2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

 

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,300 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Hickory reigns as 2011 I-75 League champs!

Mike WIlson's Hickory Nuts take home the trophy for 2011The Hickory Nuts completed the most improbable run to a world championship since — well, since the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals — when they knocked off the Margaritaville Volcanoes in seven games to rule the I-75 League roost for 2011.

Having finished a distant third in the Northbound Division, the Nuts’ postseason run included conquests of three consecutive higher-seeded teams, not unlike the 2011 Cardinals, a wild-card winner who earned their playoff spot on the last day of the regular season.

It was the first-ever postseason crown for Hickory, which joined the league in 1991.

Down 2-1 in the series to Southbound playoff champion Margaritaville, the Nuts scored back-to-back key victories, pounding the Volcanoes 18-2 in Game Four, then squeaking out a 7-6 win in 10 innings in Game Five on an RBI single by Kendry Morales.

After Margaritaville forced a Game Seven with a 2-1 win in Game Six (both runs scoring on David Wright solo homers), the Nuts spotted the Volcanoes a 3-0 lead and came back to win 9-4. A four-run sixth inning swung the tilt in Hickory’s favor.

Hickory had earlier defeated second-place Bushwood and first-place Superior in playoff battles.  The seven-game win over Bushwood included road victories in Games Six and Games Seven. The win over Superior took six games, including a bounce-back from a 2-1 deficit.

Congrats to the 2011 league champion Hickory Nuts and manager Mike Wilson!!!

Numbers behind the Nuts’ playoff victory

Hickory manager Mike Wilson has compiled some additional statistics they help tell the tale of the Nuts’ seven-game first-round playoff win over the higher-seeded Bushwood Gophers.

Bushwood

BOO:   Starting Pitchers  31.2 IP, 41 hits,  28 runs, 26 earned 7.39 ERA
YEA:    Bullpen  30.1 IP, 21 hits,    5 runs,  3 earned 0.90 ERA  (WOW–Dave should have gone to his bullpen after 3 runs immediately!)

BOO:  Thome, Hart, Pujols and Utley hit a combined 17 for 101 for .168 BA and 8 RBIs
YEA:   Rolen, Hammy and Delmon Young went 26 for 78, .333 and 16 RBIs

Hickory

BOO:  Wainwright 0-2 5.65 ERA; Casilla and Clippard 5.1 IPs, 7 earned runs, 5 HRs 
YEA:  Hernandez 25 IPs, 24 hits, 12 runs, 8 earned, 2.88 ERA

BOO:  Mora, Jackson, Pedroia, Headley: 10 for 73 for .137 BA. 2 errors
YEA:   Suzuki, Tabata, Huff, Werth:  32 for 86 for .372 BA 14 runs scored and 12 RBIs

Finally! 2011 season is semi-officially complete

The Superior Titans and Wisconsin Warhawks are the division champs of the I-75 League for 2011 and have earned first-round byes for the playoffs.

Wisconsin defeated Margaritaville 5-4 in a one-game playoff to settle first place in the Southbound Division. Earlier, Applegate beat Savannah in a one-game playoff 4-3 to determine the third-place finisher.

Wisconsin had finished one game ahead of Margaritaville in the standings, but was ordered to forfeit one game for having started Roy Halladay eight games in the month of September, including three times on insufficient rest.

So, pending further review of final stats for any other rule violations or player abuse that could lead to additional action, the playoffs shape up this way:

Southbound Division
(3) Applegate vs. (2) Margaritaville
Winner plays (1) Wisconsin

Northbound Division
(3) Hickory vs. (2) Bushwood
Winner plays (1) Superior

Division champions meet in the 2011 World Series.

Preseason predictions prove pretty accurate

Looking back at our preseason predictions, we find that we fared pretty well in forecasting the outcome of both divisions.

In the North we picked Bushwood, Springfield and Superior as playoff teams and for Hickory to finish fourth; the Isotopes offense proved to be more miserable than we anticipated, and the Nuts claimed that playoff bid.

In the South, we picked Wisconsin, Margaritaville and Savannah; Savannah only missed the postseason by virtue of losing a one-game playoff in a tie for third, so we’re pretty happy with how that prognostication turned out.

We had Springfield and Savannah rated as having the best pitching in their respective divisions, but perhaps we applied too much weight to that factor, as it didn’t pay off in playoff berths, even though their pitching performed as advertised.

Here we go! Races aplenty with 20 to play

Our 32nd I-75 League season is coming down to the wire with dramatic races on multiple fronts:

* Atop the South Division, Margaritaville and Wisconsin are deadlocked with 78 wins. At stake is not only a division title, but a treasured first-round bye in the playoffs. The two clubs will face off in a five-game series on Wisconsin’s turf.

* Atop the North Division, Bushwood has closed the lead on Superior, trailing by just one game with 20 to play. But they will not meet head-to-head this month; instead they have four common opponents: Hickory and Chatfield at home; Bismarck and Springfield on the road.

* Unless it pulls off a 17-3 month or a 6-14 month — which it has already proven itself capable of doing — the Hickory Nuts appear to be a lock for third place in the North. But in the South, Savannah holds just a two-game margin over Applegate for the third playoff spot, with South Grand Prairie lurking merey three more games back. Savannah and Applegate will knock heads directly this month, and they have South Grand Prairie and Margaritaville as common opponents. But Applegate has Detroit (already played, with the Clips taking 3 of 5), while Savannah has Wisconsin, for one of its series.

Managers are encouraged to update the league with progress of their series as they are played in October, by inputting series results into the Google document on the left (where it says “Input series records here”), or by e-mailing the league.

Ties at the top of both divisions with 60 to play

Update, 10:50 p.m.: Wisconsin engineered a 10-player deal with Savannah to strengthen its playoff push, plucking a pair of 1-rated fielders for the left side of its infield and fortifying its bullpen. It was one of four deals consummated in the four-hour marathon trading session — none involving Margaritaville or Chatfield.  Trade deadline recap here.

Nearly lost in the buzz about trade deadlines and expansion formats is the fact that we have exciting races in both divisions with 60 games to play.

Wisconsin and Margaritaville are tied atop the South Division with 53 wins each, while Hickory, Superior and Bushwood are engaged in a three-way headlock atop the North Division.

Wisconsin got a first-hand look at the Northerners’ might in July, going 3-7 against Hickory and Superior en route to a 7-13 month. That included just one win in a head-to-head battle with Margaritaville.

Superior was the big winner on the month, racking up 14 wins. The balance of power has resulted in the oddity in which the last-place team in the South (Detroit, with 41 wins) is closer to first place in its division (12 games behind) than the fourth-place team in the North (Springfield, with 49 wins) is to third (15 games behind).

Hickory, Bushwood and Margaritaville have swung deals to bolster their playoff stock. What else could happen as we count down the final hours until rosters are locked until the end of the regular season?

Hickory gets jump on trade-a-thon as deadline looms

The Hickory Nuts weren’t about to let the Bushwood Gophers and Superior Titans slug it out for the Northern Division title.

With pre-emptive strikes in the marketplace, the Nuts are fortified for the 60-game sprint to the postseason and beyond.

Meanwhile, managers who haven’t had any success in private channels can join the annual public trade-a-thon festivities, scheduled for Sunday, July 31 from 8 p.m. to midnight ET in an AOL chat room (details to come). The trading deadline is midnight that night.

Hickory has added starting pitchers Adam Wainwright (from Bismarck) and Felix Hernandez (from Springfield) as well as a couple of potent hitting cards in Justin Morneau and Shin-Soo ChooA complete rundown of trades can be found on this page.

Meanwhile, managers would do well to consider not only how trades would affect their teams this year, but how this year’s offseason expansion process impacts their roster setup for 2012. Existing teams can only protect 10 players before expansion teams can start stealing players for their roster.

Warning from Strat regarding NetPlay

Possible NetPlay interference in the next week or so. Unclear whether it would affect us. From the Strat Fan Forum website:

The company that runs our Game Lobby module for all of our Netplay software has notified us that they will be upgrading their servers and doing maintenance over the next week. Please do not be alarmed if the game lobbies are not available or you experience any technical difficulties during that time.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this might cause for our Netplay gamers.

Hal Richman, President
Strat-O-Matic Media LLC

Angels call up top prospect Mike Trout; will he get a card?

Hold the phone on that mock draft: There’s news today that the Angels have called up Mike Trout to the majors. If he’s up for the rest of the season, that will make him eligible for a card and eligible for the first-15 picks of the first round, shooting him up from 17 to probably No. 1 or No. 2 when the next mock rankings come out at the end of July.

If he’s only up as a fill-in for injured Peter “Bishop” Bourjos (a nod to Steve Bizek’s alma mater), and he doesn’t get carded, well, then, he’s back to No. 17.

Who has the most all-stars?

Sixty-six players were named to the 2011 All-Star Game Sunday. Fan vote will select two more, and undoubtedly some replacements will be named. Of the 66, 63 can be found on I-75 League rosters; two of the three who cannot were not carded.

Among the highlights:

* Applegate leads the way with 8 players selected, including newly acquired Curtis Granderson and Josh Beckett.

* Bismarck can claim the most players in starting lineups with four — three infielders and DH David Ortiz.

* Springfield has four of its starting pitchers, plus its closer, represented.

Here’s the complete breakdown:

(8) Applegate: Starters  (3)– C. Granderson, B. McCann, J. Reyes.  Reserves (4)– J. Ellsbury, C. Jones, G. Sanchez, H. Pence. Pitchers (1) — J. Beckett.

Continue reading

Tide shifts in North as season hits midway point

June was a month of upheaval in the North Division, as first-place Superior tumbled to third after a nine-win month and was passed by both Bushwood and Hickory.

Bushwood struck a big blow with a 15-win month that lifted the Gophers into first place, then added slugger Josh Hamilton for the second half of the season in a trade with Applegate. Meanwhile, the Nuts were roasting too, posting 17 wins to move from third into second, and trail Bushwood by just one game at the season’s halfway mark.

Bushwood, Hickory and Superior all remain on pace for 100 wins, thanks in no small part to the Chatfield Horrow Show; the Chimeras posted their second consecutive 3-win month and are on pace for 116 losses.

Continue reading

Gophers, Paperclips swing a biggie

As teams scramble to position themselves for either their late-season push or for the 2012 season, the first shoe has dropped in what may become a series of major deals prior to the July 31 trading deadline.

The Bushwood Gophers, jockeying for position in the Northbound Division with Superior and Hickory, have acquired possibly the league’s biggest stick in their pursuit of a 2011 title: Slugger Josh Hamilton of the Applegate Paperclips.

The Gophers pick up Hamilton for the final four months of the season and beyond, in exchange for outfielder Curtis Granderson and pitcher Josh Beckett.

Granderson had been a drag on the Gophers’ otherwise productive offense this season, hitting 100 points less than what he posted for the Yankees in 2010, and Beckett hadn’t even appeared in a game. Beckett was a ninth-round draft pick, taken as a gamble that he’d return to past years’ form, and he has.

Beckett sports a 0.92 WHIP at the time of the trade, and Granderson has 21 homers plus a .940 OPS, giving the Clips two strong players for 2012 if they continue to perform at this pace.

A 7-13 performance in June, including 1-4 series against both Bushwood and Margaritaville, had dropped Applegate back to a 38-42 record, dousing any hopes of morphing into a contender for 2011 after 13-7 May.

In Hamilton, the Gophers pick up a studly hitter who was hitting .387 going into May play, plus a -4 arm in CF. Beckett didn’t figure into the Gophers’ 2011 plans.

And so the gauntlet has been dropped. What will Superior or Hickory do to match that move? How about Wisconsin or Margaritaville? Stay tuned.

Gophers’ clubhouse resembling M*A*S*H unit

It has been a painful season for the Bushwood Gophers — in real life, that is.

While the Gophers remain solid contenters in the I-75 Northbound standings, Bushwood players continue their parade to the DL across the major league diamonds.

The non-stop sequence of injuries escalated from alarming to full-blown panic in Bushwood on Monday with the news that perennial MVP contender Albert Pujols will miss six weeks for the Cardinals with a broken left arm.

Counting Pujols’ injury, 10 of the Gophers’ top 11 hitters have now visiting the DL already this season, with most of the injuries putting players on the shelf for a month or more.  And when they have been healthy, the Gophers hitters have been largely unproductive, as evidenced by the fact that Bushwood has been rooted in last place in the I-75 Yahoo standings since opening day.

The moral of the story:  Bushwood fans had better enjoy the good times while they last because the end seems to be near.

Here is a recap of the Gophers injury epidemic: Continue reading

Tope Dope for May

TOPE DOPE: Springfield went 11-9 in May despite disrepectful treatment by the Superior Titans, who really need to leave the Topes alone. The empahsis on speed has also changed the Topes’ old ways in home run hitting. .. SI has just 46 homers while surrendering 70. However 60 of those 70 were hit by Margaritaville and Bushwood in March. … Justin Morneau continues to make the most of his fewest AB total since becoming a Tope, 333/9/29 in 105 ABs. .. Dr. Choo is hitting .304 and is tied with Morneau for the team home run lead, he also leads the team with 12 steals and 48 strikeouts. … Brett Gardner is 10-16 in steals but his average improved to .228. …However he has fanned 43 times. Chad Billingsley returns to the rotation while Clayton Kershaw gets a month to recuperate.

Wacky May provides separation in North, upheaval in South

We may have just concluded the wackiest month in league history. It was a month for further separation among  contenders and also-rans in the North, but a month of complete reshuffling in the South. To wit:

* One team (Wisconsin) went 17-3; another (Chatfield) went 3-17. And they didn’t even play each other.

* Every team in the South concluded the month in a different position in the standings than it had at the beginning of the month. Continue reading

Clip Files for May

A staple of league newsletters in the 1980s and ’90s, team notes are back! If you have team notes you’d like to submit for your club each month, e-mail Gary

CLIP FILES: Applegate posted a 13-7 record in May, winning all four of its series.  The winning record came despite ace Clay Buchholz being deactivated to preserve innings. Trevor Cahill picked up two more wins and is the league’s only remaining unbeaten starter at 8-0. … But is the Clips’ winning record (31-29) a mirage? They only own winning records against four teams, beating up on luckless South Grand Prairie twice to the tune of 4-1. … Josh Hamilton is hitting .387 but has been limited to 33 RBIs… Jamey Carroll has 12 errors in 41 games, tied for the league high. … Freddy Sanchez has played in all 60 games and is hitting .301. He’s third on the team in RBI at 32. Gaby Sanchez is now a full-timer (DH and 1B) and is hitting .315. … Logan Morrison has 27 walks to his 16 hits. His .413 OBA is more than double his .203 BA. … Josh Willingham also has more walks (32) than hits (27) and an OBA of .372 to soften his .218 BA. … Jamey Carroll, on the other hand, has been a disappointment, with a .276 OBA compared to .379 OBA for the 2010 Dodgers… Stephen Strasburg saw his second month of action and was not effective. For the year he is 2-4 with a 5.06 ERA. He has 25 innings of eligibility left. … Opponents are hitting .293 and the 5-column of Neftali Feliz.

Tope Dope for April

A staple of league newsletters in the 1980s and ’90s, team notes are back! If you have team notes you’d like to submit for your club each month, e-mail Gary

TOPE DOPE: After a brutal March, King Felix is now 4-2 and dropped his ERA to 5.37, nearly two runs better than March but second worst on the team… Chad Billingsley will get a month off at the French Riviera so the Topes will likely finish 4-16 this month starting three lefties… 39 steals now, 7 by Dr. Choo to lead the team… First-rounder Brett Gardner has just five swipes, but batting .200 might have something to do with that… The good Dr. leads the ‘Topes with 25 rbi and shares the top HR lead with Justin Morneau, whose 77 ABs have yielded a .390 average plus 19 walks… Then there’s rookie DH Chris Johnson, saddled with a .157 average, and fan favorite Orlando Hudson, whose glove sparkles while his batting average is a dull .141… In (hopefully) some Strat foreshadowing, Alexi Ogando’s era was .0.96 with a WHIP just under 1.00 and 12 Ks in 9.1 innings… Ian Kinsler would be mad if I didn’t mention his .365 BA. There you go, Ian.

Clip Files for April

A staple of league newsletters in the 1980s and ’90s, team notes are back! If you have team notes you’d like to submit for your club each month, e-mail Gary

CLIP FILES: Joel Peralta burned 22 of his 49 available innings in April, but at least he made them count. In 11 appearances. Peralta was unscored upon, allowing 12 hits and five walks while striking out 15… First-round pick Trevor Cahill pushed his record to 6-0 with a 3.27 ERA. He’s benefitting from 6.5 runs per game of offensive support… Brian McCann has played in 35 games, usually batting fifth, and has just 8 RBIs despite a .291 batting average… Andrew Bailey saved 7 of Applegate’s 10 wins in April… The Clips lead the league in hit-and-run attempts and stolen base attempts, and are second in sacrifice bunt attempts.  They have scored 170 runs and allowed the exact same number.

Tope Dope for March

A staple of league newsletters in the 1980s and ’90s, team notes are back! If you have team notes you’d like to submit for your club each month, e-mail Gary.

TOPE-DOPE: Springfield is known for its starting pitching but absorbed two brutal beatdowns in Bushwood and Margaritaville. Topes pitching surrendered 30 homers, 26 on the road, 14 of the ballpark variety in a pair of wind tunnels…King Felix was taken over the wall 11 times, his ERA is 7.02…Clayton Kershaw led the Topes hurlers with 28 K….Top draft choice Brett Gardner had a mixed debut, sterling in the field, he managed 11 walks, but also fanned 21 times and batted .176… Justin Morneau has fewer than 300 plate appearances available…how much better could the Topes be if he was around full-time? Well in March he batted .455 with 12 RBI in 33 AB with a .535 OBP. …  Dr. Choo was magnificent, batting .395 with a .483 OBP and a team-high five steals. Springfield has swiped 20 bases already, well ahead of any previous season pace. Ian Kinsler was on base 44.7% of the time. … Strat luck? Not this month, minus 20 on pitcher/batter card rolls, an even split between offense and defense….Expect walks when the Topes play, 83 by SI batters, 72 surrendered by pitchers…an average of nearly eight walks per game in March…Gio Gonzalez will make his Springfield debut in April.