAVILLE 63 37 .630
WEST ATLANTA 51 49 .510
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SPRINGFIELD 56 44 .560 +4
BUSHWOOD 56 44 .560 +4
TATOOINE 52 48 .520
APPLEGATE 52 48 .520
SUPERIOR 51 49 .510 -1
DYERSVILLE 50 50 .500 -2
S. GRAND PRAIRIE 49 51 .490 -3
DESTIN 49 51 .490 -3
SATELLITE BEACH 48 52 .480 -4
SAVANNAH 46 54 .460 -6

2018 Non-Mock Draft: It’ll be the Year of the First Baseman

Justin Smoak is hitting .298, has 26 homers and a .960 on-base-plus-slugging average.

Logan Morrison has 26 homers and a .936 OPS. Eric Thames has 23 homers and a .371 on-base average. Even Yonder Alonso is getting on base at a .373 clip and has 21 homers.

All of those first basemen will become hot commodities in the 2018 I-75 League draft.

In the second round. Or maybe even the third.

The problem is, a plethora of relatively comparable available players at an already stacked position, most of whom are not going to be great fielders, affords drafting teams time to lay in the weeds and focus on other needs, biding their time until the talent pool thins and then snagging a still-big bat.

Which begs the question — so who will go in the first round?

Well sadly, this upcoming draft doesn’t shape up to have much more young talent than the grim 2017 draft, unless a whole lot of studs come up in the next two months. (Thank you Chicago White Sox; Yoan Moncada won’t make this list now but certainly will be a high pick come March.)

Drumroll, please. In reverse order, here are the current top 15 available players for the 2018 draft:

15. Aaron Hicks, OF, Yankees, 27, S/R: Has been on the DL since June 25 with an oblique injury, but he already has 200 ABs, during which the switch-hitter hit .290 and posted a .398 on-base number plus a .513 slugging number. Always a good fielder, plenty of speed, Hicks’ biggest problem competing for playing time is a crowded Yankees outfield. Still, he’ll make an awesome fourth outfielder for a team drafting 15th.

14. Trey Mancini, OF, Orioles, 25, R/R: As reported by Orioles fan site Eutaw Street Report, Mancini “would lead AL rookies in wOBA, wRC+ and slugging percentage, and rank third in fWAR” if it weren’t for a guy named Aaron Judge. Mancini is hitting .305 with an .881 OPS, which looks even better when you check out his splits vs. RHPs: .330/.381/.570/.951. Continue reading

Gopher Holes for June

After stumbling out of the gate with only eight March wins, the Gophers righted the ship with double-digit win totals for three consecutive months (14-6 in April, 10-10 in May and 12-8 in June) to reach the midway point with 44 wins.  The successful first half has sparked postseason hopes around Bushwood for a team that looked no better than middle-of-the-pack after the draft. Although the addition of quality starter Jacob deGrom bodes well for the second half, the Gophers over-used numerous key players in the first half —  among them SP Justin Verlander (113%), SP Yu Darvish (124%), CF Kevin Kiermaier (115%) and OF Chris Young (118%) — so the club will be relying on some lesser players to make up the difference in the second half. … No Gophers appear among the league leaders on offense.  RF George Springer leads the club with a mere 10 homers, and Kiermaier and 2B Dustin Pedroia share the RBI lead with just 40.  Springer (.208) and SS Asdrubal Cabrera (.205) got hot in June to hike their averages above the Mendoza Line.  But Cabrera, who smacked 23 homers for the Mets last year, has only four for the Gophers.

Continue reading