Less than this, but more than that, makes it all good for dynamic dozen

Maybe we should call it the Big Papi Rule, after David Ortiz was able to rack up 91 more at-bats in the I-75 League than in real life for Savannah this year, leading to 11 more homers than in real life (46 vs. 35) and helping the Scorpions to their fourth consecutive playoff appearance.

Ortiz and 11 other players are in a select group who qualified for unlimited status for our 2016 season. They may have finished with fewer than 550 at-bats, but by virtue of earning more than 600 plate appearances, will be able to go wild as full-timers in I-75. Papi only played in 146 games for the BoSox in what will be his next-to-last season, but he can suit up for 160 for Savannah — though his numbers on one side (.231/.277/.426) suggest he might sit against some tough lefties.

Leading the way is Washington National and Superior Titan Bryce Harper, whose piddly 526 at-bats for the disappointing Nats could swell by 100 or so for the Titans. They can play the heck out of his 1.019 OPS because of his 124 walks, leading to 654 plate appearances.

Last guy in before the door closed was DH Billy Butler, a Tree Hugger and a lucky dog. His 538 at-bats was less than this, but his 601 plate appearances was more than that. So we decree thee unlimited.

First in line, but out in the cold: Detroit Tiger/Hickory Nut Nick Castellanos, who came up one shy on at-bats (549) and five shy (595) on plate appearances. Should not be a problem though, as he pretty much sucks against righties anyway.

So, without further ado, here’s the dynamic dozen players who earned unlimited status despite falling short of 550 at-bats: Continue reading

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Destin gets No. 1 pick in 2016 Draft

Destin and Satellite Beach were the big winners in Sunday’s Draft Lottery, while Hickory was the hard-luck loser as first-round draft order was determined for the 2016 Draft, which will kick off our 37th season in Kissimmee, Fla., March 5.

Destin, with the third-highest chance, drew the No. 1 slot, while Satellite Beach, with just 10 chances out of 164, drew the No. 2 slot.

Margaritaville, which had the best odds going in with 45 chances out of 165, came up third.

After that, the draft order reverts to highest winning percentage among non-playoff teams, meaning Hickory — which had the second-highest odds going in with 36 chances — falls all the way to the ninth slot by having the worst record among the non-playoff teams that didn’t win the lottery. Playoff teams are seeded 10-15 by lowest winning percentage to highest, with the Bushwood-Applegate tie broken in favor of Bushwood (first round only) by virtue of the Gophers’ 6-4 edge in the season series.

The draft was conducted live via TeamViewer, enabling managers to watch the draw and comment. The draft promises to unleash the biggest bounty of talent the league has ever seen become available all at one time (see most recent non-Mock Draft).

The complete first-round order then, is:

  1. Destin (draft lottery)
  2. Satellite Beach (draft lottery)
  3. Margaritaville (draft lottery)
  4. Superior (79 wins)
  5. South Grand Prairie (78 wins)
  6. Michigan (76 wins)
  7. Boulder (73 wins)
  8. Wisconsin (66 wins)
  9. Hickory (63 wins)
  10. Savannah (87 wins)
  11. Bismarck (89 wins)
  12. Springfield (94 wins)
  13. Bushwood (97 wins)
  14. Applegate (97 wins)
  15. Chatfield (103 wins)

The full 14-round draft grid for 2016 can be found here (requires Google Drive access, granted only to current league managers).

Even distribution of Silver Slugger winners

Unlike the Gold Glove winners, which were clustered among a handful of I-75 League teams, a whopping 13 of our 15 teams can lay claim to one or more Silver Slugger returning to their team next year. The two teams shut out were Chatfield and Wisconsin.

Three clubs led the way by landing a pair of Silver Sluggers for their 2016 squad, headed by the formidable duo of Miguel Cabrera and Bryce Harper providing an impossible-to-pitch-around twosome for the Superior Titans.

Applegate also claims a pair, the left side of their infield taken with the fifth and sixth overall picks in the 2014 draft: Xander Bogaerts and Josh Donaldson.

Springfield takes home the third pair, slugging outfielder J.D. Martinez and Gold Glove shortstop Brandon Crawford.

Four other Gold Glove players also proved their two-way-ness with Silver Slugger honors: South Grand Prairie’s Paul Goldschmidt, Satellite Beach’s Jose Altuve, Destin’s Dee Gordon and Savannah’s Nolan Arenado.

There’s one free-agent Silver Slugger available to be drafted: Switch-hitting DH Kendrys Morales, jettisoned by the Applegate Paperclips after the 2014 season, now projected to be re-drafted as high as No. 10 overall in our most recent non-mock draft.

Here’s the full rundown:

Pos. Player I-75 team
C Brian McCann Michigan
C Buster Posey Bushwood
1B Miguel Cabrera Superior
1B Paul Goldschmidt* S. Grand Prairie
2B Jose Altuve* Satellite Beach
2B Dee Gordon* Destin
3B Josh Donaldson Applegate
3B Nolan Arenado* Savannah
SS Xander Bogaerts Applegate
SS Brandon Crawford* Springfield
OF Mike Trout Boulder
OF Nelson Cruz Hickory
OF J.D. Martinez Springfield
OF Bryce Harper Superior
OF Andrew McCutchen Bismarck
OF Carlos Gonzalez Margaritaville
DH Kendrys Morales FA

15 for ’15: One UNBELIEVABLE fact about each team

The debate will rage for the ages.

What was the more impressive individual accomplishment of the I-75 League’s 36th season: Was it Jake Odirizzi’s 0.45 ERA for Michigan, or Emilio Bonifacio’s 1.13 hits allowed per nine innings for Destin/Bushwood?

Considering Bonifacio is a position player, you gotta give him the edge. Bonus points for pitching 4101 (and one-third) innings this year.

Wha-a-a-a-a-t???

Yes, through some statistical glitch that we’ve yet to figure out, our official league stats show those individual accomplishments for 2015. Odirizzi will no doubt take issue with any selection giving Bonifacio an edge over him, considering Odirizzi struck out 3,999 batters, somewhat obliterating the major league record of 383 (Nolan Ryan, 1973). No, we did not accidentally type an extra 9. He was one shy of 4,000.

But there is no shortage of legitimate, yet amazing statistics from the recently concluded regular season. Let us look back at them, one per team:

Applegate — The Clips stacked their lineup with plus-clutch hitter after plus-clutch hitter. Michael Brantley, Justin Turner, Russell Martin, all plus-8 against righties. Hunter Pence, plus-7. What did that get them? Seven clutch hits all year. The league average was 5.13. MYSTIFYING!!!

Bismarck — Catcher Michael McKenry matched his real-life homer and RBI totals exactly — 8 bombs and 22 RBIs in 156 at-bats. That’s not the amazing part. He did it while hitting 103 points below his real-life average: .212 vs. .315. ABSURD!!! Continue reading

Is your guy the ‘1’?

The Gold Glove awards are out, guaranteeing ‘1’ fielding ratings for at least the 18 players listed below. Who pulled in the most among I-75 League teams?

How about Destin, with a strong-armed catcher, a middle infielder who also led the league in batting average AND stolen bases, and a pair of corner outfielders with highly regarded throwing arms to boot? That would be Yadier Molina, Dee Gordon, Yeonis Cespedes and Kole Calhoun.

Springfield checks in with three — pitcher Dallas Keuchel, shortstop Brandon Crawford and left fielder Starling Marte. Hickory (1B Eric Hosmer, CF A.J. Pollock) and Bismarck (P Zack Greinke, RF Jason Heyward) landed two Gold Glovers each.

That leaves seven clubs (Boulder, South Grand Prairie, Satellite Beach, Michigan, Savannah, Applegate and Bushwood) with one player each and four clubs (Chatfield, Superior, Margaritaville and Wisconsin) who were shut out.

What does it all mean though? A year ago, Wisconsin and Bismarck led the way with three Gold Glove selections each. Bismarck made the playoffs. Wisconsin lost 94 games. Applegate, which won 97 games, had no Gold Glove winners, but five ‘1’ fielders, including four starters.

So it would seem that while valuable, Gold Glove winners make for just one component of a successful club.

Pos. Player I-75 team
P Dallas Keuchel Springfield
P Zack Greinke Bismarck
C Salvador Perez Boulder
C Yadier Molina Destin
1B Eric Hosmer Hickory
1B Paul Goldschmidt S. Grand Prairie
2B Jose Altuve Satellite Beach
2B Dee Gordon Destin
3B Manny Machado Michigan
3B Nolan Arenado Savannah
SS Alcides Escobar Applegate
SS Brandon Crawford Springfield
LF Yeonis Cespedes Destin
LF Starling Marte Springfield
CF Kevin Kiermaier Bushwood
CF A.J. Pollock Hickory
RF Kole Calhoun Destin
RF Jason Heyward Bismarck

A look back at Expansion Era, Chapter One

With the conclusion of the 2015 regular season, we close Chapter One on the 15-team Expansion Era of the I-75 League.

Next year we begin Chapter 2, with reshuffled divisions, so let’s look back at the four years since we ballooned from 12 to 15 clubs.

Quick quiz: Only two teams made the playoffs all four years. Can you name them?

Not Chatfield. Although the Choo-Choos won three division titles with 100-plus-win-seasons, and had the most wins of any club over the four-year span with 387, they also posted a clunker in 2013, winning just 55 games.

Actually, 11 of our 15 teams made the playoffs at least once. Three of the four who didn’t were expansion teams (English/Destin, Michigan, Satellite Beach).

And then there’s Hickory.

The Nuts last cracked the postseason in 2011, when they won the World Series, but since have hit the skids, due in part to a series of high draft picks that have either been injured or haven’t realized their potential (Wil Myers, Michael Pineda, Gregory Polanco).

The team with the second-most wins in the Expansion Era might be a surprise. It’s Applegate, with 358, thanks to two division titles sandwiching two mediocre years.

So who could it be? Four straight playoff appearances and not among the top two in wins over that time period?

How about never-seems-to-be-rebuilding Savannah? Ding! The Scorpions are one of the two clubs that made the playoffs all four years, and had the third-most wins with 353. The Scorps in fact have made the playoffs in six of the last seven years, and the one year they missed (2011) was only due to a Game 161 tiebreaker loss to Applegate.

OK, give up on the other club?

Continue reading