Game 161 to settle final playoff participant

Winning their last three consecutive do-or-die games in their season finale with Boulder, the Destin Beach Bums climbed to the 85-win mark, tying Tatooine for the sixth and final playoff spot, necessitating a Game 161 to determine who advances and who is done for the year.

Tatooine will host the game by virtue of its 8-2 season edge over Destin in head-to-head play. If Tatooine gets in, the Rebels will have earned a playoff berth in their first year in the league.

The other five participants are locked in:

No. 1 seed Margaritaville, winner of the Northbound Division with 106 wins. It’s Margaritaville’s first playoff appearance since 2014. The Volcanoes get a first-round bye.

No. 2 seed Boulder, winner of the Westbound Division with 91 wins. It’s Boulder’s first division championship and second straight playoff appearance. The Tree Huggers get a first-round bye.

No. 3 seed South Grand Prairie, winner of the Southbound Division with a 78-82 mark. It’s the second straight playoff appearance for SGP. The Warriors will play the winner of the Destin-Tatooine play-in game; the winner of that series takes on No. 2 seed Boulder.

No. 4 seed Springfield, which had the league’s second-best record at 93-67. It’s the third straight playoff appearance for Springfield. The Isotopes host No. 5 seed Superior in a rematch of the 2016 World Series participants, with the winner advancing to face No. 1 seed Margaritaville.

No. 5 seed Superior, defending World Series champs, who went 27-13 in the final two months to finish at 88-72. The Titans play Springfield, with the winner taking on the Volcanoes.

Falling short in the playoff pursuit was Applegate, which went 5-15 in October and stumbled home with 82 wins, and Bushwood, which went 9-11 in October and generally failed to capitalize on several player moves at the trade deadline, finishing with 83 wins.

SGP’s title marks the first time since the league went to divisional play that a team has won a division with a sub-.500 record.

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Clip Files for October

By finishing 82-78, the Clips posted their sixth straight season with a winning record, the longest such active stretch in the league. Applegate’s catastrophic October knocked it from a position in which it was tied for the fifth playoff spot with 20 games left, to a finish 3 1/2 games behind the sixth-place seed. “You can’t expect to make the playoffs when you go 5-15 twice in the same year,” said Manager Gary Kicinski, referencing the matching disaster from July. The Clips had to resort to using long-reliever Jhoulys Chacin as their fifth starter in October, but after getting bombed in his first outing, Chacin came back to allow three earned runs or less in five innings or more in his other three starts, going 2-1 with a 4.66 ERA on the month. No, the problem was normally reliable Kyle Hendricks (0-3, 5.32), Johnny Cueto (0-4, 7.14) and Drew Pomeranz (0-2, 5.33) who gagged big time in October. … Josh Donaldson also was nowhere to be found when the team needed him most, hitting .160 on the month, which included an 0-for-Destin series (17 ABs). … The Clips got saves from eight different players this year. … Applegated ‘maxed out’ its IP limits on nine pitchers — Ryan Buchter, Tyler Chatwood, Johnny Cueto, Tyler Glasnow, Kyle Hendricks, George Kontos, Andrew Miller, Drew Pomeranz and Stephen Strasburg. It also wrung every AB out of Willson Contreras, Greg Garcia, Hunter Pence and Neil Walker. … Kole Calhoun had the most disappointing year among the position players, starting all 160 games but hitting just .229 (.271 in real life) with six homers (18 in real life). … Applegate’s fourth-best league ERA of 3.89 was not enough to offset an offense that progressively weakened over the year, finishing with a 13th-best .249 batting average and 13th-best home run total of 160. … Only three teams drew more walks than the Clips’ 582 though. … Billy Hamilton lead the league in stolen bases at 51 and finished tied for the league lead in sacrifice hits with Bismarck’s Alcides Escobar at 56. … In their final game of the year, with two outs in the ninth, the Clips sent Aaron Judge to the plate for his only AB of 2017, a symbolic gesture the fans recognized as a nod toward future possibilities. Judge, of course, struck out.

Lava Flow for September

September play saw the Volcanoes post their highest total for victories in a month with 16.  Roster rotation continued, with Ervin Santana and Colby Lewis returning from their August furlough, and Aroldis Chapman taking a September furlough.  … Jon Lester has pitched well since his trade deadline pick-up (49 IP, 45 hits, 13 bb’s, 47 K’s, 3.49 ERA), but a lack of run support (5.75 runs per start, but most of those coming in the 20-2 romp over Bismarck) has lead to a disappointing 2 wins and 4 losses in Lester’s 8 starts. … Matt Moore has pitched well also since his trade deadline pick-up (49 IP, 51 hits, 21 bb’s, 49 K’s, 4.38 ERA), but phenomenal run support (9.00 runs per start) has lead to 6 wins and 1 loss.  … Pitching was the key to the Volcanoes’ September surge, with the team posting a 2.60 ERA across its 20 games.  Lester went 1-3 in September (with a 2.70 era), while the rest of the team went 15-1. … Ervin Santana was almost unhittable in September, pitching 25.1 innings while yielding only 4 hits, 2 walks and 21 strikeouts (and 0 runs!).  The pitching surge helped compensate for a lackluster month from David Ortiz, who was held to a .237 average and 3 HRs. … Picking up the offensive slack for Ortiz, Wilson Ramos batted .357 in September with 5 HRs and 14 RBIs, raising his season totals to a .329 average with 29 HRs and 85 RBIs.  While Ramos’ totals are impressive, adding in Gary Sanchez’s 16 HRs and 49 RBIs, and the Volcanoes have gotten 45 HRs and 134 RBIs out of their catcher slot. … Looking towards possible October playoff matchups, the Volcanoes have a winning season record against every team – except the West Atlanta Crush (4 wins and 6 losses).  Margaritaville will keep an eye on the Southbound race – rooting for an SGP, Dyersville or Savannah win!

With 20 games to go, so much to think about

Is it time to tweak our playoff format?

For the second year in a row, it appears the way the standings will fall that it will be more advantageous to finish sixth than fifth or even fourth.

The sixth seed (the third wild-card team) faces the division winner with the third-best record, which at this point looks to most certainly be a team with a losing record, barring a 16-win October from Dyersville or South Grand Prairie.  Plus, the winner of that series would then advance to a second-round matchup that avoids virtually assured top seed Margaritaville.

On the other hand, finishing fourth or fifth pits you against a team that performed similarly this season, and your prize for winning that series is a date with postseason favorite Margaritaville.

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BOULDER 81 59 .579
MARGARITAVILLE 92 48 .657
D’VILLE/SGP 65 75 .464
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SPRINGFIELD 80 60 .571 +3
APPLEGATE 77 63 .550
TATOOINE 77 63 .550
SUPERIOR 75 65 .536 -2
BUSHWOOD 74 66 .529 -3
DESTIN 73 67 .521 -4

First things first though: OCTOBER! Races in two of our three divisions are still up for grabs. In the South, Dyersville and South Grand Prairie are tied for the lead, West Atlanta is two back and Savannah just four back. In the West, Boulder has opened up a four-game lead on Applegate and a six-game lead on Superior.

And there are six clubs in the thick of the wild-card race, with Springfield, Applegate and Tatooine currently holding down the three playoff spots, but Superior, Bushwood and Destin all one hot month away from claiming a berth.

Remember that the October schedule calls for intradivisional play. So Northbound wild-card contenders Tatooine and Bushwood both have to play Margaritaville and Superior, which currently hold the first- and third-best overall records.

Regardless, a potential scenario is unfolding where 9 of the 10 teams in the West and North could have a better final record than the champion of the South.

Should we tweak the playoff format going forward? Does division champion of our randomly drawn divisions matter, should we just take the six best records? Should we reseed matchups after the first round, so that the No. 1 seed would play the lowest remaining seed (possibly the sixth) instead of automatically the 4-5 winner?

Checking back on how last year’s sixth seed fared… No. 6 South Grand Prairie lost to No. 3 Springfield, and No. 5 Destin lost to No. 4 Boulder, so maybe it didn’t really matter.

Now then, as to whether it’s better to finish seventh than sixth… remember that our draft format gives all non-playoff teams an equal shot at the No. 1 overall pick. The first three picks are randomly drawn from the non-playoff teams, and then spots 4-9 are awarded in descending order of winning percentage.

Good luck to everyone down the stretch!

Clip Files for September

After bizarre swings of 5-15 in July and 15-5 in August, things evened out at 10-10 in September, giving Applegate 77 wins on the year. With four more wins in October, Applegate will post its sixth consecutive season with a winning record. … After Kyle Hendricks allowed just one hit in six innings en route to a 1-0 win in the series opener over Margaritaville, the Volcanoes proceeded to reel off four straight wins, outscoring the Clips 29-12. That outcome was responsible for the Clips being outscored 79-70 on the month. … Applegate stole 11 bases in September but also was caught 11 times. … Hyun-Soo Kim led the Clips in batting at .433.  Through 140 games he leads Applegate in hitting at .310. … Xander Bogaerts and Josh Donaldson each hit four homers as the Clips socked 22 for the month, holding opponents to 14. … Tyler Chatwood used up his remaining innings and suffered losses in all four starts, dropping to 11-13 on the year. … Andrew Miller went 2-0 with two saves in seven scoreless appearances. In nine innings of work, Miller allowed just two hits while fanning 11. … Reliever George Kontos, whose epic horrendous July (0-5, 11.88 ERA, 16 hits, eight walks in 8 1/3 innings) was a primary factor in the Clips’ 5-15 month, redeemed himself a bit with 10 scoreless innings in September. … The Clips carried an extra reliever in September and against Tatooine, six of the seven pitched scoreless ball, with Ken Giles the only one to allow runs. … Applegate pitchers have allowed just 121 homers, fewest in the league. … The Clips have fallen to 11th in batting average and 12th in homers, but still are fourth in the league in ERA and are are plus-71 in run differential.

Got notes like these on your team you’d like to see published? Email them by the fourth of the month.