Applegate shocks Chatfield for 2015 World Series title

paperclipsIt will forever be known as “The Lomax That Derailed the Choo-Choos.”

With Chatfield up 3-1 in games and 2-1 in the fourth inning of Game Five, Troy Tulowitzki rolled into a lomax triple play, the Applegate Paperclips took the lead in the bottom of the inning and the Choo-Choos never scored in that game again.

The series went back to Chatfield for Games Six and Seven, but the Choo-Choos’ momentum never returned, as Applegate posted a 4-1 win in Game Six and 5-2 win in Game Seven to capture the 2015 I-75 League World Series title.

It’s the third World Championship for Gary Kicinski and Applegate, and second in four years, having also conquered Chatfield in the 2012 World Series. Applegate’s other World Series win came in 1996.

“I’m still stunned,” Kicinski said hours after the games. “To think we nearly threw in the towel on this team after April … we just were very fortunate in the last three games of the Series and had a lot of things fall our way at key moments.”

It was a bittersweet outcome for Chatfield, which lost a 3-1 series lead one year after watching a 3-0 series lead go down the drain to South Grand Prairie.

Applegate had started the season 15-25, but shook off two months of ineptitude to storm to an 82-38 record the rest of the way. A trade deadline pickup of Ken Giles from Hickory added 46 unblemished innings to an already-strong bullpen.

But Chatfield presented an even stronger team that had made even stronger trades to compile a deeper bullpen, built for the playoffs and backed by two of the best starting pitcher cards in the set and a lineup stacked with players who were great both offensively and defensively. The Choo-Choos were the postseason’s top-seeded team after a league-best 103-win season.

So when the Clips headed to Chatfield for Games Six and Seven, their expectations of winning both games to come home with the title were fairly faint.

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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?

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Six deserving teams for six playoff spots

Funny how these things work out sometimes, isn’t it?

Six teams with winning records. All six make the playoffs.

Nine teams with losing records. All nine miss the playoffs.

Two teams from each division are in. Three teams from each division are out.

Six quality teams qualified for the postseason, with Chatfield (103 wins), Applegate (97) and Springfield (94) winning their divisions, and Bushwood (97), Bismarck (89) and Savannah (87) earning wild-card spots.

The playoff pairings feature fourth-seeded Bushwood against fifth-seeded Bismarck, with the winner challenging Chatfield; and third-seeded Springfield squaring off against division rival and sixth-seeded Savannah, with the winner invading Applegate.

When your sixth seed heads into the playoffs with 87 wins, you know you have a strong field. (In recent years, teams have made the playoffs with as few as 83.) But not all six clubs come into the playoffs with the same head of steam.

Stock up: Applegate, 17-3 in October and owner of the league’s best record in the second half at 59-21, and a 28-12 record in one-run games. …  Bismarck, with 15 wins in October after 11 and 13 in its two previous months. Continue reading

What’s at stake in final month?

Is there drama to be had in the final month of our 36th season?

Not an awful lot, to be truthful.

Division races: Chatfield has an insurmountable 11-game lead in the West, Applegate has stretched its lead to six in the North, and Springfield has padded its margin over Savannah to four.

Wild-card race: Bushwood has a lock on one spot, up by 11, and Savannah looks pretty good with a four-win advantage. That leaves Bismarck hoping to fend off Superior for the third wild-card spot, with a three-win advantage going into October.

First-round bye: Chatfield also has effectively wrapped up one spot, and Springfield pulled two games ahead of Applegate with its 14-win September.

No. 1 overall draft choice: Hickory is in danger of blowing its shot at having the most balls in the draft lottery, recording just 10 losses in September. Margaritaville is making a late charge with a whopping 17 losses in September, and thanks to that forfeit loss earlier in the season, is now tied with Wisconsin with 84 losses, just two behind Hickory’s 86.

October means intradivisional play, so anything can still happen, but there will be lots of scoreboard-watching, so managers are urged to update the “Input Results” file (responsibility of the Game Five home team manager) as soon as series conclude.

 

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
CHATFIELD 94 46 .671
SPRINGFIELD 82 58 .586
APPLEGATE 80 60 .571
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
BUSHWOOD 83 57 .593 +11
SAVANNAH 78 62 .557 +4
BISMARCK 74 66 .529
SUPERIOR 71 69 .507 3